Over Thanksgiving—or Fangsgiving as we of the gothic propensity like to say—I was visiting my sister. I don’t do that often enough. I also happened to be hanging out with her in her hot tub, which I do even more rarely. As a result of this steamy decadence, I removed my Shiva necklace so it would not get wet. This necklace, I must declare, is my very favourite bit of bling. It is a likeness of Shiva in the form of Sri Nataraj, Lord of the Dance, undulating in the middle of a ring of sacred flames.
I enjoyed the hot tub and the company. When I emerged, squealing like a piglet for my towel, I promptly forgot Lord Shiva on the porch. I even went so far as to drive home without him, some three hours’ distance. O la! Om Nama Shivaya – I am never without him, and I was most bereft when I discovered his absence.
What makes this celestial ascetic so vital to me? Is it that he’s the Bad Boy of the Hindu Trimurti, the Destroyer, he who dances the end of the Cosmos so that it can be reborn? Perhaps in part, but I’m actually a bigger fan of the bespectacled geeky type. Is it the romantic appeal of one who wears the crescent moon on his forehead and from whose matted locks flows the sacred Ganges River? Or maybe it’s my Halloweeny side. You just have to admire a guy who has the fortitude to let snakes live in his hair. And then there’s the whirl of seeming contradictions inherent in this great god’s archetype: the Ascetic, the Lover, the Dancer, the Yogi, the Bringer of Change, the Embodiment of Consciousness Contemplating Itself. Shiva truly dances in all directions.
It is said that when Shiva energy comes into your life, you’d best make way for the wave of change that is about to pour through you. This transformative tide can strike suddenly, sweeping you off your plateau of complacency and sending you toes over teakettle. I can relate to that. Lately it feels like life is a race of mad activity, with changes and new learning coming so fast I scarcely have time to take note, much less integrate. I recently remarked to a friend, “I really need a SLOW DOWN BUTTON. Do they make those?” To which he replied sagely, “I think it’s located somewhere inside.” Touché. Ironically, this is just where Shiva can help.
Shiva, the Mahadev—the Great God—is an adept yogi, a powerful warrior, and a fierce protector if we can make an ally of him. He is known to enter meditation for eons at a time, delighting in the state of deepest contemplation. If we could come to know him better, perhaps he might reveal some of his wisdom to us. Instead of showing himself only as the Lord of Destruction crashing into our lives, he might teach us how to ride the wave of Transformation. Just as he swallowed deadly poison to save the Three Worlds when the gods and demons churned the milky ocean, he performs a heroic and sacrificial function as the god who dances the end of the universe. Who, after all, wants to step up to the plate as the Destroyer? Shiva takes this role upon himself in order that the great cycle can begin again, and life can spring up anew. Imagine the perspectives he might offer those of us awash in the headlong flow of life.
In one of my best-ever shamanic journey experiences, I remember the ole Mahadev laughing as he chided me, “Kristi, you are your own worst enemy.” So often he reminds me when I need to get out of my own way…so I can actually accomplish something, or perhaps just be still.
Yesterday an envelope arrived in the mail, addressed to me in my sister’s bold round handwriting. Inside was Shiva, dancing at the centre of the Sacred Fire. I just can’t say how relieved I am to have him back—and to be reminded of the strength and the wisdom he brings to my fool’s journey.