Turbulent Times

Shiva Nataraja (Dancing Shiva). Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This is a time of great tumult and much discordant energy. Many people are anxious about our uncertain future, over which it feels we have little control.

I contemplate the statue of four-armed dancing Shiva on my altar. Shiva reminds me that destruction paves the way for creation. Once the most popular deity of Hinduism, Shiva the Destroyer is one of the Trimurthis, or trinity of Hindu gods, along with Brahma the Creator and Vishnu the Preserver.[1]

In the Dancing Shiva Nataraja form, the left leg is lifted slightly off the ground, and this rising up represents liberation and freedom from attachment. The right leg is slightly bent and tramples upon a demon, representing the conquest over ignorance. A halo surrounds the King of the Dance, and the flames in the halo represent Angi, the god of Fire. Fire is an agent of change and transformation.

A similar dance is taking place in the skies above us all. In 2008, the planetoid Pluto entered the sign of Capricorn, where it will be a visitor until 2023-4. 2016 marked its half-way point. Pluto forces us to confront power and powerlessness, while old structures fall apart. Ready or not.

In astrology, Capricorn represents structure, order, professionalism, traditional values, practicality, going about life in conventional ways. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, the taskmaster. Pluto, on the other hand, named for the lord of the Underworld, is synonymous (in astrology) with ordeals that alter everything, and with revelation, ruin and revival. Anything that’s been buried is brought to the surface for transformation, regeneration, and rebirth.[2]   “Things aren’t pretty with Pluto, but they get done…. Pluto asks us to transcend that which we know, redeem ourselves in the process, and come out stronger as a result.”[3]

While all this certainly rocks the foundation under us, it may be helpful to remember that destruction paves the way for creation. In any building project, the bulldozers must do their work before the cement mixers and carpenters can do theirs.

As we’re seeing, this cycle of dismantling and realigning affects every level, from governments to businesses, families and relationships. It’s not just rearranging the furniture, it’s moving the walls and taking some down. The outcome of the recent U.S. elections underscored the depth of wounds in this country that have been festering for a long time. It’s similar to an abscess that has finally broken to the surface – for only then can it be exposed to light and air and start healing. What is stirring within you that wants to come to the surface?

How to deal with the ups and downs, the turbulence that seems inescapable? As always, I turn to the animals.

Coyote doesn’t miss a thing

A great deal of anger is being expressed, which calls for an even greater expression of compassion. When I wrote about Anger in Animals on Reiki, Coyote came forward and said, “Anger is one of my tricks. It distracts your energy and attention. That rush of emotion feels good, feels powerful. When you’re caught up in it, you don’t recognize that you’re being spun away from your purpose.” Coyote also said, “When you feel anger, ask yourself, why? What is it you expected to happen differently? If there were no expectations, there would be no anger. Expectations are illusion – a mirage of what you want or imagine is real, but it isn’t.”

Zebra added, “To bear anger also implies carrying weight. If I were weighted down, I couldn’t run as fast to escape my predators…. How great is the burden you carry? To set that weight down, to release it, lightens your step, your energy, your being.

Anger turns in upon itself, and eats at the bearer from within. When feeling strong emotions such as anger, it can help to sit with the feelings and recognize them for what they are: Feelings. Emotions. Thoughts. Where do they come from? What are the experiences, wounds, and stories they connect to within you that make them so powerful? When anger is a response to injury – internal or external – what part of you is asking to be healed? What can you do differently to take better care of yourself?

When you are feeling better, and have built a stronger container to hold your Self (otherwise known as boundaries), it may be possible to see the other person as facing challenges and fears of their own. As Buddhist nun Pema Chodron has said, “Without loving-kindness for ourselves it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others.”[4]

Just looking at people and relationships, consider that all of us have been wounded in some way. It’s our choice how to express our feelings through our own lives. Do we deepen the wounds and inflict more by putting our energy toward feeding the fear? Or can we put our energy toward healing and taking care of ourselves. We can be gentler with ourselves, and at the same time refrain from inflicting harm on others. It’s all in the choices we make. This can be a very positive time if we have the heart for it. As in, put our hearts into it.

These times call for great compassion, for self and others. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi showed us that great change is possible through peaceful means, even in the face of hatred.

Mother swan with little chicks

Swan said, “So much of compassion is about not judging. Being who you are, learning the lessons of life …. Compassion is to understand that each being is on its own path of growth. One being’s path cannot be compared to another’s. Each soul’s journey unfolds in its own way and time.” In that same set of conversations, Penguin added, “The other part of compassion is compassion toward self. If you don’t have compassion for self – true love for self – your ability to hold it for others is limited.

And that’s the crux of it. Some people have said that we’re in the “end times” as prophesied in the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelations. Only four years ago many people feared that the world would come to an end when the Mayan calendar reached its conclusion on December 21, 2012. The world didn’t end; the calendar reset to a new beginning. The calendar rolled over like a car’s odometer that just hit 100,000 miles. A new calendar started. So we may be at the end of many things, and by definition that means the beginning of other things, and in the middle there’s the uncomfortable period of transition.

How best to live through this period of transition, with its bumps as well as its times of beauty? This is a time that calls for flexibility and compassion, even when many of us are fear-driven to dig in our heels and remain rigid. What is important to hang onto and what is it time to release? This applies not only to stuff, but also to practices, beliefs, old resentments. It is important to acknowledge the endings – that which is ending did play a role in your life for a time. Make it as clean as possible. Clearing the space and energy of what’s being released prepares that space and energy to receive what’s coming.

Stand in the core truth of what comes from your heart. Stand up for what is in the greatest well-being of all beings. Offer and ask for forgiveness. Tend to your own healing. So often it’s not how an event or challenge starts or turns out, it’s the intentions we hold during the process that reveal who we are. Consider the words of this song:

Help us accept each other as Love accepted us
Teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace
Be present among us and bring us to believe
We are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

We all live on one earth. We all come from one original mother. We are all related.

Sources:

[1] www.hinduwebsite.com

[2] www.astrology.com

[3] Molly Hall, http://astrology.about.com/od/plutoincapricornto2023/qt/PlutoCap.htm

[4] Eden Steinberg, editor, The Pocket Pema Chodron. Shambala Pocket Classics, 2008, p. 41.

Coyote and Swan photos licensed from istockphoto.com

 

 

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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