Shiva, transcendent and outside of form, pure peace and pure consciousness, remained in stillness for hours or days or longer in meditation. His earthly form would be suspended in a yogic posture while his consciousness was totally absorbed in bliss. The Great Mother Goddess watched Shiva for a long time, seeing his devotion and his attainment of great knowledge and power. Even as Shiva ascended great heights in his ability to contemplate his true nature as Spirit outside of form, the Great Mother Goddess knew that there was more for him to experience, so she incarnated as a woman, Sita, to help Shiva learn the supreme joy of embodied bliss. This is the path of Tantra, which means expansion.
The Tantric path is the path of marriage between transcendent consciousness (Shiva) and the particulars of life on Earth in a body (Shakti or Sita). Perceiving so much suffering as a human on Earth, we tend to want to take refuge in the transcendent ever peaceful energy of Shiva. We cultivate our higher energy centers or chakras. We use crystals. We chant sacred mantras. We make vision boards. We meditate on healing sounds. We read copious amounts of spiritual literature, watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts. We bathe ourselves in the peace that passes all understanding-this is often the honeymoon phase of spirituality. But then the Mother Goddess sees us, just as she saw Shiva, and she manifests something to bring us back to our bodies. In her great wisdom she knows that we are born here to earth in order to fully experience being a human, as well as being divine. And so she lures us back with a consuming love affair, a devastating trauma or betrayal, the loss of income, etc. This has often been called the dark night of the soul. The Great Goddess calls us back home, calling our transcendent spirit nature back to this body on this earth at this time.
As we are forced into a descent back into the body, we are confronted with all of the places we are still suffering. We have bypassed the difficulties of daily life by focusing on our Spirit nature, and this has worked for awhile. But now, Devi in her abundant wisdom, draws this heightened consciousness back to see the places where we are still trapped as humans. The places where we are still creating karma, the places where we are hiding and denying and avoiding. These are called samskaras, or knots, and they literally feel like knots in our energy centers when they are activated. Someone betrays you and you can feel the knot of anger in your solar plexus. A business venture fails and we can feel the knot of disappointment in the heart. This feels like suffering, and it can be filled with suffering, and it is the Great Mother's call for us to heal even more, even deeper. This Mother aspect of God draws very close to us during this time of descent. Even when we feel the most desperate, the most vulnerable and uncertain, this is when she is closest and holding us most tenderly-just as she loved and held Shiva.
Shiva's dark night of the soul occurred when the human form of the Goddess, Sita, died. He felt the depth of his love for Sita in the depth of his grief. This allowed him the fullest experience of his humanity, tasting the bitter as well as the sweet. He knew that his contemplation of Truth must include the Truth of love and loss, joy and sorrow. His transcendent consciousness, centered in the bliss of his true nature, must taste and perceive all of the particular tragedies of a human life.
This is what we are asked to do. Not to hide ourselves away in a manufactured peace, but to enter into the world with all of its suffering and joy, all of its tension and struggle. This is the path of Wholeness, the path of Tantra, the path of the Tao or the Way. This is the middle path of the Buddha, this is passing through the eye of the needle of Jesus. Holding our center, of what we know to be true about our eternal nature, while walking into the fires of this world. That is the work of the spiritual warrior, and it is the work that will heal and restore this world.