I write this message to you on the 35th day after my most beloved teacher and spiritual mother, Sally Kempton, transitioned from her body. These 35 days of puja (ritual, ceremony, prayer, devoted celebration) have catapulted me back (forward) to studying, reading, writing and praying.
I offer my deepest bows of gratitude and all encompassing love and adoration for Sally as her soul is set free — back into the arms of the Divine Mother — whom she dedicated her life in celebration of.
A true master of embodied wisdom, Sally was a living, breathing, endlessly flowing current of divine love and devotion to sacred practice. After nearly 30 years in the ashram as Swami Durgananda, she remained a bohemian, rebellious, whip smart and witty intellectual who never missed a chance to point out the irony all around us in her iconic nonchalant manner. She was hilarious and breathtakingly profound. She was so real. I could talk to her about anything. She ran circles around me in reference to pop culture and melted my heart open with her hymn-like transmission of tantric teachings — all over a short cup of tea or quick phone call.
Sally taught me devotion. She showed me this through her unwavering love and acceptance. She showed me how to ask for help, to offer myself at the feet of the divine mother in humble reverence. She showed me that its not possible to fall out of the grace of Goddess. No udder of a curse word, sip of wine, light of a smoke or raging unfiltered expression of anger or judgment could ever take me away from the LOVE that is the true essence of everything. On the contrary, everything is a doorway to the infinite. I am nothing other than Consciousness itself.
Sally showed me true feminine leadership, utterly void of hierarchy. She didn’t have to talk about it; she just embodied it. I don’t need permission from anyone to speak to the Divine Mother. I don’t need to say it perfectly or even a certain amount of times. SHE is always listening, always holding us. She is all around us and within us — and now so are you Sally.
Sally came to get me when I was in hell.
While I was in my second coma on a ventilator with COVID, during the birth of my son, Sally held a zoom vigil for me with many loved ones. As I hovered between life and death — after just bringing life into this world, she mothered and midwifed me back into this world to be with my son… Now as Uma, the name which she first introduced to me.
In the deepest darkest depths of my coma she did what she does best. She opened the heart field, the web of pulsating Shakti love — and she chanted. She called my name and had everyone else do the same. She didn’t call for Ashleigh, the name she had called me for over a decade—-she called for Uma. She called to my highest self, my deepest self. The self I have been returning to, remembering and becoming alongside her guidance for nearly 15 years.
My soul sister Meg McCraken was by my side in the hospital bed during this call so that I could hear the mantras. The doctors had been concerned about my very fast heart rate for days. I was on nearly 100% life support. With the vibratory frequency of the mantras and Sally’s incredibly powerful ability to transmit Shakti through technology (one of her Saraswati super powers to be sure) — at last, my heart rate slowed and stabilized. I have chills and tears again writing this.
My heart breaks open again and again with gratitude for being alive. It wasn’t my time to go.
I am suffering from regret these days in the wake of Sally’s transition from her body. I haven’t spoken to her since I left the hospital. We missed each other in communication a few times. It was strange. The fullness of life as a new mom and recovering from this near death took over and I had her in my notebook (at the top of the list always) to call again. I was crushed to learn I won’t ever speak to her again in her physical form. Now I practice remembering that some of life’s greatest things are left unfinished, left open. Now I see and hear and feel here everywhere and in everything. I am remembering to talk to her out loud, write her letters and listen for her whispers within my heart, carried on the wings of wind.
Jai Sally Ma, Jai Maha Durge Ma, Jai Jai Maha Shakti.
Thank you for this life and this love. Thank you for my perfect baby boy.
Sally, Durgananda, fiercely loving mother to us all — Thank you for your life, your love and your devotion to love itself. Now the endless river of your teachings flows through the hearts of your beloved students.
I love you.
Thank you for showing me the way HOME.