Om Namah Shivaya: Creation Through Destruction

This afternoon, Bill at The Bookcast was asking me about All That Is Necessary, and I had to point out that I’d written the first draft of the book set entirely in 1991. It didn’t work like that. (Kyrie had to force her way through it.) So I ended up scrapping large portions of the draft to create an entirely new story, one set mostly present-day, with less than a dozen 1991 interludes.

The story is stronger and more compelling for it.

Often, that’s what we need to do with our writing and our life. We have to tear down what exists, even if it’s perfectly serviceable, to make room for something new to blossom. Kyrie and I were talking about that some over the weekend, as she prepares to go back to school more than 20 years after graduating from college. Beyond that, she could be relocating just a couple of years after she finally moved “home.” It’s scary, but the degree will open doors for her dream that she can’t attain any other way. She just has to tear down a lot of her existing life to do it.

Sometimes, these changes are our choice. We consciously decide to make a change, to take that leap of faith. Other times, circumstances decide for us. I did my yoga teacher training at a time when I wasn’t sure newspapers and journalism jobs would be around in a year or two. I needed a Plan B. That process opened my heart and mind. It’s where I first encountered the Om Namah Shivaya mantra.

Shiva is the Destroyer in Indian mythology. I was fortunate enough to see a number of historical depictions of Shiva on Saturday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a small special exhibit. Shiva is always depicted covered in ash, a metaphor, I suppose, for the destruction that accompanies his role in our lives. And yet, the translation of Om Namah Shivaya is quite different. This call to Shiva translates many ways, but my favorite is “We celebrate the dance of energy that is creation.”

We call to the Destroyer to celebrate creation. We do so because often the only way we can make space to create something new is to destroy what’s there. In 2009, that philosophy helped me come to terms with the possible destruction of newsrooms and journalism. I came to accept, even embrace, that if I was laid off, it was just the opportunity to open the door to a new path, whatever that would be.

I kept my job, and I’m still there, still enjoying it. But my decisions during those uncertain months took me down paths of self-discovery through yoga and brought me back to writing fiction, something I’d abandoned a few years earlier. It wasn’t the last time I would rely on Om Namah Shivaya as a guiding principle. Even today I think about life’s possibilities and recognize that to open myself to something new, I might have to give up a place where I’m comfortable. Moving out of our comfort zones and balancing on the edge is both terrifying and liberating — sometimes even at the same time. By nature, we often play it safe and err on the side of inertia. We’re not willing to destroy to make space for a new creation. But when we take that leap of faith, when we step out into the abyss without knowing where our next footstep will land, we make room for the next stage in our lives to blossom and grow.