Myths are special teachers. They have a unique power to take us into the depths of our own mystic consciousness and to shatter our rigid, conservative and perhaps shallow ideas about life and about our own true nature. Mythological characters represent universal archetypes and give us a context within which we can sensitively and compassionately self-reflect, a necessary practice for those on the yogic path (svadhyaya). They have the capacity to truly meet us in the light and dark of our own being. They can be empowering and terrifying, peaceful and wrathful, all at once. But when contemplated through the yogic lens, the power of mythology to liberate and enlighten is unrivalled. The mythology of The Dragon is no exception.
For thousands of years and across cultures, dragons have captured the imagination of human kind. Fascinating to young and old alike, dragons guard treasures, kidnap princesses, and are slain by knights. We are often in awe of their power and majesty. Some are ferocious and destructive, terrorizing humankind. Some are bringers of good fortune and happiness. Dragons can be as small as a silkworm or can fill the entire sky. They are at home in air, on earth, in fire, or in water. They generate lightening, thunder and rain, and they can ensure fertility, order, and prosperity. Since antiquity, dragons have represented the vast primal forces that support the material realm.
In the Eastern tradition the dragon is typically seen as a creature of benevolence, often associated with wisdom, longevity & prosperity. They usually possess some form of magic or supernatural power, often appearing with wings suggesting the ability to take a higher perspective; to see clearly; to see the big picture. In some traditions dragons can shape shift, taking on many forms and shapes, symbolizing our own ability to transcending our perceived limitation. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, excellence, boldness, valiance, nobility and heroism.
By contemplating one’s personal meaning of the vast symbolism represented in the dragon metaphor, in conjunction with practices such as visualization, mantra, pranayama and asana, we can realize (or perhaps remember) the existence of these qualities within. With practice, we can learn to coax them forth resulting in a greater sense of personal empowerment, strength and resilience.
While in the Eastern tradition dragons tend towards benevolence, in the West, they tend towards malevolence. They are often depicted as vicious mythical creatures. Residing in dark, underground caves, they hide away in secrecy, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. From this perspective, dragons represent our inner demons; the barriers that that keep us from manifesting our wildest dreams and attaining full realization. Caves are dark places and this darkness represents those aspects of ourselves that we may subconsciously want to keep in the shadows. They are the qualities which we generally avoid and are often looked down upon; those things about ourselves which we don’t want to admit to, maybe we don’t like them ourselves or fear others will not like them. But unrecognized, they persist, they grow, potentially festering and becoming toxic and impacting us in countless ways.
While this image of the dragon may evoke great fear and resistance, if we are willing to look into the darkness of the dragon’s lair (in other words, brave enough to look into the depths of our own consciousness), we can discover the self-limiting beliefs that are keeping us small. The reality is that we are all going to be hurt in this lifetime. We are all going to go through our breakups, our disappointment, our betrayals. By denying them, paradoxically we hold onto them. And in denying, we segregate. However, it is possible to heal these parts of ourselves. Gently, we can start to recognize the ways in which we are holding ourselves back, ways in which we are perhaps, at war with ourselves. With loving awareness, we practice compassionate self-acceptance and the process of healing begins. From this place we can inquire more deeply, asking ourselves things “What is this really about for me? What self- limiting belief have I come to accept is true?”. With insights gained, we can ask ourselves, “What do we need to heal?” and in doing so, we begin to discover what is needed to nurture ourselves back into wholeness. Practices of mindfulness meditation, affirmation and yin may be particularly useful in guiding us back into the limitless beings we actually already are.
The metaphor of the Dragon holds great power in allowing us to discover the immense depth of personal resources we all have within ourselves and through this mythology we are able to rediscover and reconnect to the truth of our own wholeness. If any of this article has sparked your curiosity or touched you in some other way and you would like to explore it more fully, please book into the Flying Dragon Workshop Jeff will be running at the studio on Friday November 11.