Shiva's Dance of Destruction & Renewal - Springtime Insights for the Artist/Writer/Creator via Hindu Mythology
Myths have a way of working on us--far from being "lies," they reveal eternal truths. When introduced to the world's great mythic stories (whether through books, film, performance or music) one may begin to sense that mythology is more than just a collection of curious stories--there's something more going on beneath the fantastical imagery and dream-like plots. Contemporary scholar-sages such as C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, Marie-Louise von Franz and James Hillman (among so many others) have credited psyche/soul/the unconscious as the ultimate myth-maker. Hillman goes so far to say that "we humans don't make up myths, instead the myths make us." On this Spring Equinox, the Hindu god Shiva (Siva) provides a wonderful example of the metaphoric power of myth. His complex character shares much in common with the artist/writer and creator.
Like most gods and goddesses, Shiva is multi-dimensional and known by many names. Shiva Nataraja/The Lord of the Dance is one of his most compelling personas. In this guise, he is the eternal dancer cycling through never-ending phases of destruction and creation. The artist and creator will recognize these phases in himself/herself as well--there is always a dying-off, an ending, a period of disappointment, or an agonizing fallow time that both proceeds and precedes more generative, fulfilling periods. We may actually find ourselves dismantling, abandoning or even destroying our work in order to better receive new inspiration. Courage, patience and pain can accompany this phase much like excitement, euphoria, and "flow" can be present when the "making" phase is going well.
On any spot along the continuum, Shiva Nataraja reminds us of the importance of "playfulness" in the creative process--even on our dreariest days when inspiration seems to have forgotten us. Hindu mythology features a wonderful term called "lila," meaning the "play of the gods," "cosmic playfulness," and "aimless display." East Indian scholar Heinrich Zimmer expresses the concept of lila as it appears in the figure of Shiva Nataraja:
I'm Mary Antonia Wood, Ph,D. I share both contemporary & ancient insights on the origins & realities of artistic expression. Creators of all types will discover enriching & practical wisdom about their vocation as expressed through the lenses of philosophy, mythology, archetypal & depth psychologies, neuroscience and more. Take a look.