REVERENCE [ rev-er-uhns, rev-ruhns ]
1. a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.
2. the outward manifestation of this feeling:
to pay reverence.
3. a gesture indicative of deep respect; an obeisance, bow, or curtsy.
Reverence. What a lofty word. The dictionary definition doesn’t quite do it justice. Reverence is something we feel more than something we think. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon which wells up inside us in rebellion against our ‘better judgement,’ which is more inclined toward skepticism and doubt. Reverence. Awe. Inexplicable love and devotion and a deep yearning to be with, around or about whatever you are feeling reverence for.
Perhaps it is a sunset over the Pacific, a newborn baby, a dog who trusts you so much he falls deeply asleep with his head on your lap. Perhaps it’s a rose in bloom, birdsong, or a display of ancient architecture in the midst of modern city life. Maybe it’s music, or poetry, or witnessing an act of quiet generosity. What is it which inspires reverence in you?
As small children we feel reverence for everything we encounter, because it’s all so new and exciting! Everything is a mystery waiting to be solved. Whether it’s ugly or beautiful, painful or pleasurable, we are awed by it all. Our eyes are open wide with wonder and we stare transfixed, or maybe reach our fingers out to delicately explore or grasp it firmly with two hands and pull it to us with all our might. We are overcome with curiosity.
Then something begins to change. A veil of the familiar is drawn over what was once so deliciously unknown. Either we’ve seen it so many times before that it’s lost its sparkle, or since we haven’t yet noticed it – it must be because it isn’t worth noticing at all. We become ‘knowers’ living in the realm of the ‘known,’ and that leaves very little room for wonder, exploration, curiosity or delight. Reverence is relinquished to an indifferent eyeroll. Where did the magic go?
We may still see glimmers of it, if we resolve to look – or if life startles us suddenly, snapping us out of our ‘knowingness’ with a gentle shake or a brutal jolt. Sometimes sharp pain is required to remind us that life is fleeting, and therefor beautiful. Sometimes we must have all that we believe we ‘know’ and build our certainty upon ripped out from under us to open our eyes to all that is, in fact, so awesomely ‘unknown’ and therefor ripe to be discovered. But the unknown terrifies us! Just when did that become the case?
The unknown is what reminds us we are alive. The unexpected adds zest and excitement to our life. Isn’t that why we love to travel? Try new restaurants? Watch action movies and que up for the scary rides? Isn’t that the fun in dating? It’s all a dance with the unknown. And this, I’d like to suggest, is the allure of the Divine, the most deliciously unknown. The allure, as well as the aversion. We are enticed by Her and simultaneously seized with terror. How deep, and dark, and expansive is She, after all? If I let myself fall in love with Her, just how far will I fall? These questions keep us hovering at the threshold of the Divine’s embrace, rather than running with childlike abandon, face first into Her arms.
How can we transition out of our terror and move into the unknown uncrippled by fear?
Slowly, I suggest. Slowly, and with a sense of reverence. Ahh, that word again. Reverence…and relationship. How can we be in relationship with the unknown? Two ways. First, by inviting Her into the world of the known and second, once we’ve gotten to know Her here a little better and developed a sense of trust, we slowly let go of our death grip on what we know and let ourselves float out into the deep dark unknown, trusting that we will be supported along the way.
But how do we invite Her into the world of the known? Let’s back up a little…and pan out…and consider what civilizations the world over have been doing for time immemorial. How do we bring the unknown into the known? How do we develop relationship with the Divine? Well, most people assign Her attributes that they consider divine. We see it all the time, all around. In Hindu and Tantric Traditions we see it perhaps more than others because there are so very many forms of the Divine. There is a pantheon of deities, a vast array of Gods and Goddesses which embody various aspects of the Divine and help us, in our limited humanity, endeavor to ‘know’ what is otherwise seemingly unknowable.
These various forms are given human traits, characteristics, even rich, vibrant and dramatic backstories – which sometimes feel like the stuff of soap operas more than spirituality. This, I think, is all in an effort to make the Divine more tangible, more relatable. The forms give us an access point through which we can begin to develop relationship and engage in that daring dance with the unknown. So, how can this serve us, spiritually, by bringing us closer to the Divine while avoiding pulling Her too far into the muck of the earthly realm?
That’s kind of a loaded question, so I’ll try to answer it delicately, and one bit at a time. First, that mucky earthly realm part: let’s pause here to make a fairly drastic claim that ALL of reality, including the muckiest, yuckiest bits, are expressions of the Divine. ALL of it. War, sickness, violence, greed, pollutants, ignorance, hatred…all of this is part of the cosmic play of the Divine, an expression of Her desire to experience Herself in ALL of her vast and varied forms. She is the tornado. She is the volcano. She is the hurricane. She is the gentlest breeze. She is the dragonfly wing. She is a kitten’s sneeze. She is EVERYthing. So…whether we try to pull Her close to us or not, She’s already here. And clearly, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Second, personifying the Divine can, at least initially, draw us closer to Her because it gives us a chance to see in Her all that is beautiful in ourselves. We can more easily project onto an external form all that we love and admire and seek to be like. We can see Her as an unparalleled beauty, unmatched in power and might. We can see Her as the source of all creative inspiration and the as abundant as an infinite wellspring of golden light. We can also see Her as fierce and ruthless and fearless, lashing out against the evils of the world in the name of what is ‘right.’ We can see Her as wise and all-knowing in Her withered, crone-like form. She can personify all that we hold dear, all that we aspire to be, all that is both celebrated and shunned by society. She is the very best of us and by adoring Her, we can – if we approach Her just right – begin to recognize, in her reflection, the essence of our highest Self.
This is a good time to bring reverence back in. In yoga the spiritual quest is one of Self-realization. A realization, or remembrance, of our truest, our most sacred Self. This Self is the spark of the Divine experiencing Herself through us. I’ll write that for you again. Our most sacred Self, the Self that we are seeking to remember and reunite with is the Divine experiencing Herself through us. So…all of this external worship and internal excavation can, if coordinated skillfully, land us in the very same place: Home. Reunited with our Self. Reunited with Her. Resting in the realization that we were never, ever, actually apart.
So…reverence. What is it that you want to unite with? What is it that compels you to move every day closer to the highest, most elevated, free and fulfilled expression of yourself? What, at the end of the day, do you desire to merge with, dissolve into, and become completely absorbed? What do you long to surrender to?
THIS is the source of reverence. This is worth stepping onto our yoga mat for. This is the inspiration for assuming our meditation seat. This is worth hours of mantra repetition, or hiking to the top of the highest hill just to glimpse the ocean so very far beneath. This is worth bringing the best, and worst, of yourself in humble offering.
Sakti Rising exists as an expression of our reverence for THIS. For Her. For the loving arms which open so wide that they embrace all and exclude none. Sakti Rising is an expression of our devotion to what we feel She is calling us to be: champions for the oppressed, warriors for the planet, inspiration for the numb of heart, and a sparkling jewel in the crown of those who have already recognized that it is their birthright to be glorious, to be beautiful, to prosper, to flourish, and to thrive.
When you begin to sense, in your heart, what it is that you’re actually doing when you show up for your practice – who it is that you’re spending that time with – the way you show up begins to change. You begin to take notice of the cleanliness and the beauty of your space. Perhaps you begin to surround yourself with fresh flowers, light incense or candles, open a window so a fresh breeze can float in. And perhaps you become more mindful of how you dress. If you have a date with your beloved, with your heart’s desire, with the purest essence of your most sacred Self, perhaps you’d like to dress the part.
That is what we’re here for. The days of dressing down for yoga may be behind you. And the days of dressing in reverence for the Divinity in us all might lie ahead. If this rings true, if this idea lights you up inside, we are here for you. We see you, we honor where you are on your path, and we commit ourselves to creating apparel fit for the journey ahead – the journey within. Slip into our organic fabrics, dab on your essential oil, gather your flowers, light a candle, and step onto your mat or take your seat. You have a date with the Divine. You wouldn’t want to be late.