By Karuna Beaver
“Shiva is having a good time being You, even when You are not having a good time.”
When I first heard Swami Nirmalananda state that, I thought, “Where’s the fun in that? Isn’t having a good time about having fun?” My idea of having a good time was anything that was pleasurable. It was definitely not about pain and suffering. If yoga and meditation gave me pleasure, great. If they pushed me into uncomfortable stuff, not so great!
Svaroopa® yoga and Svaroopa® Vidya meditation have given me so much pleasure and satisfaction. But they’ve also pushed me into all sorts of “stuff.” This has included physical, mental and emotional reactions and relapses. Yet a decade later, I’m still at it. Why?
These practices give me a deeper experience of my own essence, my own Self. When I feel reactive and relapsed, I am thinking too small. I’m not seeing the big picture. I am forgetting who I really am. The big picture is that I AM Shiva, Self. I am Consciousness Its-Self. I am Chiti, conscious energy, made of the same stuff as everyone and everything in the universe.
I just don’t always remember that. I forget who I am, again and again. It’s kind of like spiritual amnesia. When I forget, I think I’m “just” Carolyn, who lives in Boise, is married, has a daughter and teaches yoga. Based on these identities, I easily slip into reactive mode, causing myself (and often others) distress. In my “cautious driver” identity, I yip at my husband for driving too fast or too close to other cars. In my “protective mother” mode, I try to over-control my disabled daughter’s choices.
When I remember who I am under all these layers, I have a new perspective on my human experience. When I am not caught up in the malas, I feel more my Self. Swami Nirmalananda and Rukmini write about these layers of limitations in our August contemplation article, Nirmala: Without Malas.
Aanava mala is the layer of Self-forgetfulness. Who am I? It’s the existential question we were born to answer.
Unfortunately, we answer by constructing identities that create a smaller sense of self. This is maayiiya mala. It doesn’t really answer the larger question, so then we create activity to fully inhabit these constructed identities. This is called karma mala. Not all of these layers are negative. Some are enjoyable. But none of them scratch the surface of who I really am.
Chiti, Consciousness, made the choice to take on limitations, for the experience of being human. Chiti IS having a good time being you, when you’re not having a good time and when you are. This is a grand cosmic game of hide and seek. Chiti has set you up to uncover the layers and find Her. In doing so, you find your own Self.
The game is a quest. To uncover who you really are, you must have a game changer, a Shaktipat Guru. Swami Nirmalananda is empowered to give you the initiation that pierces the first mala, the not-knowing. While the piercing isn’t a complete dissolving, it’s enough for you to glimpse your greatness.
Once you’ve received Shaktipat, yoga keeps you in the game. The process of radical discovery continues the rest of your life. The more you seek, the more you find. It’s a quest worth embarking upon.