by Una Hubbard, Meditation and Yoga with Una
As I write this we’re over halfway into the “Year of the Pandemic”, or what boils down to the “Year of Great Upheaval and Uncertainty”. If you’ve been on Facebook you’ve no doubt seen the many memes declaring 2020 the year we all would just as soon forget.
It’s as though we’re all holding our breath until this Covid thing is over.
We’re biding our time, waiting it out. And at some point in the future, there will be a fix …. and then we’ll be able to get on with this business of living our lives. You can sniff it in the air: a tangible sense running in the background of all conversation, in your Zoom calls, social media portals, and even at the grocery store that screams “LIFE AS WE KNOW IT IS ON HOLD.”
There’s a sense that there’s only so much of this waiting it out peek-a-boo style we can play with the virus. And the longer this pandemic plays out, the more the niggles rise to the surface – there’s impatience, fear, an outburst here and there, or some sort of ill-at-ease-ness. It has many faces.
Underneath all this edginess is a yearning for something else – something deep that we can easily mistake as a wanting for things to go back to normal.
But maybe that something more is not simply the desire for life as we know it. Maybe there’s something even more fundamental that’s wanting to be seen here.
We can look to the Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism to shed light on this.
In the Tantric Yogic tradition is an understanding that there is both the Stillness/Awareness that is the essence of everything AND a creative impulse (Spanda) that manifests out of this Stillness. That these are actually two sides of the same coin – inseparable dance mates that we, through asmita (our fusion with I-ness), mistakenly believe are separate.
Many teachers over the years have suggested that true freedom requires an eradicatication of ego and its desires. Or that we should at least give it a good squishing. But nondualism shows us that ego is not something to rub out like that ‘damn spot’ in Macbeth. Instead, we can see through it and discover that, in our ‘I-ness’, there is an essential longing for wholeness that ultimately points the way Home.
In highlighting one face of the Mystery as Spanda, the Tantricas revealed this shimmering impulse toward movement as essential to all life. Desire is everywhere. Longing is fundamental to Stillness, just as Stillness is fundamental to longing. They are direct pointers to one another, and they both spill us into the Mystery that contains EVERYTHING.
The universe wants to experience itself through all things – including Covid – even though “I” might prefer another story to unfold.
As a student of Tantrism, I see this global pandemic as a point of tremendous ripeness. It’s bursting with the thirst of the whole of humanity for a true quenching – and that the wise move for us all is to follow this longing to its end point.
We have a choice to turn inward and lean into the longing: the yearning for something that gets to the lifeblood of our dissatisfaction and satisfies the deepest desire we all hold for ourselves, and that True Nature has for itself. The answer lies in listening to what is here as it is. We don’t have to make the unease go away. We don’t have to change it, fix it. Instead, how about diving into the beating heart of this feeling of ‘missing’ to discover, as Rumi says, how the sore point is exactly where the light gets in?
If you’re a baker (as I am) you’ve probably experienced making a berry reduction to accompany that sumptuous chocolate cake. It’s where all the flavour lives. Similarly, in iRest Yoga Nidra, we ask what the heart really wants for itself. We’re asking you to sit with longing long enough to discover what your heart’s desire boils down to in the final reduction.
Yes, it certainly flavours what you want to do in life. But you might say it’s how you want To Be in this world – no matter what – that truly approaches the core of purpose. It’s the unveiling of how the Mystery expresses itself through each of us in every single moment, even if that moment is being fully present with a cup of tea while in lockdown.
Toko-pa Turner sums it up incredibly beautifully in her book Belonging:
“Our longing lives in the unapproached regions of our lives. Because we are always trying to placate or outrun it, we rarely listen to what longing has to say. But if we can learn to treat that absence with reverence, as a place that is fully dilated, readying to receive the very things it is missing, longing then becomes a call to the edge of the question we have for our lives. Am I in alignment with the great nature of things? Am I in service to that which I love, and which loves me? In showing us what is missing, longing is a siren calling us towards our true home.”
Eventually we all have to delve into the purpose that sets our heart afire through Spanda – so that we might turn towards the Stillness that comes from its fulfillment too.
Following the true heart’s agenda reveals universal purpose in all things: how peace is manifested through that walk down to the dairy, how love is honored whilst you roast vegetables for the evening meal, how truth is underscored with every word you utter into the belly of your beloved furry family pet.
I spent much of my life fooled into believing that purpose had to be something grandiose. Now I see that satisfaction rests in remembering that there’s as much life being fulfilled by abiding in a moment of non-doing as there is in running a 5K.
Life is everywhere and at all times. It is never not living itself through all moments of our lives.
By fulfilling our individual purpose in a myriad of both small and magnificent ways, we manifest the peace, service, truth, and love that shine forth as facets of this Great Mystery.
Our task is simply this: to summon it to the surface and remember.
One way to meet your purpose is to ask yourself what you truly desire in the “Year of Great Upheaval”? Is it more of the same – life as normal – or something deeper still? If the pandemic were over and you could go back to what you knew, what need would be satisfied by that return to status quo? Reduce it to its baseline.
Una is a Certified iRest® Yoga Nidra Teacher based in Wellington, NZ. She’s been teaching hatha yoga for 13 years and offering iRest classes, workshops, and one-on-one client sessions since 2013. She has been a professional assistant at numerous iRest Teacher Trainings in Australia and NZ, co-host of the iRest trainings, retreats, and immersions in NZ, a volunteer on the iRest Australasia Management Team, and trained directly under iRest founder Dr. Richard Miller.