At the still point of the turning world, Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
~ T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
The holidays in America are a time of celebration rarely seen at any other period, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s unfolding in rapid succession. These days outweigh all others in importance. They serve as a pressure valve to keep one of the world’s most dynamic, high-pressured and relentless societies sane.
When we think of celebration, we think of movement and dance as we shed our usual inhibitions and make sport. Dance is not about getting anywhere in a hurry. To the contrary, dance is self-expression. It is ornamental. You do it for the sake of doing it. It can be tap dance, tango or break dance.
You might think of dance as conscious movement pulsing to the rhythm of the music. It can be primal drums, a rock band or an orchestra, as in the ballet and opera.
When we think of the best metaphors for life, we immediately think of a story and a play, narrated or re-enacted. It always has a beginning, middle and end. If it is any good, it sucks you so totally in that the only action for you lies between the pages of your favorite novel, or spotlighted right on the stage in front of you.
Yet a deeper metaphor is the dance itself, conscious movement. All human culture emerged from the song and dance around the fire. All of our religious traditions and early entertainment entailed movement of some kind. People not only want to hear; they want to see with their own eyes. They want to feel with their own bodies.
Everything is in motion. The earth rotates. The seasons transition. We travel 24,000 miles in a day, while the earth plunges toward the sun traveling thousands of miles an hour. The sun, in turn, plunges towards the center of the galaxy. All of the stationary objects we behold, including the mountains behind us, are actually moving at breakneck speed.
Of all the Hindu pantheon, no god is quite some mysteriously compelling as Lord Shiva. Shiva is in third place in the Vedic trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Traditionally, Brahma stands for the creator, Vishnu for the preserver and Shiva for the Destroyer. A deeper understanding reveals the destroyer is actually a transformer, bringing everything back to the beginning.
Shiva destroys the illusion of separation by revealing that we are all ONE behind the curtain. In his sacred dance, he is Shiva Nataraja, encircled by a ring of fire. With every beat of the drum, he goes in and out of time. Shiva’s concentration is total, and everyone he encounters is thrown into a trance, much like a celestial rave.
Shiva can be incredibly still, meditating in full lotus posture millions of years. Yet when he awakens, his third eye is powerful enough to incinerate anything in sight. Despite all this, Hindus see him as “the auspicious one,” the remover of obstacles and the bringer of good fortune.
Shiva without Shakti is unthinkable. He is intense, introverted and passionate. Shiva is a total nonconformist, living in nature and cherishing his time alone. He requires a free-spirited lover, one totally devoted to the spiritual. Shakti is his perfect match. She embodies the sacred energy that fills the Universe.
Shakti is Shiva’s hidden source of power. Often she is envisioned dancing on top of Shiva’s body, who has gone down into ecstasy. If Shiva is pure consciousness, Shakti is pure energy. Shakti brings Shiva to life, and Shiva informs Shakti’s every move.
In Hindu mythology, Shiva and Shakti enjoy many lives together, each one more satisfying. No other woman will satisfy him. No other man will satisfy her. They are hopeless romantics who couldn’t care less what other people think. Not only do they want to change the world, they want to move the stars.
The more intensely Shiva and Shakti dance together, the more they merge into a single being. You can behold in ancient Indian caves a Shiva who is himself on one side, and Shakti on the other. Both are perennial archetypes in the South Asian psyche.
Contemporary physicists have gone way beyond Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein into quantum, and then string theory. What we call the universe is an interplay of consciousness and energy. You can’t have one without the other. There is no observation without an observer. You can’t have stillness without motion, and motion without stillness.
Shiva is the divine masculine, the Supreme Being underlying the manifest universe. Shakti is the eternal feminine, the Divine Mother. Shakti personifies form, Shiva the formless. As the Buddhists put it around the time of Christ, “Form is Emptiness.” In Indian cosmology, there is only nama and rupa, concept and form. No matter, only spirit.
If you would like to make your holiday more conscious, try movement, try dance. If you are into yoga, you can try Vinyassa, which is a hypnotic flow from asana to asana done so smoothly that it appears to be a dance, just like Tai Chi Chuan or the Sufi’s whirling dervishes. Motion adds a whole new dimension to Hatha Yoga. After trying it, you may never want to go back to the old static form.
Shiva Rhea is a pioneer and master of Vinyassa with an exquisite intensity that does justice to her name. She studied world cultures and came up with her own interpretation of yoga. However, Shiva had a unique affinity to South Asian civilization such that you might see her as a blonde Hindu. She intuitively grasps Hindu dharma from within.
Shiva is committed to opening up people like us to the beauty of movement, dance and yoga. The more we learn to experience our own bodies, the more we can celebrate embodiment and realize what she calls “embodied love.” Imagine intermingling the sensual, the romantic and the sacred in a single sequence.
You might visualize a winterscape in Iceland with fire and smoke seeping out of a volcano surrounded by a field of ice. Hot and cold intermingle. Paradoxically, the fire doesn’t melt the ice, nor the ice smother the fire. If you go further north towards the Arctic circle, you will encounter white nights of sunlight, as well as sunless days.
In the Winter Solstice, just before the birthday of Christ, we go from the shortest day of the year on December 21st to the longest day on June 21st. In snow country, the days are brightest in December, because the sun is reflected in the snow and ice with an incomparable winter glare. I remember actually seeing snow near the Grand Canyon for the very first time. Nothing seemed so white!
This holiday season, you might choose to focus on celebration as the end all and be all of creation. Celebration is not something we tack onto the end of our days when we have nothing else to do. Celebration is the very heart of life. When you realize that it’s all about awakening, creation, play and celebration, you will be ever more eager to push the body, go with the flow and dance, dance both day and night. Dance the unending dance of Conscious Energy!