The sages always remind us that everyone we meet is a teacher. As you can imagine, someone like me might take great issue with this sort of sentiment. However, as with so many of these (not so) petty annoyances in my life, it is of course, totally spot on. Sometimes though, it bothers me less. Like, when I am dealing with someone who is actually supposed to be my teacher.
In March I brought my, then very new, boyfriend to yoga class to meet one of my favorite yoga teachers. The class was nice and afterwards the three of us headed across the street to have a meal. It was one of those moments where I could tell that everyone was settling into observer roles more than facilitator/participator roles. It still worked, but I would describe the pace as more delicate than normal. When The Cowboy got up The Teacher leaned towards me and said, “That is exactly the type of man I would have imagined for you.” Then he raised his eyebrows and said, “Shiva.”
We all said goodbye and headed off to our various afternoons.
The Destroyer and Transformer.
For those who have studied some of the basics of Hinduism, you probably have the general understanding that, like language in India, you can almost always find a story to suit your purposes in Indian spirituality. Still, Shiva has some consistencies that are hard to ignore. The most notable of these characteristics is the aforementioned notion of paradox that Shiva embodies: “Shiva is a god of ambiguity and paradox.” (Flood, G., 1996). In modern language we might just call that hypocrisy and pain-in-the-ass. But with the other attributes Shiva possesses I would be reluctant to actually say that.
One of the (five of the?) key attributes of Shiva are the five mantras, called the pañcabrahmans, pañca meaning five – a significant number to all things Shiva: five faces of Shiva are associated in various texts with the five elements, the five senses, the five organs of perception, and the five organs of action. In considering the five actions performed by Shiva [creation (Sadyojāta), preservation (Vāmadeva), dissolution – rejuvenation (Aghora), concealing grace (Tatpuruṣa), and revealing grace (Īśāna)] one might rightly shudder. His most important mantras has five syllables, he is often depicted adorned with five snakes.
Ambiguity and paradox. Destroyer and transformer. Hm. Also, he rides a bull. [Here I am reminded immediately of #2 telling me, years after our own dissolution, that I “was no easy rodeo.” The lessons of karma do not go unnoticed. ] In moments someone I consider quite astute picked out so many characteristics of the Cowboy, I felt compelled to look a little deeper. What would dating a Shiva-type be like?
No easy rodeo, I am guessing.
The esteemed and powerful Shiva is generally accompanied by Kālī, pictured in a well-known image above. Yes, that is Shiva upon whom she is dancing. Kālī is a Hindu goddess associated with shakti –> empowerment. She is considered the goddess of time and change… sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation still has some influence.
Huh. Sounds like a match made in Hell, or perhaps, the perfect storm (… no easy rodeo…)
It would be completely inappropriate to suggest in any way that The Cowboy – or myself – are somehow divine, this is not my claim. But in terms of archetype, I see a few, erm… commonalities. And there is something to be said for archetypical attributes, after all.
In some other ways a different perspective on attitudes or characteristics or behavior that one experiences in their daily life can actually be quite a relief. Nothing is so dangerous as becoming so myopic as to forget that the actions and reactions in our day-to-day are so infinitesimally small on the universal scale. In consideration of the perfect storm that I have chosen, this insight is incredibly calming.
Months later, I found myself in another class, with a different teacher who was talking about love and relationships and said something that I have often wondered: “Why do people date anyhow? I mean, what is the point of dating? Trust your gut. If you know, you know. Dating is pretending.” Hell, if Shiva and Kālī can give it a go, or Zeus and Hera, or any of those other nutty pairs (Dr. I & A?) maybe this is not so crazy after all.