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Waiting for Shiva

Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling empty—without the energy to make decisions or carry out a plan you made last night?

This morning I slept late for no reason, couldn’t get myself going, not even to meditate or do qigong. It was only after I dragged myself through breakfast and set off to the market that I realized my problem wasn’t with the body. It was with the heart. I was empty of feeling, perhaps depressed. That’s a very serious situation, a life challenge like no other. Who can function without feeling?

Happily, my state of tension and fear was eased once I recognized what was wrong. I felt somewhat better, even as the sense of emptiness remained. What to do? I went about my morning duties in a listening mode, inquiring of my heart what the rest of me could do to help.

In such a situation, an analogy can be very helpful: From the Hindu point of view, I am Shakti here below, waiting for Shiva. When will he come to waken her, curled up asleep at the center of my Being? When will her heart be gladdened by a ray from his sun, just what is needed to illumine and warm my heart? No idea. But, for the moment I know my job—to wait like a hunter for the slightest indication of his appearance.

How do you wait like a hunter? Many years ago, I heard a distinguished Frenchman, Henri Tracol, explain it to an unhappy man who didn’t like waiting. Perhaps the man was empty or depressed like me today. Perhaps he simply longed to understand why, although he’d spent many years trying to make a new beginning, to get rid of the things in himself he didn’t like, the change he longed for just didn’t come about. M. Tracol sat looking at him thoughtfully for a few minutes. Then he said: “You must wait. But you can wait like a hunter. A hunter will stand behind a tree or sit behind a rock for many hours, as still as the landscape, waiting for his prey to appear.”

Not so easy! To wait like a hunter I must learn to sit very still, to take control of my squirming or lax body so it can be still and yet very alive, ready to act instantly when the time comes. Knowing myself as I do, it sounds like that could take a long time! But the time won’t be wasted if it’s in the name of my deepest wish: The wish to know myself and to grow into the person I was born to be.

How to wait in front of the Unknown? What can I do, face to face with illness or loss or the Next Big Step in my life. While such challenges can give me opportunity for musing, for thinking about stuff, thinking is not enough. Unless I’m alert, like the six wise virgins, I may miss the chance to connect with a new thread in the fabric of my life.

We do a lot of waiting. Life’s like that. I wait for the bus or train, for the boss to give me a raise, for my own true love to find me, for the end of something that may actually be a new beginning. Which job should I take, which road should I travel to get where I think I want to go? Where do I really want to go?

And we often wait in the darkness. For help. For light. There’s a deep need to understand what’s going on in the world and in myself. Why are things the way they are? Why do terrible things happen to those I love? Why do good people do bad things? What should I do next?

I have a choice. Waiting can be boring or fraught with possibilities, it’s up to me to wait like a hunter. Awakening to the presence of Shiva might bring me a new approach to an old task, a new response instead of my habitual reactions, or a tentative new openness to whatever may come.

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