Yoga is a science and not a religion. Yogis believe in one universal God and respect all religions. Yet, due to originating in India, Yoga has Hindu influence. The deities mentioned in the many stories used in Yoga give examples for the lessons of life, and are taken from ancient scriptures. There are gods and goddesses that represent the many aspects of God, from strength to art and creativity, beauty, abundance and protection to name a few.
Guest Blogger, Rukmini Ali Shevlin, shares a thoughtful look at Siva, autumn and transition.
When Siva dances, the world burns.
Siva is the dissolver, the destroyer. Along with Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver, Siva is part of the Hindu trinity of deities that are responsible for the whole of creation - from age to age, lifetime to lifetime, year to year, day to day. Through Brahma, worlds are made, life is born, a new day dawns. Vishnu acts to preserve Brahma's creation, for as long as it serves. And Siva destroys, burning the old to ultimately make way for the new, and the whole cycle begins again.
Autumn is Siva's time. The new life that was created by Brahma in spring and nourished by Vishnu through the long days of summer, starts to reach its end. Proving that endings can be stunningly beautiful too, Siva sets the world on fire in a blaze of reds, golds, and browns with the last warmth from the sun. It's a time of transition, of change, and it affects us just as much as it affects nature. The sudden chill in the early morning air signals a shift in our bodies and in our mindsets. And, as in any natural time of transition, we look for ways to move forward with the earth. We look for what we can leave behind, and we search for the new that will take its place. For some, this might stop at sorting out the closet and replacing the old summer t-shirts with winter jumpers (sweaters). But for others, it covers body, mind, soul and emotion; a wholesale look at our lives with the intention of leaving behind what no longer serves us, and taking forward the best of what we have.
It's a good intention. Without the space left by what we no longer need, there would be no room for anything new or different, and in a world that thrives on constant change, "letting go" is a phrase that, it seems, is everywhere. We are encouraged to "let go" of negative emotion, negative thoughts, and all those bad mental habits that don't do us any good anymore. No one wants anything negative in their lives, especially at a time when one chapter is naturally ending and another one beginning. No one wants old stories following them around.
It sounds simple enough. Yet "just letting go" of something that is effectively hard wired into us is actually a pretty impossible task. Humans are designed to think. We are designed to feel emotion. We are designed to react to that emotion. At a primal level, the ability to think, feel, and react is what ensures our survival. We can recognize danger. We can feel fear. We can react by either fight or flight. And, hopefully, we live to tell the tale. So-called "negative" emotion such as anger, greed, jealousy, hatred, all stem from that instinct of fear.
Modern day living means that fear, in the survival sense, is largely redundant - being chased across the plains of Africa by a pack of lions is a pretty remote possibility for most of us now - and yet the instinct is still very much there. It's just more subtle. An unworthy colleague being promoted above us can make us boil with anger for days. It is not going to kill us, and yet that anger still stems from fear - the fear that we are not good enough, that we are being overlooked, that we will ultimately not survive because we can't beat the competition. It sounds dramatic. It is dramatic. It's thousands of years and many, many lifetimes of instinct bursting to the surface. And, no matter how many "inspirational" books, quotes, magazines and blogs we read that tell us to let go and stop feeling our anger, or fear, or greed, or anything else that's considered negative - emphasis on the word "considered", since most negative emotion is not bad in itself, but simply socially unacceptable in our modern society - it's not going to happen just like that. Even with Siva dancing merrily away in the background.
Yoga, though, can teach us an alternative. It does this by reminding us of two things: that we are not our emotions, and that we have free will. And both of those things stem directly from one of the fundamental teachings of the yogis - that of non-attachment.
Instead of attempting the impossible by trying to suppress our "negative" emotions altogether, we can take a tiny step back. We can separate ourselves from our anger by choosing to say "I am feeling angry" rather than "I am angry". Eventually, after enough practice, we find that we are observing our anger rather than being swept along by it. We aren't feeling it any less, but we are questioning it. And then we have a choice. A choice of how to react...or even whether to react at all.
Humans are blessed with extraordinary gifts of intellect and free will. We have the ability to think, to judge, to discriminate, and then to choose. We can choose whether or not to let our anger - or fear, or jealousy, or greed - take up our energy and our valuable time. We can choose whether or not to respond to it. We can choose to be compassionate with ourselves, and we can choose to try and understand why that emotion came up for us in the first place, instead of blindly following our instinct and being swept along for the roller coaster ride.
This is true transformation - understanding, observing, and sitting with uncomfortable feelings rather than pushing them away. Even fire can be gentle. Even the slowest burn eventually destroys the obstacles in its path. Even the longest Autumn will eventually turn to a beautiful winter, and so it is with our own changes. We don't have to make them drastic, and we don't have to do everything all at once. Siva doesn't stop dancing. He just dances to our rhythm.
Thank you Rukmini Ali for the thought provoking post and thank YOU for taking this journey with me! Check out www.kriyashakti.net for more about Rukmini Ali Shevlin.
Loving Life and Living Love,
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