The nautilus shell is a symbol of proportional perfection. It is a logarithmic spiral, a pattern found throughout nature in the form of spiral galaxies, plants and flowers, animal horns, and even the flight patterns of some birds. There is a sense of perfection, symmetry and order to spirals in nature like the nautilus shell. They remind us of a mysterious yet somehow very real harmony underlying the outer, sometimes chaotic dance of our lives. The beauty and perfection we observe in nature helps us remember the subtle, mystical world that lies just beneath the surface of our ordinary, usual awareness.
Yoga echoes this idea that there is a transcendent, unchanging reality that is full, perfect and whole. It’s overlaid in everyday life with the ups and downs of material existence, which at times can seem and feel so completely imperfect. The image of the nautilus reminds us of a larger perspective, what Ram Dass calls “The God’s eye view of life.” It helps us remember that the experience of everyday life isn’t a mistake but part of a larger, perfect, whole.
This is absolutely not to deny the fact that the struggles and tragedies of life are very real, but yoga suggests that they are part of something much larger than the situation at hand. We can hold onto this to hopeful vision to persevere and gain courage. This notion that each of us, each of our lives, are fully perfect in their imperfection has given me much-needed perspective in dark hours. Indeed, the imperfection can be a gift, because it often leads us to question and to begin the path of self-inquiry that leads to deep and positive transformation.
At it’s best, yoga practice makes us better equipped to show up fully for life as it is in all its messiness, while remembering that there is something more sublime, something extraordinary and perfect holding us in its embrace. And this something is not an external reality, it is nothing other than our very own essence. Yoga gives us ways to connect to this source place of harmony right within ourselves.