The vedic god, Shiva, is the god of creation and destruction.
I was once told (by my spirit mentor, the Rajadeva) that I am like Uma, who was Shiva’s second wife, (better known as Parvati), so I have made a special place for Shiva in my mind.
Most people in western society who aren’t familiar with the vedic gods tend to know the image of Shiva dancing the tandava or Nataraj(as shown in the picture, above), but even then may not fully understand what this image means.
Shiva is one of a triune of upper echelon gods and his cosmic task is to dance the cosmos into being, or into destruction.
In the Hindu view, Shiva is the god of yoga, who is able to transcend the human condition and the woes of the world, and it is believed that those who can meditate in the deepest trance-like states that Shiva attains can also achieve self-discipline and detachment, and therefore purity.
Shiva is one of the vedic gods who has had many worldly incarnations. During one of his incarnations, he married a lovely demi-goddess named Sati.
Sati ended up by killing herself in a fire after attending a family gathering that her husband, Shiva, had not been invited to.
(This is where the ‘ sati ‘ ritual comes from, where a widow immolates herself in a fire at the funeral of her husband – though the theme is not really related because Shiva was still alive when Sati killed herself).
She did so because she was ashamed of her family (who snubbed her when she came because she was married to someone they did not approve of) and distraught that despite her best efforts to prove Shiva’s worth to them, they continued to reject him just because he did not live his life according to their ways.
Sati mistakenly felt that she brought shame upon her husband because they were her relatives, so she killed herself in a gesture to honor him. When Shiva found out what had happened, his rage and distress bubbled over.
Now, when you are a god and that happens, powerful forces come into play. Shiva began to dance the tandava and under his stomping feet the whole universe began to disintegrate.
It wasn’t until the other gods came together in great force to plead with him that he finally saw sense and stopped dancing, allowing his grief and anger to settle.
Now, hearing this story, on one hand, you might commiserate with Shiva’s grief at losing his beloved wife in such a senseless way.
On the other hand, you might question how and why a god might lose his sense of responsibility and presence to such a degree that he would almost blindly bring the universe to its knees under his tantrum – especially when that god is one who is capable of extreme asceticism and detachment from events.
So you need to know that Shiva didn’t get to such a position lightly, or even under some unhappy instant trigger.
Before Sati killed herself in shame, Shiva had counseled her many times about her family’s attitudes toward him. He told her that he wasn’t really upset, that it had more to do with their character than it did with who he really was, and that she shouldn’t worry about it because it wasn’t affecting him at all.
Shiva was very wise and very cosmic in this attitude, and showed great generosity of spirit, as many do who follow spiritual paths and who do great deeds. But despite his best efforts and intentions, and the wisdom he gave to others, he could not contain himself when pushed too far.
Even gods have a limit to how much they can take. And even gods sometimes need a helping hand in realigning themselves to their inner truths once that ‘button‘ has been pushed.
Now, we humans tend to forget that when we aspire to be ‘perfect’ or ‘better‘ than we suspect we are. We rarely forgive others or even ourselves for throwing similar whammies or tantrums, no matter how relevant or with what justification they have.
People are often extremely judgmental about such things, possibly because, as Shiva’s tandava can be, such whammies can be dangerous.
When people feel threatened, they are extremely unlikely to put up with such modes, even if they are sympathetic to the reasons behind them. No one likes menace.
You’d think that these modes of rejection of inappropriate or menacing behavior would be par for the course in the realm of responsibility inhabited by the gods, too, wouldn’t you? But the fact is that gods and goddesses, whether multiple or singular, have far different agendas and viewpoints to the often ‘black and white‘ assumptions of human beings.
Read just about any story on the modes of a god or goddess, in any religion, modern or ancient, and at some stage you will find that they pretty well do as they please a lot of the time, even if that does hurt the humans they are apparently there to protect.
I’m not saying that they are completely fallible or that they don’t aspire to do better or to serve those under their care – but let’s face it, Gods do have disagreements that lead to wars. Gods do fight wars. Life on planet Earth often suffers under collateral damage caused by the modes of the gods. Not even the christian god is exempt from causing suffering, or from sending plagues or destruction. Gods and goddesses are often more ‘human’ than humans !
Why then are we humans so bent on raising ourselves up to become like gods ? Why do we aspire to be so perfect when not even the gods are perfect, or even pretend to be ?
Gods believe they are perfect as they are. Their family and friends also believe they are perfect as they are. Or if they don’t, the same troubles can be inflicted on them in much the same way they are inflicted upon us (like in Shiva and Sati’s story of being outcast by her relatives simply because they didn’t really like who she married).
What does stand out when it comes to godhood is that gods are forgiving. So Shiva nearly destroyed the whole universe? Did it matter in the long run? No, not so long as he got ‘back on track’ and entered into creative and nurturing modes again.
Maybe being nigh on immortal helps them to maintain those modes. Let’s face it, they don’t die as often as we humans do, and they’re not so fragile. Perhaps they can feel more forgiving simply because they feel less under threat, and more able to accept the destruction of the universe because they know inside themselves that they are capable of reinventing it at any time…
I think there is much to be learned in the stories about the gods and goddesses for we human beings, though.
No one needs to be perfect to be acceptable. If we do break down under a load of stress and pressure, and do ‘wrong’ things for a time, that does not mean we are ‘bad’ people, necessarily.
Trying to live up to extreme standards set by ourselves or others is a mode prone to breakdown at some stage, because these are part of the basic themes of the universe – creation and destruction are cycles that alternate in the cosmos.
This may seem bad to those who build their lives on the illusion of security and permanence, but the fact is that nothing in life is ever truly secure or permanent. Change is a constant in the universe, on every level. Sometimes, it processes slowly, and sometimes rapidly, but change is inevitable.
As human beings, we rail against anything that threatens our welfare. It’s part of the law of survival that we protect our welfare, so we spend a heck of a lot of our lives trying to do just that, and despite the obstacles and challenges that often get in the way of truly establishing its security.
As elements of the mind of god, we, too, have a sense of power inside ourselves, including the power of destruction and creation. Perhaps we fear that power when we or others ‘go off the rails’, and thus imagine that more destruction than we can class as an acceptable loss may occur if such behavior is not curtailed?
In the image of Shiva dancing the tandava, you can see that he is atop a crouching demon. In Vedism, demons are not so much evil, as such, but are people who express extremes, where expressing extremes sets the cosmos to imbalance and chaos.
Under those modes, Shiva, himself, could be said to have temporarily become demon-like, when his tandava ‘span out of control‘, yet the other gods remained true to him. They trusted all they knew of him and did not frame their reference on one incident, even if that incident was extreme.
In the view of the universe, chaos is a necessary element of creation, and most things need to go through some degree of breaking down before they can be reconstructed in new and creative ways. So destruction is necessary for new forms of life to begin. Chaos is just the intermediary states that happen between the modes of integration – destruction – creation.
In the icon of the tandava, the demon beneath Shiva’s feet is saying that yes, deconstruction needs to occur before reconstruction or creation can happen, but ‘keep a hat on it‘ and don’t let things ‘get out of control‘.
It’s a warning – a reminder that the power of creation naturally holds the power of destruction, of which we must always be mindful lest the unleashing of that power becomes ‘blind and senseless’.
I don’t know many people who set out to be deliberately destructive. (I do know there are some in the world, but that’s another story). I do know, however, many brilliant, sensitive, kind and generous souls who were doing okay and were well received by others, until the moment when they ‘lost the plot’ momentarily (as Shiva did), and thereafter found their actions examined with a persistent element of caution, just in case they ever did it again.
Maybe that wariness goes with having ‘danced the tandava’ but for a human being, who does not have the generous mercy of the gods to uphold their spirit as Shiva did, that sort of wariness is undermining and degrades and disrespects the structure of all they built before the breakdown occurred.
I am in awe of the forgiveness and acceptance of gods when it comes to being merciful and kind to those who are, and have been, in all other ways magnificent beings. Gods know where their priorities lie.
Why should we keep kicking ourselves over an occasional or rare ‘whammy’ that has happened under extreme duress, when we have been pretty good human beings until then?
I had my own tandava, recently. It didn’t last long but it was a ‘sky rocket’. I’m over it now. Life goes on.
My son, Sean, is disabled. He was run over by a van at the age of thirteen, when he ran across a busy road near his school, after playing games with his brother when they were coming home one day,.
Sean spent eleven days in intensive care, fighting for his life, and ‘died ‘ thirteen times as his organs kept shutting down. My family spent every moment by his bedside during that time, and were shocked to see the awful green liquid the nurses regularly pumped from his stomach – the color of spirulina. Apparently, that’s what poison looks like in the body, and his body was being poisoned by the trauma of what happened to him.
Sean was in hospital for many months after he left intensive care (and spent years in rehabilitation ). During that time, he emerged from a vegetative coma state, to slowly learn to manage his body and mind again.
He had to learn to move himself, and was at first like a new born baby with a floppy head and limbs that he had no control over. He had to learn to not only eat, but also to swallow.
(He’d forgotten how to do that, and it was only then that we realized how much people learn as a baby. Babies often have trouble swallowing their first solid foods, making their limbs work, and forming their first words).
He had to learn to talk again, and even today finds that hard, sometimes, because his tongue is always partially paralyzed – but we made him signboards so all he had to do was point at letters and words to get his message across. He also got pretty good control over his thumb, and the ‘thumbs up‘ sign was often his response to people, as well as his smile.
When Sean smiled, his whole face lit up, along with his eyes. It was amazing to see. You’d think that what had happened to him would have set him back, or made him afraid of or angry at the world, but it didn’t Instead, the energy that came from him was positive and glowing. So, later on, we took to calling him our Ganesha.
Ganesha is a Vedic god who was the son of Shiva and Parvati. He had an elephant’s head on a human body, but it’s how he got his head that aligned his story to Sean’s.
Ganesha’s dad, Shiva, was the god of yoga and meditation, as well as being the creator and destroyer of worlds. Basically, he was/is among the highest hierarchy of the gods.
Shiva fell in love with Parvati (also called Uma) when he was already a very old man, so he was quite set in his ways by then. Even though they had a great love match, Shiva still liked to get away on his own and would spend months, and even years, apart from his beloved as he went on solo meditation retreats in the mountains.
During those times, Parvati became quite lonely, so one day she formed a little baby out of clay and breathed life into it. That baby was Ganesha.
Parvati and Ganesha had a great time together, and Ganesha did not meet his father until he was much older. By then, he and his mother had some daily rituals, such as Parvati taking herself off to bed for an afternoon nap, and Ganesha guarding her door whilst she slept so no one would disturb her.
It was during one of these siestas that Shiva finally came home. As usual, the first place he headed to was his wife’s boudoir for a bit of ‘meditation-breaking love-making ‘ – but when he got there, Ganesha was guarding the door.
Ganesha didn’t know who was being so aggressive about getting into the room and so he defended his mother’s door. Shiva got angry that he wasn’t being allowed to see his own wife ( and he didn’t know Ganesha was his son ), so a sword fight ensued, and during that fight Shiva cut off his son’s head with such force that it was flung into the cosmos and was never seen again.
Parvati was woken by all the hubbub, of course, and arrived just in time to see Shiva do the dastardly deed. She burst into tears, telling him that he had just killed their son.
Now, Shiva is not only the ‘Destroyer‘ but also the ‘Creator‘, so he could make Ganesha live again. What he couldn’t do was find his head to put it back on, so instead he went out into the world, declaring that he would bring back the head of the first baby born that he found. That baby happened to be an elephant.
( Let’s not get into the awful feeling the mother elephant must have had to see her new baby decapitated… or why an omnipotent god like Shiva couldn’t find his son’s own head… this is a story, after all).
So Ganesha had an elephant’s head after that, and all the family reunited in love and happiness.
We thought this story fit with our son, Sean, because Sean was also disabled in a terrible accident, and Sean was also a beautiful kid who loved his mum, and who still smiles and dances and spreads delight in the world. He once told me that it’s his mission to try to make everyone smile, so he bales even strangers up to smile at them, and if they smile back, he believes he has lightened their day.
I think that is a pretty good mission to have !
Like Ganesha, Sean is never going to not be visibly disabled, now – but he is still intelligent, perceptive, kind, charming, and extremely considerate and loving.
So, we have kept the god, Ganesha, close to us to remind us of our miracle, and our home is full of statues ( the picture at the top of this blog is of a statue only recently acquired by Sean ), hangings, and tapestries of this lovely Vedic god, who is known today for his intelligence, for writing the Vedic scriptures, and for his ability to remove all obstacles, and to bring blessings and good fortune.
(I actually believe that ‘gods’ can manifest in human form, and in multiple humans at the same time, so who knows if Sean could perhaps actually be manifesting a piece of Ganesha?)
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how Ganesha has brought brightness to our lives, and how much his spirit lives in our son.
If you’d like to know more about Sean’s story, see some of his hospital photos, read the “God” poem he wrote about a year after his accident, and read the story “I Don’t Know” that he narrated to me as a six year old (I was the shadow writer), visit this link and click on the other links you find on the page as you explore.
Sean (nicknamed ‘Pumpkin’ as a child by me) did grow up to be a very fine man, and was once married long enough to have two beautiful daughters. When I look at them today, and see the wonderfully happy relationship they have with their loving father, I am reminded that Ganesha also had two consorts, Riddhi (prosperity) and Siddhi (spiritual power). Sean’s daughters also attract attention wherever they go, and I’m looking forward to seeing what their future holds…
When I was a teenager, a lot was going on in my home life that left me super tired. I absolutely loved school and would head off each morning but was soon having trouble keeping my eyes open. So I began wagging afternoon classes to go home, where I would hide under my bed with a pillow and go to sleep.
(I hid under the bed so that, if anyone came home, they wouldn’t know I was there).
At the end of the school day, I would come out from under my bed, still in my uniform, and act as if I had just got home from school. This went on for a while, because the nightly events of domestic friction that lost me sleep continued for some time.
I felt guilty about missing so much school, though, so I went to enough classes to get by. I also attended tests and exams, and was so surprised that I passed with high scores. It seemed that I had got away with these ‘time out‘ periods until the regular parent/teacher interviews called my parents’ attention.
I felt even more guilty after that, because my teachers expressed disappointment in me. I had always been a good student and well mannered, but I had been missing so many classes throughout the year…
(I didn’t blame them. No one knew what was going on in my home life. I was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about what happened, there. I felt that people would think I came from a bad family, if they knew. I didn’t think my family was bad, just that it had lots of problems).
It was what my teachers added to their summations that was astonishing. They said that since I had passed all my exams with such high scores and with such little actual class attendance, they believed I was possibly a genius.
(No, I did not cheat on my exams, and my answers were usually very unique, which are hard to duplicate).
That assessment surprised me. My parents got a bit shocked, not only by the news that I had been wagging school but that I might be a genius. I think they actually felt confronted by that. (Hell, I felt confronted by it!) At home, when things went wrong, afterwards, more was expected from me because I ‘should have known better‘.
I didn’t really always know better, though. I may have been smart but I was still a kid. I was still learning about how the world worked. I was still processing information, not just about things but about people and life.
Once the word got out at school, I was ostracized and abused by some, or used by others who called me ‘Brain‘. I realized that (in the outer world, at least) I didn’t like being smart. I didn’t like feeling that I was the odd one out. So I dumbed myself down. I stopped interacting with my teachers so much. I stopped being the one to pipe up in class with answers. I even stopped contributing to the school magazine. I diverted my attention away from schooling.
I met my future husband when I was sixteen and that was the end of my childhood schooling. (I did go back, later, as a mature age student). I ran away and set up a new life with him because he gave me what I was missing, then – affection, love, and acceptance.
People asked me if I would ever go back. They shook their heads that so much potential was lost in me. They couldn’t believe that such a ‘bright spark‘ was now working as a ‘checkout chick‘ and had aligned herself to a mere apprentice television technician. They didn’t believe we would last as a couple. They thought we were a mis-match, and they thought I had wasted my skills and talents.
I was just happy to be living life as me, not as someone’s expectations of me. On a deep inner level, though, the teachers’ words found home. I actually liked being smart. I just didn’t like people picking on me or expecting me to be their ‘walking dictionary or encyclopedia‘ or ‘automatic answer to everything‘ just because they thought I was smarter than they were.
Long ago, I did some Mensa (high IQ) tests to see how smart I really was. While I’ve lost those scores, now, they were in the top IQ range, then – but an interesting thing happened over time and through the long processes of life – I redid a Mensa test in recent years and did not come off so well. Still intelligent, no longer high IQ level…
What happened? I never stopped using my brain. I’d always expressed it in one way or another. I’d been an artist, a writer, a dramatist – was it because my focus drew away from technical issues and became more creative? Yet I’d also been a business woman by then. I’d run my own theater group. I’d gone back to school and sat further exams. I’d earned myself diplomas. Surely, dealing with the technicalities of those modes kept using those parts of my brain?
It is said that the brain has an endless capacity to absorb information. On the other hand, most people have a limit to how much can be recalled. There’s not much use having knowledge stored if it isn’t accessible.
Maybe that is a way the brain prioritizes. Just as we archive information on computers, so that what isn’t absolutely necessary is not taking up too much energy, our brains archive old knowledge, which can get harder to find again as we get older or find ourselves under stress.
(When I started to forget things, my grand-daughter told me that I had a leaky brain. She said that my head was so full that there was no room left in it, so things had begun leaking out… ).
I believe that not being able to access the information in your head can also happen when life makes you tired. When you are dealing with mundane problems all the time, and especially draining ones, your brain can begin to shut down because of overload.
I’ve seen movies and read books where the theme of social deterioration was examined, like “Lord of the Flies.” People question how sensitive, kind, intelligent humans can become so bestial, gross, and lacking in forethought or decency.
I think it is because the brain is selective. Just as it does when archiving old knowledge, I believe it prioritizes the necessities. When we are in survival mode, the brain does not think about good manners and decency any more. It thinks about how best to make it through the challenging moments.
That’s why stories about normal, sane, intelligent people being put into highly challenging and dangerous situations, and having to fight for their lives, are so rife today.
In a society where intelligence has become an aspiration, where the ‘used to be nerds‘ are now heroes, and where even pre-school children are expected to develop advanced intelligence, it is confronting to realize that human nature overrides all the concepts that go with intelligence in any situation of survival. Instinct often seems to overrule intelligence in that state.
I’ve been through a lot of very challenging circumstances during the course of my life. These were emotional, physical, and fiscal, but not often intellectual. (Well, there were intellectual challenges, but I had a knack for dealing with them… It was the other modes that rattled me). They also came at me from many directions and in different ways, so it wasn’t like I could learn a method of coping and then relax.
While I have amassed quite a history of achievements, I am very aware of how much more I could have done if I had not felt so tired or drained by the personal circumstances I was in, sometimes.
It is not surprising to me at all to learn that highly intelligent people can become so depressed that they take their own lives. When emotion and energy gets so low, not even the most acute intelligence can break through to give them a boost.
One of the diplomas I earned was in method acting. Through that, I learned that people are not born to particular roles or modes in life but have many different potentials inside of them.
The premise of method acting is that roles are not different characters but are the same person who is being affected by different circumstances and challenges.
It seems. for instance, that if the same person is born into poverty and hardship in one life stream, and into wealth and ease in another, they will behave according to the circumstances they find themselves in, the environmental conditions surrounding them, and the physical, intellectual, and emotional stimulations upon them.
So, from that premise, there really is a point to make that character is not embedded but lies in how and where you are brought up, and how and where you enact your life thereafter.
Sometimes character, or the way you interact with the world, has nothing to do with any of these, though. In my family tree, there are members who have the brain disease of bipolarism (which used to be called manic depression).
My mother had episodes of bipolarism when I was a girl (it is not always a life long condition) and tried to kill herself a couple of times. (Shock therapy did make life smoother for her but also blanked out large chunks of her memory. I suppose that might help for someone who is troubled by their memories but it also took away good memories. She then became distant from those she had once loved).
I also have an aunt with this condition, who has talked me through the problems that arose from other affected family members.
Her doctor treats it as a life long disease and told her to think of it as though she has diabetes. That helped her to realize that her medication was not something that she could stop taking just because she was feeling better.
When affected by her bipolar disease, she did not behave badly because of behavioral or character traits. It was because there was an inherent physical condition of chemical imbalance in her brain, that triggered errant words and actions.
Therapy does not help people with bipolar disease because the problem is physical not mental.
People with the disease can talk to a therapist and see the truth and validity of every therapeutic suggestion, and may try to enact this advice in their lives, but when the chemical imbalance trips off they can’t stop themselves behaving weirdly because they need medication to remedy that imbalance.
My aunt told me that she can remember every time she thought or said or did weird things quite clearly. During those phases, it was like her body and actions were driven by some outside force that she had no control over. She could see and hear what she was saying and doing. She just couldn’t stop herself.
Apparently, certain life phases trigger bipolarism in susceptible people. Those are usually puberty, or during other highly hormonal stages such as pregnancy and after childbirth, and also during highly stressful life conditions such as unemployment, fiscal destitution, or difficult and ongoing emotional wranglings.
My grandfather (my mother’s father) had his bipolar phases triggered during an era when ‘mad‘ people were sent to institutions, so when he had psychotic phases (which can be part of bipolar disease) and began hurting his wife and children after his long search for employment failed (it was a time when there were no social services or government handouts, and his farm had become non-profitable), he was put into an asylum.
(That’s when my Nanna moved on with her life and became a single mother. People didn’t know that much about ‘madness’ then and many thought it was for life).
I watched a documentary about the human brain and bipolar disease some time ago. There have been many famous people in history who had it, yet they also had highly productive or creative lives. You can live a fairly normal life either side of bipolar episodes, apparently.
What struck me, though, was that scientists believe that people with such conditions of ‘madness‘ also have the ‘genius‘ gene.
Most people with bipolar disease are extremely intelligent but also extremely sensitive in their perceptions, (which is what eventually brings them down).
Apparently, this all stems from a genetic condition, and the people who have it ‘sit on the fence‘ between ‘madness‘ and ‘genius‘ until something comes along to push them to one side or the other.
So I’m no longer investing in the idea of being a genius. With my family history, I’d rather be ordinary.
I also no longer fret so much about taking after my ‘starcrossed‘ relatives, since I realized that with all I have been through in my life, if I had the disease it would well and truly have triggered off by now… (So, those who still call me ‘bonkers’, take note).
My son got ‘acquired brain injury‘ (ABI) after his head bounced on the asphalt a few times after being hit by a van as he ran across a busy road at age 13. That was how I discovered that the human brain is a relatively unknown continent, even today.
They used to say that brain cells never regenerate, that when you lose them they are gone forever. That’s why conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are so frightening.
At least now science has begun to admit its lack of understanding of how the human brain works. I mean, there is much that is known, but also much, much more that remains unknown. That’s why coma patients who have been asleep for decades can sometimes wake up, long after the doctors gave up on them completely.
It’s just as well that we never gave up on our son, as a major neurologist did at the time. He told me that my son would most likely be a ‘vegetable‘ and remain in a coma for the rest of his life.
Admittedly, I enacted some powerful healing elements of my own, after that, including spiritual and metaphysical modes, and perhaps those actions got my son back on track… but, while the results were nothing short of miraculous, I still wonder why he wasn’t completely healed and hope that, deep inside his brain, slow healing work is still going on.
It’s been over 20 years since his accident and his condition is now stable in disability, so even the smallest change is something to be grateful for.
Today, he lives a fairly normal life and has children of his own, but needs constant supervision.
Having been his carer for so long, I’ve studied as much about the brain as I could to give me insight into what can be done. His brain is affected like that of an Alzheimer’s patient, in that cells have died and pathways have become dead ends. It’s like swiss cheese with holes in it – many thoughts get through perfectly okay, some fall into the holes and get totally lost.
In the end, there’s not much that a lay person like myself can do. I have to wait for scientists and medical researchers to come up with solutions, and time is against anything changing for my son.
I may get hopeful when I read of new results, like how they can now get rats with severed spinal cords to walk again, but these are not humans and they are not to do with brains. My son’s nerve endings work very well. They just lost their connections in the brain, so certain muscle systems no longer work well.
It is frustrating when some people think I don’t care any more because I’ve run out of energy to keep doing high doses of therapy with him every day.
They tell me that there are things that can be done, but they expect me to do them all. They tell me that I need to up the ante, but I am already dealing with a multitude of other tasks and I cannot focus solely on my son any more.
I still give him healing, sometimes, and it improves his moods and clears his thinking but there is little change in his physical paralysis, his inability to speak without blocking, or his short term memory problems.
What has helped him the most in life has been the lesson of spirituality.
When people pick on him or are too impatient to try to understand his condition, he has been able to shrug that off and forgive them.
When his marriage broke up and he no longer saw his daughters every day, he was able to put that into the perspective of his immortal spiritual self, with his physical life being just a phase in it’s eternal one.
When he got depressed about being lonely or missing his daughters, even though other family are still around him, he used the same references to touch his soul and rise up from the mire that would bog him down.
No matter the physical problems that assail him, he manages to smile and engage in life with the fullness of his being.
For me, that is truly living.
Spirit has always been the key for me, too, in overriding the ‘bog down’ elements of life. This mode is encapsulated in the metaphor of the lotus lily plant (we use a blue lotus lily flower in our business logo).
In vedic spirituality and buddhism, there is a great focus on the lotus as a flower embodying spirit and transcendence.
The lotus plant is embedded in the mud beneath the water, representing how our roots are embedded in physical life with all its problems. Its leaves float broadly on the surface of the water to soak in the sunlight, representing the energy we can achieve from accepting our emotional state as just being part of the human condition. Its flower buds rise up on long stalks above the mud, the water, and all else, to open their delicate beauty for divinity to rest upon.
(If you look at statues or pictures of buddhist and vedic gods and goddesses, they often sit on lotus lilies).
For in these spiritual streams, it is believed that by transcending the worldly ‘bogs‘, and our reactions to physical life, we become more than we are as just human beings, and reconnect with the divine.
While my first touch with spirit came through psychic feelings and manifestations as a child, I explored much further by dedicated choice and found many helpful modes to rise above the physical condition.
There are certain modes that can be instilled through spirit that seem to overcome the limitations of the brain. For instance, I can realign myself in spirit when I am tired and clear my thoughts to enable great focus.
This is not a choice or a mental viewpoint, it is a realignment of the spiritual self by realizing that spirit is actually unaffected by the physical condition, that spirit is the rider within the vehicle of my physical form, and that being tired is just a sensory condition affecting my body and its brain, not my true spirit self.
It’s easy to forget these modes in the course of daily human life. Even though I know these modes, I often forget them as I ply my life. That is just the physical realm asserting itself.
The physical world that forms our mortal destiny has many programmed laws that shape every sensation and reaction. So I am often assailed by one ailment or another, and so is my husband, as we grow older.
These are the modes of the physical realm, that has many challenges embedded into it as par for the course. Even buddha got old and ill and died at the end of his incarnation. Being spirit or spiritual does not bring full escape from the laws that come with life, nor should it.
(For me, there is a reason why I chose to incarnate in a physical body, and overcoming all the natural problems that are embedded with life by using such overrides may wreck my original intentions).
Even as I know these modes, though, the laws that shape my thoughts and body caused me to doubt when I was inspired to try something out, recently.
My arthritis was so bad that I was aching and hobbling around, just waiting for the phase to pass, which it wasn’t doing too quickly. My husband was in much the same shape, and his posture looked as if the world was sitting on his shoulders.
Such inspiration comes on me, occasionally, so I just stood in stillness for a moment and realigned my spirit. (This is something that many people do amid deep meditation but I find that it is possible to connect anywhere, at any time, so long as you know what you are doing).
So I stopped amid my hobbling pace, stood on my aching feet and ‘adjusted‘ myself. I found that quiet center of peace and energy, deep inside, and remembered ‘who I really was‘ and that my body was the vehicle I was driving, not vice versa… Then I stepped forward again. I felt graceful. I moved gently and without pain. It was as if my body had remembered how to move in a way to avoid pain, (or maybe it was me remembering that I was the driver). The pain was still there but just niggling, not inflamed.
I decided to try it on my husband, (who has carried with me through many years of spiritual education. So it didn’t take much for him to understand what I asked of him). He stood up, looking old and bowed, and as I watched I could see him find his center, remember who he, too, was, and realign. Or so I thought. It actually took a little longer for him than it did for me. The first time he tried to walk, his shoulders were thrown back and he forced a strut. I said, “No, that’s not it. You haven’t done it yet.”
(When you have it, it’s a visible serenity).
I left him to it, wondering if he was going to be able to do as I had done, but only moments later he entered the room I’d gone to, smoothly striding like a young man with a glow in his eyes. His ‘chooky‘ neck had disappeared, his stoop had gone and he walked straight and sure, with smooth relaxation. I said, “You did it!”
(He suddenly looked much younger).
Was this our brains, thinking ourselves into a new mode, or was this the spiritual alignment I believed it was? That’s the doubt I had, for a moment.
(Such doubts for me are always passing. I am always a believer).
To be honest, the realignment did not last all night and we had to keep reminding ourselves – (and our son is also still disabled) – but that’s what you get for being incarnate in a physical realm. It will keep reasserting itself!
So if life makes you feel so tired that your brain doesn’t seem to be working, try realigning your spirit. Even if, (like us), you have to keep making adjustments, it’s better than giving in to the physical world completely. (I’m not saying don’t be alive in the physical realm. I’m just saying you don’t have to let it get to you…)
I’ve often noticed something amazing about those who are aligned in spirit. Despite the fact that their physical bodies get old, they do not look so old. Despite the problems of life that naturally afflict them, too, they do not look afflicted. Instead, what is immediately noticeable is their ‘glow‘ – an emanation of their life force in the fullness of its being, that you cannot miss as being ‘truly alive‘.
When we allow the assaults that come from the high challenges of physical life to affect our spirit, we get lost in the physical condition. This causes us to look older than we are, to become frailer, and to be more affected by our bodily conditions. When that happens, our brains go into overload mode and we begin to forget things, too.
Despite the bombardment that may come from the challenges of life, we can choose to align ourselves differently. That is what having a brain does for us. Even as we can’t change some things that happen to our physical condition in the world, we can select what attitudes we take toward them.
I was born with what the doctor called ‘flat feet.’
What are ‘flat feet’ you might ask? Well, they are feet that never formed a support arch. The soles of flat feet do not show the characteristic indentation in footprints that most people have. All parts of the sole of the ‘flat’ foot touches the ground at the same time.
The doctor told my mother that I would get sore feet as I grew older and that I would not be able to run like other children.
There was no prescription for my ‘flat feet’. It was simply a genetic aberration. The only advice was to get strong and supportive shoes to wear to school, but to not wear shoes at all whenever that was possible, because apparently a bare foot works harder and can develop what is called a ‘false arch’ if the muscles are worked hard.
If you look at my feet today, I have an arch. I didn’t have one as a child. Instead, I spent most of my childhood barefoot when I wasn’t at school.
The bad thing about a ‘false arch’ is that it doesn’t do what an arch you are born with does for your foot. That is, it doesn’t support the foot properly. So people with ‘flat feet’ and ‘false arches’ get sore and tired feet as often as those with just ‘flat feet’.
The doctor was wrong about one thing, though. Having ‘flat feet’ never stopped me running. Hell, having ‘flat feet’ never stopped me walking extremely long distances, either. I loved doing both.
I had strong legs. They would drag my ‘flat feet’ along with them anywhere they wanted to go.
I became an athlete with my ‘flat feet.’ I ran and won races at school regularly. I joined an amateur athletics club in my pre-teens and was as good as some girls who were my peers in the same club, who actually went on to become Olympic athletes in later life. I won many races in inter-club sports events on weekends. I gathered lots of ribbons. When I left athletics behind in my teens, it wasn’t my ‘flat feet’ that stopped me. It was ineffectively diagnosed and untreated asthma. At the end of each race, I had no breath left. That frightened me, so I stopped going, and my mother just accepted that I stopped. No questions asked.
That was just the days I lived in, as a child. People were not as intense about things as they are today. So long as there was no obvious emergency, my mother didn’t bother too much.
She did have to bother when I adventured on demolition lots in my bare feet. I had a preference for balancing on planks of stacked wood, only the planks had rusty nails still in them and those rusty nails would end up in my feet almost every time… After that, the pain would get bad within hours, so she had to take notice and get me to the doctor.
I never really learned to stay away from planks with rusty nails, and tetanus shots were a feature of my childhood. You didn’t get tetanus shots automatically in those days – no preventative medicine like today. You got tetanus shots after you had already begun to feel the effects of infection.
My mother did warn me not to go back to the demolition lots once. So I started balancing myself on our neighbor’s low brick fence. I pretended it was a tight rope. I imagined I was sure-footed, like a mountain goat. I thought I could do anything with my body that I wanted to. I stopped balancing on our neighbor’s brick fence when I slipped and fell with one leg down either side of it. Bricks bashing the sensitive area between my legs were a very powerful teacher, much better than rusty nails…
I was always walking and running, jumping and climbing as a kid. Nothing kept me down. I was up at the crack of dawn, listening to the bird song, and couldn’t wait to go outside to see what the world was up to.
When we lived with my Nanna in my earlier years, I would take long walks with my sister and cousins through the suburban city streets on weekends and holidays. Sometimes, we would walk all the way from inner city Brunswick into the center of Melbourne – a long way for little legs and feet, (and just as long for adults), but this is what we did, then. There were trams we could have caught, but trams cost money and we didn’t have much of that, so we walked. (It was the days before I owned a bicycle).
Sometimes, we would walk all the way to the city zoo, (the entry fee was much cheaper back then), spend all day walking around looking at the interesting animals, and then walk back home. (The city zoo was near the center of Melbourne, too).
Sometimes, we would walk to Merri creek down near the brickworks with their smoking chimney stacks (stopping a while to talk to the brick-makers and watch them making bricks), and try to see where the water went to (we never found out where it went to because it went too far even for us,and muddy creek banks were much harder to traverse than city kerbs).
Sometimes, we walked to the formal park that was blocks away from my Nanna’s house and played ‘chasey’ and ‘hide and seek’ for hours behind the huge clipped hedges that bordered the dense green lawns. (We had to be quiet whenever we saw the gardener because he didn’t like us playing behind his hedges).
All these areas were a long way from my Nanna’s house. We had wonderful exploratory adventures, but mostly along roads full of traffic that had very few trees and lots of pavement.
Even when we explored just the streets local to the one in which my Nanna lived, there was lots to see. In an environment so devoid of other greenery, the front yards of people’s homes were fascinating. We sometimes picked the flowers hanging through the fences, to take home to our Nanna. A lady caught us doing that, once, and asked us why we wanted her flowers. When we told her they were for our Nanna, she got some secateurs and cut off some very beautiful roses for us to take home.
On hot days, then, we were not as organized as kids today may be on such outings. We did not take snacks or water bottles. If we got thirsty, we would knock on someone’s door and ask for a glass of water. If we were lucky, the house-holder would give us a biscuit or a sandwich, too.
We lived in an era of relative innocence, when even city people were friendlier and had more integrity. While I know today that kids sometimes went missing or had bad things happen to them, then, we didn’t know that at the time. Nor did our family. Going on these little adventures were just part of ‘growing up’.
At the end of the day, we would arrive back home in time for dinner, exhausted, but my ‘flat feet’ did not feel pain much then. My legs would ache, though. My mother said I was suffering from ‘growing pains.’
On Saturdays, my mother would slip us a half-penny and my sister and I would walk all the way up to Sydney road from Nanna’s house, to go see the matinee movies at the cinema. After dinner on many nights in summer, the whole family would go for the long walk to Sydney road, blocks away from Nanna’s house, to walk past the closed shop windows and nod and talk to the neighbors as they promenaded with their families on the same street.
Even after we no longer lived at Nanna’s house, whenever we returned to stay there during holidays, my cousins would join us for walks in the streets. Sometimes, we’d go into blocks of flats and knock on all the doors and run away. It was such fun to make people come to their doors, only to find no one there, or to hear people say, “It’s just those bloody kids!”
I never lost my love for walking. After I married, we, too, would often walk into the town center after dinner, taking along dogs and children.
Many of the holidays we went on after I had a family of my own involved hiking in the country, exploring whatever paths, trails, caves, hills and mountains there were to see. We climbed paths in the Grampian mountains with our young family, once, and reached an outlook over distant valleys at a point where a stony spire called ‘The Needle’ sat. I was standing with my children taking in the view, (and too scared to go too close to the edge), when my husband spontaneously decided it would be the perfect thrill to jump out onto ‘The Needle’.
This was a spire hundreds of feet in height. It barely had a flat area at its top of six feet. He jumped across the eight feet gap to that flat top before I knew what was happening. I’m sure I heard an audible gasp from all the other hikers taking in the scenery, there.
I watched him get up from the crouch of his landing. It was hard for him to even turn. The space surrounding the spire was breezy. All I could think of was am I going to become a widow? (Actually, I voiced that, since my children had seen him jump there, too). I joked, deadpan, “That’s right, make me a widow in front of my children…”
The kids thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. My husband knew it, too, once he was out there. While he’d landed well, when he was actually on that dizzy tip he realized that he did not have the room for a run up to jump back that he had on the jump out. Eight feet of air over a possible many hundred feet fall is not so exciting when you may actually miss a landing. (I wish he had thought about that on his way out).
Luckily, his feet did make it back to the safe side of the gap. We returned down the mountain but I was a bit moody by then, so I didn’t take it well when he continued playing around in front of the children, walking right at the edge of the narrow track where the hill rolled away in a severely steep drop. I did not think it was a very good example for a father to give, and that was reinforced when he balanced on a log embedded in the edge and the log slipped out and fell down the drop, nearly taking him with it. Once again, his feet found sure ground, just in time.
My ‘flat feet’ didn’t really become a problem until I was in my mid-twenties. Then, I had to get special insoles for my shoes because it felt like I was walking on the bones of my feet all the time. The inflammation and swelling in my feet was almost unbearable. I really developed a sympathy for the poor little mermaid I read about in stories as a child, who swapped her tail for legs and feet, only to be cursed with every step feeling like she was walking on knives. I knew what that was like.
I’m not a person who ever lets such things keep me down for long. I don’t believe in molly-coddling myself, (although I will take ‘time out’ and a rest when I need it). That possibly came from my Nanna, who also had many health problems to deal with throughout her life. Nothing ever stopped her for long, either. People were always telling her to slow down and take a rest. Her reply was, “I’ll get plenty of rest when I die.”
So I took up acting and dancing on stage. I was good at the acting, not so good at dancing on stage. Stages can be slippery, sometimes, especially when you’re in high heels and climbing up and down steps. I slipped badly on stage, once, and had my ankle bound for months. It took nearly a year to fully recover from that very bad sprain. I stopped doing musicals and concentrated on comedies and dramas after that. (Sometimes, when you refuse to recognize your limitations, life has a way of making you face them).
I also loved to dance at parties with my husband. I could dance for hours and hours without ever having one alcoholic drink to ‘warm me up,’ because I just loved to dance. At the end of these activities, though, my feet really felt it. By the end of a night of dancing, I was hobbling on my way to bed. I was lucky to have a husband who enjoyed giving me foot massages. By golly, he is the most superb foot massager I have ever known. He can keep on massaging my feet through hours of movies on television. He sometimes falls asleep while he his massaging, he just goes on so long, and the funny thing is that he wakes up and keeps on massaging as if he never stopped. I call him my maintenance man. I’m lucky to have him.
If I ever feel that my feet are getting really bad, though, I think about what my son has to put up with. He became disabled in a traffic accident when he was only thirteen. The outcome was that he still has partial paralysis in his body, today.
Have you ever had your foot ‘go to sleep’ on you? Have you ever tried to walk on a foot that has ‘gone to sleep?’ My son does that every day. One of his legs is in a constant state of partial paralysis. He can’t walk at all without that ‘sleeping’ foot hitting the ground with a heavy thud. Instead of walking, he hobbles, swinging his leg along because he can’t feel it properly. He does that all day long. (I don’t know how he does it!)
Yet he has inherited my love of walking. He takes his little dog for hours of walks each day. Sometimes, he does complain that he has pain in his feet and legs from walking (when he feels pain, you know it’s bad), but it doesn’t stop him going out again. He just enjoys the movement, and he enjoys being alive.
There are many different kinds of pain to deal with in life. We can either let them seize us up and make us afraid to do anything again for fear of that pain, or we can move through the pain, deal with it, accept it as par for the course, and never let it keep us down.
My son and I choose the latter. (Albeit, for me, with a little help from my hubby…)