Witnessing the Dance of Shiva

Witnessing the Dance of Shiva Nataraja.

Lord Shiva has been showing up in my life lately. His energy is felt all around and within me: perhaps telling me a great story, as all of the Hindu gods and mythological figures do. My mind sees Shiva in the form and the image I have come across over the years: he is smeared with ash, his hair matted, a cobra encircles his head, and flames surround him. Each of his ears is adorned with earrings, one of a man and one of a woman, and Rudraksha beads hang on his body. I envision a beautiful crescent moon always connected to him and tiger skins beneath his seat. Simultaneous to his austere seat, my mind and current visions of him also take his form as Shiva Nataraja, “Lord of the Dance,” doing his cosmic work.

Like the eternal rhythmic movement of the universe, Shiva sits and Shiva dances. He is dancing an incredible story, filled with wisdom that is applicable to everyday life. In this cosmic dance, with wild arms representing the cardinal directions, and quick moving legs offering triumph over illusion, energy is flowing. Fire is illuminating the darkness as Shiva takes his role as the destroyer. In the Trinity, Shiva’s place is essential. Just as Brahma creates, and Vishnu sustains, the element of ending a cycle to make room for rebirth is a necessity for the flow and tides to make the planet spin with accuracy.

More than the traditional stories that I have read about Shiva–his great asceticism as a meditator atop the Himalayas, or his love for Parvati, the Goddess/Shakti energy both stable and holy– I find that it is his energy that is resonating with me. Through my own experiences, and witnessing those of others around me, I am discovering the blessings he is truly offering to all who devote themselves to his teachings. The significance of his dance between birth and death in the everyday is potent.

He is offering his disciples the truth of impermanence. He is reminding us that sameness is only an illusion of the mind. His flames begin to illuminate where our path might guide us in an effort to move beyond small-mindedness, and egocentricity. To dance in the flames one must be willing to surrender, and then to tap into the internal source of great faith that the demolition will bring you to resurrection when the time is right.

We often tell ourselves that if we have faith, or if we surrender, or if we practice in a particular way that it will all work out. And that’s true, it will. But not always in a timely manner, or predictable one. And this is where we can slip through the cracks of our practices and move into a place of forgetting. Can we remember? Can we recall the many other cycles we have survived? Can we pause for a moment to see the many endings that proceeded new beginnings? And while there may be somewhat of a circuitous route to our cycles, can we recognize where we are in our cycles? At any given time something new is brewing, and there is abundance of sustenance, and something is always dissolving. Can we start to open ourselves to the magic and unpredictability of the dance and her tempos? Where is our focus as we are being danced? What are we welcoming with a yes? Where are we still resisting? What seeds did we plant at some earlier stage of our evolution- and can we stay present to the way they are rising up from the Earth? Maybe we did not realize when we invoked a particular desire that it would manifest in such a way. Maybe we had a grand plan that has gone seriously awry. Or has it?

Speaking only for myself, I have been in a practice of letting go, of a type of death, for quite some time. And it seemed to drag on. I will own my prideful sentiment that it was even unfair. However, in my letting go, Shiva asked me to dance a bit more fiercely, and with more duration than I thought possible. He asked me to welcome that which felt unfamiliar. Yes, courage and warriorship were part of the dance, but it was not until these last couple of months that I began to embrace the softness and newer rhythms that revealed themselves in the finale of this particular movement. And that softness has been an essential aspect to this dance. It took me awhile to feel into the pulsation of release, of change, of freeing myself from the projections of perfection until I could lay down at the foot of what actually is.

I could not have known how to execute the final steps until the time came, and the energy led me. While there may be a threshold I have moved beyond that gives me a felt sense of completion, I am practicing staying open to the cycle that will somehow be in a state of continuance of rebirth, sustained duration of what needs to be for a time, and then another layer of dissolution. However, I am now more conscious of how the kriya has been working through me. The purification process that I found so wretched for a time has transformed into a lightness and a beauty that is more than I knew to imagine.

It took the dance. It took the meditation. It took the movement of my own mountain to find myself in full worship of this divine figure within my life, my love, my cycles of death and rebirth, and my own unique choreography of lessons to learn.

Om Namah Sivaya!