The Role of Myth

For over 27 000 years, starting at the time of the first cave paintings, myths and the telling of myths have been one of most fundamental ways we communicate. The universal questions inherent in myth and the art of storytelling transcend time, culture and social status. They are a prominent link between individuals and a powerful way to deepen understanding.

 

The myths themselves define and examine the notion of being. They demand that the listener enter a particular state of awareness. This awareness is built by creating a sense of connection between the individual listening and the universe being described in the form of an archetype.They attempt to make the universe and the self come into coherence. As a result, there is a magnification of the universal questions of what can be known, what can be felt and what can be done about it. This type of awareness, just like asana, demands practice. To be immersed in the universe of myth requires rigorous attentiveness – a skill which must be honed. Through the practice, the mind is then able to hold great sweeps of emotion, ideas and concepts beyond the relative or material. While listening to the myth, the mind wanders between the real and the imagined. If successful, the myth is a way to create new thinking and new feeling and, through the conduit of daydreaming (in a way), lays the seed for a honing of ourselves at a deeper level. As we find aspects of ourselves in each of the myth’s characters, the myth lays the groundwork for our consciousness to be imbued with empathy. When the image of the myth is apt, our knowledge of our humanity expands. It allows for our dream-mind’s unconscious knowledge to penetrate our waking consciousness. Myth-telling feeds our desire to know what happens and answers our hope that we will make sense to ourselves and our function within the universe. It is a way for us to deepen the coherence with the world at large and within our layered self.

 

The yoga tradition is built on the collection of Gods and Goddesses that make up the Hindu pantheon. Unlike Greek mythology which is built on a polytheistic vision of the universe, Hindu mythology is build around the idea of one universal consciousness. Various God and Goddesses in the pantheon momentarily take on separate identities for the purpose of illustrating a particular aspect of Consciousness. There is, however, the fundamental understanding that all Gods and Goddesses are expressing this one overarching energy.

 

The recent weekend yoga retreat used myths of Shakti to examine the idea that there is a fundamental creative energy that desires to be known. The Universe is then created from this desire. This esoteric concept becomes more understandable through the personification of this energy as Malini, in one myth and as Parvarti in another. Take a listen to the beginning of the myth of Shakti as Malini.

Next retreat: Mexico February 2017