Tag Archives: shiva

Devotional Mindfulness

I’m mulling over this post from over at Gangleri’s Grove. I didn’t directly reblog the piece because this is only tangentially related, but it’s excellent food for thought and i do recommend you go read it.

When i was practicing something-like-Hinduism, a mantra was a major part of my practice. I used to mentally repeat my mantra when i woke up in the morning and went to bathe, during the beginning of meditation (sometimes throughout my entire meditation; it depended on what i was doing), while i cooked or cleaned or folded clothes or brushed my teeth or dried my hair, while i exercised, while i did archery… I also made an effort to mentally repeat my mantra as i went to sleep at night. In short, i structured my day around my mantra. Any moment i could, i brought my attention back to those words.

The only time i specifically didn’t use my mantra was when i was supposed to be giving something my full attention—in a conversation with another person, for example. Part of honouring the Divine is honouring the Divine in other living beings, so that seemed like an appropriate circumstance to set down the mantra.

After doing this for several years, that mantra—that short series of words—became deeply embedded in my brain. It became the background music of my mind, running in a constant loop. Every moment my mind-chatter went quiet, i heard that. It was my go-to internal monologue whenever i felt angry or sad or frightened (or peaceful or joyful, for that matter). I centred myself on those words.

But then i stopped being something-like-Hindu. I stopped devoting myself to one Power to the exclusion of all others. And more than that, i’d completely changed pantheons: A mantra dedicated to a Hindu deva no longer seemed to fit, now that i found myself predominantly devoted to Powers in the Norse pantheon. The mantra—my mantra—no longer fit my practice. After dithering for a while, i decided it was best that i set the mantra aside.

It’s left a hole in my practice, though. It hasn’t entirely gone away, for starters: In moments of intense emotion, my old mantra still sometimes drifts to the forefront of my mind, ill-fitting though it now is. And it’s become something like a drug that’s lost its potency, no longer offering the comfort and anchoring feeling it once did. It’s just…words, words connected to memories that, while the pain of them is softening, they feel ever more distant.

Some Pagans i know like to recite the various bynames of their Beloveds as a kind of mantra; there’s also the possibility of something like lectio divina, or Eknath Easwaran’s method of passage meditation. I do make a habit every day of reciting my own adaptation of Sigdrifa’s prayer, and i’ve dabbled a little bit in writing short prayers of my own that could be suited to mantra practice and/or repetitive prayer. But so far nothing has felt quite “right” in the same way.


Surrendering

I had my Holy Shit The Gods Are Real moment just over two years ago. One day i was a monist who believed all deities were man-made archetypes representing facets of a singular Divinity, worshipping Shiva as my “chosen deity” and pursuing life as a Weird White HinduTM. The next, i was getting every last inch of my worldview rocked by a certain Silvertongue.

I can’t say that i was happy about this turn of events. I liked being the Weird White Hindu, having Shiva as my one and only ishta-devata. Loki’s sudden presence messed up everything, and i let Him know it. I told Him he had the wrong address, that i was perfectly fine with things just the way they were, and didn’t have room in my life or my brain for more than one Power. I told Him i didn’t like Paganism (i’d dabbled as a teenager and decided it wasn’t for me), and i wasn’t really the “Trickster” type.

When that failed to convince, i comforted myself by insisting that obviously He and i had crossed paths for only a short while, and that soon whatever shiny-object-ness about me had momentarily attracted His attention would wear off. He’d lose interest; He’d leave. And then i could get back to my life. My “normal” life, the life i liked.

As you can probably guess, that’s not how this worked out.

We found a way to make it work—the Weird White Hindu who also, occasionally, honored Loki. Sometimes it was funny, sometimes awkward, sometimes infuriating. But through it all there was a growing thread of sweetness to it.

When He first made Himself known, i didn’t trust Him as far as i could throw the Snaptun stone. I resented the way He’d crept into my life and added all these complications i hadn’t wanted. While i was grateful that His arrival had triggered my The Gods Are Real epiphany, enabling me to recognize the relationship i had with Actually-Shiva, at the same time i deeply disliked that Loki was inserting Himself in the middle of that. I was trying to be a good Shiva-bhakta, pursuing an ever more single-pointed focus on my connection to my ishta-devata. Loki was an unwelcome interloper in that arrangement, and i resented that. I continued to hope He would tire of His new plaything, and move on to other, more interesting pursuits.

I never wanted to love Him. It felt like a betrayal of Shiva, of my chosen path, of everything i considered important to my spiritual identity. I felt like confessing to Loki that i loved Him was crossing a point of no return—that my life now could never go back to what it had been before. And oh, i hated Him for it.

And then Shiva’s presence grew fainter, until it was made clear that He didn’t want to be my ishta-devata, didn’t want me to be Hindu. There were tears, and there were goodbyes.

“You did this,” i said to Loki, and not kindly. “You ruined everything. I was happy before You showed up. Why couldn’t You go screw up someone else’s life?”

The truth, of course, was that i felt terribly guilty—like an inconstant woman who’d strayed from her husband to pursue some short-lived infatuation with an interesting newcomer. I’d been proven fickle, unfaithful, undevoted. I decided that must have been Loki’s game from the start: to waltz His way into the middle of my lukewarm devotional relationship and reveal that the emperor had no clothes. And now that He’d proven His point, i expected Him to crow about it for a little while, and then leave me with the remaining pieces of my thoroughly broken spiritual life.

When i had encountered Loki in meditation for the first time, my immediate thought had been that i was playing with fire. Now Loki had gone and burned my house down, and i felt i had no one to blame but myself (because you can’t blame the fire; fire just is). I thought He’d done it to amuse Himself, just because He could.

When i confessed that i had grown to love Loki, there wasn’t even a passing thought in my mind that maybe He would ever love me. As i told Him recently, “I’d known You would be clever; i’d never imagined You would be kind.”

But kind He was. When Shiva left (not entirely left, mind you; i still feel His presence occasionally, at the edges of my mind), He was calm and comforting while i slowly sorted through my grief. Even as i ranted and raged at Him, He bore it with quiet patience.

But then He reminded me of a dream from a few weeks before i’d met Him—a beautiful and meaningful dream that i’d come to associate with Shiva, a memory that i treasured—and basically said, “That dream was real, but it wasn’t Him. It was Me.”

I raged again, with renewed vigor. How dare He come in the midst of my grief, dig His claws into the most vivid and precious memory i had of Shiva, and claim it for Himself? I raged and cried, called Him a liar and a thief and a thousand other angry things. He bore that quietly too, even as i felt a twinge of anger growing in Him.

I can’t really say what changed; i’m not sure exactly when i started to believe Him. But together we’ve sifted through my memories, and i see now what i had refused to see before: that He’s there. He’s in my dreams, in fever-visions, in half-written stories and childhood daydreams; he’s been hiding behind favorite characters and overly insistent plot-bunnies for as long as i’ve been drawn to stories. Everywhere i look in my past, i find Him.

Loki didn’t push Shiva aside, usurping His place in my heart (and anyway, as Loki told me two years ago, “the Heart isn’t a finite quantity”). He was there first. I have memories going back two decades that i’d simply assumed must have been of Shiva because He was the first of the Powers i’d recognized in my life.

There are still questions i don’t have answered, pieces to the puzzle that don’t yet fit. I don’t fully understand why Loki couldn’t just “show Himself” from the beginning, or why i got nudged in the direction of Hinduism for years before i found my way to where i am now. I don’t understand why Shiva (and a few other members of the Hindu pantheon) took an interest in me, if They knew (?) Loki was already around—and if They did know, why didn’t Anybody tell me?

I still have a lot of questions, some of which might never get answered. But this morning, Loki just gave me one:

“Do you trust Me?”

The answer is yes. For better or for worse, yes Beloved. I do.


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