I remember seeing Shiva, one hand lifted, the other, holding his famous trident. His upraised hand seemed like an invitation ( the greeting of Native Americans), a warning (Stop! Pause!) , a beckoning ( Proceed!).
I learned that his hand meant that the battle was already won. Jaya! Victory! was already at hand. Fear was no longer the handbrake. It had to be released. His hand, it was said, meant “No fear”.
This is no small thing when moving through chaos, Shiva’s domain.
So much of what I hear in today’s yoga diatribe is about the ‘happy me’, a stinging criticism for anyone who does not happen to ‘be happy’ . It’s as if the failure to be happy at any cost excludes the Buddhist understanding that enlightenment is attainable in this very lifetime despite and even through our very real suffering, our neuroses, our emotional rollercoasters, hormonal dips or unruly, at the very least changing, life circumstances. This creates outsiders, unnecessarily so, to the very experience of life.
While I agree that the aspiration towards positivity, and the discipline required to keep an attitudinal check on one’s own dark forces, is a good thing, I think that Shiva’s call to understanding is a powerful and important one. There’s little room for frivolity when aiming for the bull’s eye as the chariot careens forward at full speed.
In a political science class I took while I was at university, our teacher said “that the mark of a modern human being was being able to deal with the grey.”
That shook me. The black and whiteness of a 1950’s “Leave it to Beaver” world had disappeared in the nebulosity of the 1960s-1990‘s. It was my generation’s intellectual, moral and physical task to get comfortable with the unknown and to compose something meaningful from it.
Something that could nourish the world. Something to leave to the generations that were rising into adulthood.
Shiva’s trident, and his confident hand, tells me that chaos is part of the human package. It reminds me to be kind, to be careful, to consider, to reflect, to choose wisely. And it reminds me that the white-knuckled clutch on the handbrake diverts energy from its more essential purpose.
The chaos of what is being torn down, dismembered, disassembled made more sense to me when the practice of living and pursuing a sustainable spiritual path taught me this : that without Shiva’s energy and his discreet – albeit powerful- hand signal to trust life, its myriad forms and its inexorable cycles, Krishna’s flute and Ram’s magnificent space-holding would be a broken 3-legged stool.
Shiva calls us to do the foundational healing that the tear-down process demands. Stripped down to the naked bone, we see what is there for us to heal, and we have a choice, a mandate, to do the work required to heal.
Breathing out, breathing in.
I have been moving for the past 5 months. 4 moves. 1 death.
I have been letting go.
Giving in. To grief, to change, to upset, to chaos, to the unknown. To lightening up, to not throwing myself, or anyone else, under the bus in a panic reflex.
It is my yoga practice to find balance in the storm, and to keep looking, internally, for that upraised hand. “No fear”.
It’s a worthy practice, a gritty one.
I have a broom on hand, and understand better how after the ecstasy, and sometimes in the midst of it, there’s the laundry to be washed.
For all of you working with Shiva’s great teachings, blessings!
Courage. Strength. Faith. Forgiveness. Love, and above all, Love.