I’ve often pondered why it seems God breaks us down to build us up. Why would God want the process of moving toward him to be so painful? Why must we hurt time and time again, disappointed by people, to find deeper faith in God? To be broken to let more light in. To be shattered so we can contain more Love. It’s obviously a painful process, one that seems pretty counterintuitive, not very “loving,” and something designed to produce the exact opposite of its intended effect. Recently I saw that to ask the question is to answer it: if we are disappointed in people, there is the source of the suffering.
I think we can all agree that people are going to let us down! Just think of all the people you’ve let down in your lifetime. Maybe not out of ill will even necessarily, but just because that’s what can happen in life sometimes. As amazing as people are, and as much as we are all doing our best, we are imperfect creatures. We are just human, learning in this laboratory called Earth.
Because we have been placing our faith in something destined only to change, in something that inevitably will break down, it is we who had it backwards. Not God. It is not God doing anything other than being eternally present and unchanging. God was always there, always the only immovable, eternal thing to anchor into. We just couldn’t immediately see it. Or feel it. Or taste it. Or hear it. Or smell it. Or trust it.
People were never the ones to put all your hope, faith and trust in. While it is a hard lesson to learn, (and one difficult to reconcile with childhood traumas), it is a powerful one to take to heart—if we have the courage to go there, be real, and see that it was us all along. It is us who walked away. Fell asleep. Forgot. We are the only ones who were and are keeping us removed from God.
When we try to get all our needs met by people who are also trying to get all their needs met externally, we have misplaced our Source. We’ve identified with ego and believe ourselves to be separate from God. We have forgotten who and what we are and have instead attached to flimsy things of impermanence rather than the wellspring within that is always there. It is a house of cards destined to fall, to crash, to tremor, to quake.
In Hindu mythology, Shiva is the one who brought us the gift of yoga, and an aspect of him exists with the name Bhairava, which translates as “the One who Brings the Terror.” Terror shares its etymology with the words terrible and terrific and differentiates from horror in that it invokes a physical, somatic action response of shaking. Horror imparts an emotion of fear. Terror actually makes you physically shake. And so, the One who Brings the Terror is the One who Makes You Shake.
The process of seeing everything you put faith in crumble feels like you yourself are shattering into a million pieces, and it is designed to be so. When we have attached to the rickety, wooden frame of a house instead of its rock solid foundation, inevitably winds will blow the whole house down and we are left with what feels like nothing, often too shook to see or feel the structure beneath us.
Again, though, I want to emphasize this is not God letting us down—even though it might feel like it. This is not God forcing us to hit rock bottom so we realize Him as our bottom rock. This is our waking up to the fact that we had placed trust where it didn’t belong: in the material, in the floating world, in the illusion, in maya. Once the illusions disintegrate, we see God was there all along, patiently waiting for us to put down the distractions and find solace in Him.
God simply is, the One, the constant pulse of Love that generates creation. And when everything we thought was real dissolves, our attachment to ego, to the non-real, does too. Our belief in ego-self supremacy, in separateness, comes crashing down hard. We are left to turn in and in as many times as necessary until we are rooted down into the only thing that ever existed in the first place.
Just like Shiva, the Great Natarajar, the Cosmic Dancer himself, an aspect of ourselves—our Bhairava—guides our lives away from what cannot last toward what, by its very nature, cannot help but to remain, toward complete union with the One. With any luck, we will find ourselves writhing and convulsing in ecstatic dance until we melt into the floor of unified consciousness, where Shiva, Bhairava, you, me, him, she and we are free, one and the same, the only thing that ever was, is and will be.