Last night was Shiva Process night at the Maribyrnong Centre for Yoga and Meditation. I didn’t want to go. I was all curled up on the bed and feeling very warm, and very lazy. I had had a very hard day, exploring the outer terrain of the Maribyrnong Centre and the local comings and goings. Durgananda asked me if I was coming to the group and I just rolled over and ignored her. I know it was a bit rude but I was busy being catatonic. Durgananda said I seemed a bit tamasic.
Tamas is one of the three Gunas (sounds like tuna, which I like very much). And I didn’t think I was tamasic at all! I was just not in the mood for going to the group. I’d heard Durgananda talk about the three Gunas and she wasn’t being particularly complimentary in calling me tamasic, which of course increased my resistance to attending the group.
I’d heard her say that the Gunas originate from Samkhya philosophy, which states that there are three principles that operate in nature – Tamas, Sattva and Rajas. They weave together, in varying strengths, creating existence. Tamas is dull, heavy, chaotic and inert. (I did feel rather inert). It is often depicted as the colour black. Rajas is fiery, passionate, active, angry, and red in colour. Sattva is white, pure, harmonious and peaceful. My fur is an excellent expression of the Gunas as it contains all these colours in it, which I’m certain must mean I am a perfect embodiment of nature. In the different yoga practices we are trying to balance these energies and return to a state of Sattva. Durgananda says that drowning in Tamas is unhealthy and you should do something to get yourself out of it. When you’re in it, like I was last evening, it can be very hard to do alone and the help of a friend is needed.
I was so stuck in my state of Tamas (I, of course, thought I looked rather cute, even if I also had a rajasic glint in my eye) that I really couldn’t get out of it. I definitely needed help. And luckily for me I had a friend – Natji came and helped me. He said that even when you don’t want to go to the group you should go. In fact, when you don’t want to go is precisely when you should go. He convinced me to get out of my tamasic state and come to the group. Actually, he didn’t really give me much of an option. He picked me up and brought me into the meditation room and placed me beside the heater. This is one of my favourite spots. I usually love being beside the heater because I know that heat helps me to transform yogically as it symbolises the transformative fire and energy of the Self. But this evening I didn’t really feel like being there.
I have to meow that, very reluctantly, I joined the group. The energy in the room was very rajasic. I could feel all sorts of unprocessed feelings and a lot of them seemed to be affecting my heart and navel. The glint in my eye grew stronger and I could feel Bandit approaching (Bandit is one of my names). Bandit is the part of me that is fierce and wild, one of my many expressions of my Self.
Now that I had arrived, the group could begin. The feeling was very uncomfortable. The energy in the room was affecting me. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I moved closer to the heater, just in case these humans started to explode with feeling and I might need some protection. No one exploded but I kept withdrawing from the group. I began to get more and more full of feeling, more rajasic and more tamasic. I tried to get the feeling off and out of me by different methods: I tried to ignore it and go to sleep, I tried scowling at the room and sticking my claws out, I tried twitching and flicking my tail, I even tried washing the feeling off me by giving myself a good clean. None of these methods made me feel better. Nothing was working, I still didn’t feel like participating and I was now beginning to blame the group for my feeling. If I was to be completely honest with you, my attitude sucked. I was in Bandit mode and Bandit is ferocious.
So I did a very inappropriate thing for a Shiva process group: I got up and stomped out of the room, my claws making a wonderful clacking sound on the floor boards. My tamasic state had become completely rajasic. I prowled around the meditation centre looking for something to do. I wanted this feeling out and off me! I decided to look out the window and see if there was any entertainment outside the Centre. I tried different windows but none of them were playing a show that was worth watching. I finally settled on the back window hoping for a possum patrol to begin but, unfortunately, there was only a very slow and dreary documentary on autumn trees moving into hibernation. You may not know this, but window watching for cats, is the equivalent to TV watching for humans. I thought I could use TV in the way humans seem to and process my feelings by distraction.
I did this for a while and I didn’t feel any better. As I sat still the yogi in me started to become more present and the thought occurred to me that maybe I had picked up some feeling from the group and my bad attitude had made the feeling stick to me. Feelings can be a bit like velcro, or those sticky burrs that sometimes get caught in my fur when I roll around in the grass. If you have something that they can stick to, then they will. Negative feelings are particularly sticky and contagious – go anywhere near them when you’re feeling a bit weird and you’ll feel them more intensely. I am particularly susceptible to feelings because I am a cat and we are highly attuned creatures. When people are happy and peaceful I like to be around them. They expand my sense of the inner self. When they are loud and boisterous, I run a mile and my fur stands on end.
I decided to return to the group and get them to help process my feelings. When I came in I noticed that the feeling in the room had shifted. Was this because the humans had sorted out their feelings, or was it because my attitude had changed? I wasn’t sure. It felt very sattvic, very peaceful. I looked around the room and, with a humble nod of my head, I apologised for leaving and sat down quietly, in my spot beside the heater. The group was very forgiving. They gave me statements that reflected my rajasic state. I am Bandit and I have sharp claws and teeth. I am Bandit, I want to chase things. I am Bandit, I want to do what I want, when I want to. As the group gave me these statements my navel calmed down and I got more in touch with my heart. The feeling of peace that was in the room came over me and I began to purr. I felt like myself again. I felt like the Gunas had balanced inside me and a sattvic feeling became present. Finally I felt like Hamsa. I am Hamsa, my purr is the rhythm of life. I am Hamsa and love to be alive. My eyes slowly shut and I melted into the bliss of the Self.