Forgetting and RememberingApr 05, 2023
I read an article in The Atlantic magazine a few days ago called Sick all the Time. This pretty much captures what our household has felt like over the past 6 months, with someone battling one bug or another nearly constantly. And while, thankfully, all our illnesses have turned out to be mild and transient, it’s still no fun.
I recently wrote about the cycle of creation according to Nondual Tantric philosophy, which includes the acts of creation, maintenance, and dissolution.
These are considered to be three of the five functions of consciousness, known as Shiva in this tradition. Just as Shiva is said to perform these functions on the universal level, they are also recognized as intrinsic to us and constantly at play in our individual lives as well.
This week, given the state of our family (and my sinuses), it seems fitting to delve into Shiva’s other two powers: concealment and revelation.
Concealment is understood as the power of consciousness to forget it’s true nature. It’s what causes us to feel small, separate, and disempowered. For me, it can manifest as feeling stuck, sad, disheartened, and creatively blocked.
In the iconography of the dancing Shiva, or Shiva Nataraj, concealment is represented by Shiva’s near-left arm that crosses over his body. This represents how concealment symbolically covers our hearts and in doing so, veils the truth of our innate fullness and wholeness.
When I’m feeling this way, it’s helpful simply to understand that my experience is one of the functions of consciousness, it’s part of who we are and how we’re made. It’s tricky, though, because by virtue of its very nature, when we’re experiencing concealment, we can’t necessarily see it for what it is - a temporary state of forgetting.
Revelation is the fifth function of Shiva and the solution to concealment in this framework. It’s expansive force that parts the veil of concealment and opens us to rediscover a sense of inner fullness, empowerment, and connection. This is the province of grace, the loving, freeing power that lightens our load, clears the inner sky, and restores a feeling of possibility.
In the dance of Shiva, revelation is represented by Shiva’s upturned left toes. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the hand of concealment points downward toward it. I’ve always understood this to be significant. It tells me that in some way concealment might point us toward revelation, and that it’s by forgetting that we’re able to remember even more fully. It’s like feeling the warmth of the sun on your face after a string of grey days. Or, waking up feeling better after being sick, and just being so grateful to feel “normal” again.
In the same way, when we come to the mat or cushion feeling stuck in some way, we can remember that just as concealment is part of who we are, so is revelation. We can look for moments in practice where there is a clearing or an opening, however small, subtle, or temporary. And, importantly, we can recognize that both the concealment and the revelation, the forgetting and the remembering, are included in the grand dance of our lives.