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Botany NSW 2019, Australia
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Published by Jeff Miller
Posted on December 6, 2016
Cosmically we are approaching the end of a cycle. As another year comes to pass it is an opportune time for us to reflect upon endings, letting go and moving forward. As yogis and yoginis, we are not alone in this process. As the third member of the yogic Holy Trinity (also including Brahma, the creator and Vishnu, the preserver) Shiva is the Cosmic Destroyer. As such he can appear as a rather daunting figure. He often appears dancing in a ring of fire, covered in soot and ash. With hair in long, matted dreadlocks and wearing not much more than a loincloth and limbs wrapped in cobras, he hangs out in graveyards with ghosts and goblins.
An intimidating image indeed, but if we know how to look at him through the yogic lens, we actually see that he conveys a lot of compassion.
As the Destroyer, Shiva represents death and destruction. Through his presence we are asked to face not only our own mortality, but also the inevitable death of our loved ones, a task most of us have some resistance to. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the fear of death (abhinivesha) is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles (kleshas) to our own happiness and freedom. This is one of the reasons why images of him are so imposing; they are meant to evoke the fear of death most of us mere mortals will eventually have to face.
While Shiva represent death, literally, he also symbolises all of the mini-deaths we are going to face in our life times, for example: the end of a relationship, leaving a job or moving to a new home, city or country. Shiva also signifies the profound inner changes most of us will encounter across the duration of our lives and all of the trials and tribulations we will inevitably encounter – all of the things that challenge us, that confront us, that scare us. Even though these changes and experiences may be taking us to new and potentially better places, many of us may nonetheless have some resistance to them. Perhaps we are comfortable with what is familiar; perhaps we are afraid of the unknown; perhaps we are attached to some aspect of our life even if it is no longer serving us. Regardless or why, the resistance can bind us to our current situation, potentially stagnating and stifling our growth.
But here is the key that demystifies this Great Divine One:
He wants nothing more than for you to be free.
He wants for each of us to be free from whatever forces are keeping us small and inhibited. We all have some part of us that either consciously or unconsciously keeps us small. Often they are qualities that are looked down upon. Perhaps, those things about ourselves that we don’t want to admit to. Maybe we don’t like those things in ourselves or fear that others will not like us because of them. Perhaps they are too painful to admit to. In some ways those things threaten our sense of self or our wellbeing, our own acceptability or our lovability (e.g., “If I get angry I won’t be loved”, “If I need too much I will be abandoned”). Some of us deny feelings of being hurt for fear of offending. As a result, we may keep them in the shadows, invisible to others and perhaps to ourselves. Unspoken and unrecognized, they persist. They grow, potentially festering and becoming toxic, resulting in emotional, mental and physical anguish.
The yogi comes to see this anguish as Shiva simply doing his job. In his infinite wisdom, Shiva knows that sometimes we need to get really uncomfortable in order to change. The discomfort is what motivates us to manifest change. If we don’t get uncomfortable we may just stay the same. Yoga is a practice of transformation. For some it may be physical transformation, for others it may be mental, emotional or spiritual transformation. Every transformation requires a letting go. We must let go of something old in order to create the space for something new. Perhaps we need to let go of the belief that we are incapable or not good enough, or that life has limited opportunities. Perhaps we need to let go of our expectations of ourselves or of others.
Shiva does his cosmic dance, sometimes sublime, often turbulent, in order to bring consciousness to the places where we may be stuck. The reality is that we are all going to be hurt in this lifetime. We are all going to go through our breakups, disappointments and betrayals. By denying them, paradoxically we hold onto them. By denying, we segregate. We can’t just cut it off. If it is there it will manifest. Through the Holy trinity of the yogic tradition (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) we learn that everything has a cycle. Everything that comes into existence needs to have it’s time and space (including our thoughts, beliefs and emotions). If we deny it, it will remain unresolved and will manifest in some way – emotionally, mentally, physically. It will become dis-ease of some form. If we allow room for something, generally, it will naturally resolve itself. All things being equal, all will return to a natural balance.
One of the great lessons we learn from Lord Shiva is to face our fears with an open heart. Even when we feel daunted by life, we continue to dance our cosmic dance. We may fall, we may get hurt and feel broken, but we learn life’s necessary lessons and by integrating those lessons into our selves, we transform.
Practices to work with Shiva:
Note: In no way do we wish to trivialise the experience of life’s challenges, including loss, grief, sadness, depression, anxiety and so forth. If you are finding it hard to cope and need to talk, reach out. Lifeline: 13 11 14. To inquire about private consultation please call Jeff on 0407 562 154.