The Wisdom of the Dancer

What a stressful year this has been! When life gets challenging I try to look to the teachings of yoga for wisdom. Lately, I have been reflecting on Shiva Nataraja, The Cosmic Dancer.  This icon is a symbol of our yoga practice and has a lot to offer us in terms of how to engage in the world.

Nataraja represents Shiva dancing the universe into existence. And the Nataraja represents you, dancing your life into existence. Within the dance, the cosmic dancer performs five acts, called Pancha Kritya.  The first three of these acts are creation, maintenance, and dissolution.

Let’s start with the easy one first. I often say that your day-to-day yoga mostly consists of maintenance – going to work, cooking, eating, chores, relationship, all the things that sustain the status quo in your life. We call this being a householder.
And at the same time, there is always creation. Beautiful things are being born, more sustainable ways of living are being created, and new ideas and ways of working and living are being discussed and implemented. You may even be beginning new chapters in your life.
But what I have been contemplating lately, and the topic I want to discuss today is dissolution. There happens to be a lot of dissolution in the world right now. From the destruction of mass shootings and natural disasters to the surfacing of the depth and breadth of sexual harassment in our society, to what feels like the dismantling of our government and democracy, we are all living with extreme toxic stress. Dissolution is emotionally taxing, exhausting, and scary.
But I must share with you something that I firmly believe. From dissolution arises the opportunity to reimagine, rebuild, and recreate. There is no doubt the old paradigm is dying and while the uncertainty is scary, stressful, and threatening, it is up to us to look at different ways of living and being in the world. As they say, “The phoenix rises from the ashes.” Dissolution is the opportunity to get creative, rethink how we are living, and rise up to become better and more refined.
At every level – from our personal lives to our local communities, state and federal government, and globally, we have a chance to change the world. And that happens because each one of us is engaging, doing our yoga, and participating in the dance.
We can already see this happening. People are waking up, speaking up, and changing their ways. Here some recent events that are worth celebrating:
• Tesla restored power to a children’s hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico with 700 solar batteries. This could be a model to show it can work on a large scale.
• A 22-year old invented a way to clean the trash from the ocean. His project has raised 31 million dollars and is set to begin next year.
• Citizens are taking an interest in government, participating, and even running for office. A record number of women are running for positions from the local to the national level.
The fourth and fifth acts of the dance are concealment and revelation. We have no idea how much more dissolution there is to go. My guess is that it will get worse before it gets better. We have no idea what will happen and how we will get through it, past it, and what it will look like on the other side. The uncertainty is scary but this is the nature of concealment and so to it the nature of life.
Revelation takes faith, a deep trust in the power of life, and in the victory of what is good, right, and just. And it takes your participation. You are being invited to the dance, invited to engage. And not only is that is all you can do, it is what you have to do. Your yoga is to participate in the dance. It is to pause, listen, reflect, feel, and pay attention. To trust in the revelatory power of life to continue to show you want the next step is. And that is all you have to know, the next step.

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