“At the time of pralaya, dissolution, Shakti withdraws herself from creation, thus causing everything to disintegrate, decay and die. Shakti in the form of prana creates and preserves the manifest beings and objects… (but) Shakti in the form of Kali cuts the noose of time, space and object, initiating the end or destruction of matter. Although Shiva is known as the destroyer, in actual fact he is the savior. When this physical body becomes old and infirm and further progress is denied, then Shiva exchanges it for a new and beautiful form so that we may evolve further. Thus, hidden in destruction is the secret of transformation.” –Shri Saundarya Lahari: The Descent translation by Swami Satyasangananda Sarasvati p. 105-106
Dissolution, change, & transformation thrust us into the unknown, or śūnyam, the void. This space is dark & endless, empty of the false securities we cling to as a buffer against the reality of such a presence. But as we enter the void, we enter both realization of our humanity, & communion with divinity, the energy of Shakti as a destructive force that prepares the ground for new life.
The arrival of a new year sparkles with possibility. As we fix our attention to what could be, make space to honor what was. Pay attention to what ground has crumbled, what ideals have turned nil, what relationships & projects have stagnated.
The Saundarya Lahari reminds us that all processes of life are sacred: birth, death, sustenance, transformation. There is a time for building & a time for undoing. Negative space is not just a lesson in suffering, or a holding-tank for the inevitable process of rebirth. Negative space, what mythologist Joseph Campbell referred to as the “belly of the whale” in his work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, exists to annihilate our attachments and expose us to deeper dimensions of our humanity. We emerge from these dimensions not to cling to the next stage of transformation, but to accept it without clinging so that we can “pass back and forth across the horizons of the world” with grace, ease, and strength.
To fluidly experience the stages of transformation, taking each lesson as it comes, accepting our limitations & discovering the magnanimity co-existing with these limits, is to live the human experience.
We are both impermanent & eternal. We walk the edge between birth & death simultaneously.
Honor the blank space. Sink into the ground that crumbles. Embrace all stages of the process. We are merely human – – and so much more.