Please understand from the outset that I am a Westerner who is very new to the idea of bringing Hindu precepts into my life formally, so anything foolish or ignorant I say should be taken with that in mind. So here are my thoughts as briefly as I can state them (I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I want to give some explanation before my question):
I have been very attracted to the idea of Kali Ma for as long as I've known about her, ie. from childhood. Recently however, I had to undergo surgery and knew I needed to face the idea of my mortality in a more honest way, not running from it as Westerners tend to. I knew I must learn meditation and open myself to reality. My first thought was to just take meditation and yoga classes - again, as Westerners tend to - but knew I would be more elevated if I were to approach reality with genuine spirituality rather than mere "exercise", and Hinduism is of course the root and source of this spirituality.
So with a lot of excitement but very heedlessly and without formal instruction, I began acquiring devotional objects and researching ways to practice devotional life. I was amazed very quickly to find that there seems to be as much diversity of opinion as there are believers, which I guess won't surprise anyone here. Every viewpoint from "you must follow the traditional ways under the guidance of a guru" to "anything goes as long as you are genuinely devoted" is available, as well as a wealth of material on Shakta and Tantrik beliefs and practice.
I have already spent a lot of time researching my questions and have come up empty, so am turning to this obviously helpful forum, so here we go:
Is it necessary to do puja with shivling and honor Shiva in order to develop as a Shakta? Or should it perhaps be avoided?
Is there any reason to worship multiple forms of Devi, such as Kali, Lalita, Durga, Bhairavi etc, or should it perhaps be avoided? I find myself deeply attracted to many of Her forms including Shri Yantra, as they represent different aspects of Her power and grace.
I have seen it said that bhakti alone is sufficient to earn some grace from Devi and does not require a guru and diksha, but that puja DOES require initiation. Does this sound correct?
I want to apologize again, this is a long post and contains a few questions, but they are all interrelated and sum up my big overarching issue in one package. Thank you very much in advance for any thoughts.