Fear and Gratitude: Lessons from a Snake
‘We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.’ Maya Angelou
In the teachings of yoga there are three types of ‘energies’. The whole universe is made of these three energies. All motion and activity in the universe arise from them.
Creative energies (rajas)
Preservation energies (sattva)
and Destructive energies (tamas)
I feel as if for a great deal of last year I was expressing and experiencing tamasic energy. There was a lot that seemed like ‘destruction’. Of course there was also good and beauty and laughter and joy in 2016; but somehow the sadness, the grief, the loss, seem to take a great deal of time and energy, which led to a sense of tamas. Stagnation. Dullness. Exhaustion.
A recent incident in my life, involving a snake, was symbolic of this for me. Since snakes are responsible for death and destruction of humans and animals they are compared to the destructive tamasic energy represented by Lord Shiva himself as the destroyer.
A week or so ago during a family camping holiday I was on a lake in a small rubber boat with my three-year-old daughter. My husband was also on on the water just coming back from a little journey with our son.
Suddenly a friend started shouting to me from the shore that she thinks there is a snake in the water just behind me. It took my ears a moment to translate this …
I turned around and saw the snake swimming in my direction. From this moment on, it seemed as if everything was happening both very fast and extremely slow. The senses become heightened, and every second contains endless thoughts, assessments, and decision making. The ancient yogis knew that time can condense and expand according to our mental states and I had this experience first hand.
I looked at the snake, and immediately in the boat and at my hands, only to acknolwdege what I already knew; I had nothing, literally nothing to protect myself and my daughter with. I looked back and saw my husband and shouted at him that a snake was coming in my direction. At this moment the snake locked its gaze straight at us, and it started racing towards us at full speed.
The snake was getting very close and started raising his head and body more and more out of the water, preparing to jump into the boat and I just remember shouting at my husband ‘It’s here, it’s getting into the boat!!!!’
My husband, my saviour and fearless warrior, arrived exactly, literally exactly, the second the snake was about to jump into the boat and come between us and the snake. He passed on the board and tried to hit it with the paddling stick. There was a lot of commotion. I was confused and tried to see what happened, realizing it didn’t manage to get into the boat.
At first I was laughing out of stress, not able to believe or process what just happened. I tried to look at the bright side. At the half full cup. At the fact it all ended well. And I still do. We then researched and spoke to the rangers only to find out it was an Eastern Brown Snake. One of the deadliest snakes in the whole world and that when this snake attacks, it doesn’t bite once. It bites many times.
My emotional response to this experience were both great fear (of what could have happened) and gratitude (that it ended exactly as it did).
That night I couldn’t sleep well and was very anxious, I woke up very early. I decided to go down to the beach while everyone was still asleep. I felt I needed to perform some kind of ritual that would both send gratitude to the universe, and to whatever Higher Power that was protecting us, and a ritual of cleanse, to let go of the fear that was growing within me.
I sat down on the sand, and chanted the sacred sound vibration of OM a few times, and delved into my meditation practice. I usually use a Vedic Mantra but on this morning it kept being replaced with a prayer of gratitude. It was rising from within. Meditation is not about shutting the mind. It is about releasing. And so I kept sitting and sending my absolute gratitude to whoever it is or whatever it is that protected us with special attention and gratitude to my husband.
The prayer of gratitude evolved into a prayer that was asking:
‘May we always be protected together.
May we always be protected together.
May we always be protected together.’
The snake for me had represented the real possibility of destruction. Out of this came the power of creation, of Sattva and Rajas. The possibility for a new start in body, mind and spirit. And the fact it all ended well represents for me the end of the year and a new beginning. It was an extremely powerful reminder that everything is temporary, it is up to each and every one of us to make the absolute most of what we have and what we are given.
I resolve to remind myself, that the things that matter most in my life, many of which tend to be just under my nose and in front of my eyes.
May we all be wise enough stop fearing, may we all cherish our friends and our lives. May we always be protected together! The snake has many symbols in yoga, she is the animal spirit of Patanjali himself and as well as the destructive she also represents the Kundalini Rising – the power of potential and renewal.
Om and Happy New Year!
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