When I was a young girl, my family lived in an old 2-story home in a quiet neighborhood in South Jersey. Our house was only a few blocks away from St. Rose of Lima, the Catholic elementary school that my brothers and sister and I attended. We used to walk to school every morning through the snows of winter and the honey-suckle blooming of spring. So many children lived on our street that summer became an endless game of bike-riding, catching lightning bugs and playing Blind Man’s Bluff.
I’d like to remember my childhood as idyllic. But I was a little too internal, introspective and bookish to fit in with more than a handful of friends. Those early years passed in the paradoxical angst of feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere; and having deep connections with a small group of people who understood what I meant, and felt exactly the same way.
Then, in the 8th grade, right before starting high school, my father got a job in Texas. We were moving. I would never see my friends again. (Or so I thought.) Even worse, I would never see that cute Italian (who shall remain nameless) again. It didn’t matter that the cute boy never looked at me, or that my closest friends promised to write. My life was comfortable. It was what I knew. And without having any say in the matter, it was about to completely change. My last day in New Jersey, as we pulled out of the driveway, the neighborhood kids rode past on their bicycles, waving and shouting good-bye. It was a teary but joyful escort away from the familiarity of my childhood home.
Since that time, letting go has been hard for me. I don’t like change. I want my life to be cozy, to have a sense of routine and stability. The same faces around for years; bonds and relationships that survive the test of time. I am not by nature a rolling stone. I am a stone that sits there, year after year, sinking deeper into the earth, covered with a soft, lacey moss while butterflies perch on me, and squirrels scamper across me, and the trees around me get older and more beautiful with the years. My ideal life is to be still, enjoy and watch everything in peace.
All of this is probably why, when the Universe needs to create transformation in my life, it tends to involve a Cosmic sledgehammer. Change rarely happens in my world in a slow and gradual manner. Rather, it comes through total upheaval, all at once, with nowhere to hide, no room for negotiation and definitely no road back.
I wish I could say that moving from New Jersey to Texas was the most traumatic experience of my life. But of course, it wasn’t. It was a child’s initiation into what the Masters call the “impermanence of life.”
I began studying yoga in my early 20’s. Yet, it is only in the last year that I have come to understand why yoga is connected with the image of the Divine called Shiva. Shiva – the Lord of Destruction. Shiva – the meditator and aesthetic. It isn’t so mystical, really. Destruction and endings are just so incredibly difficult to navigate that humans had to develop a way to cope. Perhaps yoga began as an experiment of how a person could keep himself sane while everything around him fell apart. Perhaps we reflect something in the Cosmic Play that mirrors an inner cycle within ourselves. Endings happen. Change is inevitable. Transformation can hardly be avoided. So how do we keep ourselves balanced through the experience? How do we handle letting go?
No one escapes the power of destruction. The problem is, from a spiritual point of view, destruction and learning go hand in hand. Sometimes, endings are the perfect path to find the inner strength of our own Indestructibility. It is only when we are touching the death of everything we know that we see within ourselves the Light that never dies. When the environments collapse, when the relationships no longer provide the support they once did, we have a chance to experience that we don’t actually depend on that, anyway. There is a soul in me, a spark of Divinity, a Divine Identity that can carry me through. And in that moment when we realize our survival depends upon what is within us, not on what surrounds us, then we experience ourselves as God.
The paradox of it is that you can’t have that experience when everything is cozy and nice and easy. That experience comes when everything challenges you and fights you – which is perhaps why Shiva, who represents the wisdom of yoga, also has to represent total annihilation. The path to self-realization requires the pressure that only intense change can bring.
The first week in Texas, I spent with my family in a condo at the beach along the Gulf Coast. I remember the sound of the ocean while I sat on the porch, the sun beaming down, the sand gritty in my teeth; and me, as usual, with my nose in a book. In the years ahead, it wasn’t that life was better or worse as a teenager than it was when I was a child. In retrospect, I dealt with many of the same challenges, and continued to experience many of the same blessings. It was simply on a bigger scale.
That is what I have found throughout my life. When something ends, after a time of repose, something new begins. Not better. Not worse. Just – more. More powerful. More expansive. More deep.
That, to me, is the nature of growth. We grow in cycles. When we’ve reached the limit of what we can learn and experience in one matrix of time and space, the Universe accommodates us – destroying one reality and replacing it with something new. We go through so many cycles in the course of this life. And then even more cycles when this life, itself, needs to end in order for the soul to continue progressing. Destruction, wisdom, endings, union – they all work together in the Cosmic scheme of things.
But with destruction and endings, how do we survive them? The common sense, ages-old answer. Just BREATHE.
And how to touch the Divine within you? The foundation of all spiritual and yogic wisdom? Just BREATHE.
It’s taken me 20 years of study, but I finally understand. These are two sides of the same coin for a reason.
Yours humbly in Divine Light and Divine Love,
Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa. ekongkaar.blogspot.com