By Swami Prajñananda
“You matter.” “Don’t give up.” “You are not alone.” These signs touched me deeply when I saw them around our neighborhood. I looked them up online and found that they are called “signs of hope.” They all started with a mom in Oregon. She started these “signs of hope” after a string of suicides in her hometown. They made a difference. Starting with only 20 signs, now her signs and tokens number over one million. They are located in more than 28 countries and all 50 states. I was not the only one touched by these signs. What is it about them?
For one, they are beautiful expressions of affirmation. Yet, what really touched me about them is what was left unsaid. They are a response to the pain and despair that leads someone to take their own life. They are signs of hope when you feel like you don’t matter. They lift you up when you are ready to give up and feel completely and utterly alone.
This angst and despair is called the human condition. You feel that you are small and unworthy. It is the “human” condition because everyone feels this way. You may not notice it all the time. Most people do a very good job of distracting themselves. Yet, instead of merely distracting yourself, what if you could discover the more that you are?
In our yoga retreat center, a dorm room sign says, “You are more than you think you are.” And it’s true. You are more than your mind could ever imagine. Our Master Teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, describes it this way:
“Infinite Reality is taking on all the forms in the universe in order to experience being the forms. Shiva is being you in order to experience being you. You are the One, the divine, scintillating light of consciousness, in individualized form.”— April 2014 Contemplation: “Infinity in a Body”
by Gurudevi Nirmalananda & Swami Samvidaananda
You are so much more than you think you are. You are the Divine Reality that has always existed, exists now and will always exist. You are Shiva — Infinite Reality. Shiva is being this entire universe: from the atoms to the planets, the trees, animals and very personally you. You see it in the phrase “You matter.” You are made of matter, made of energy. But what is the source of that energy? Shiva. You are not only made of Shiva, but Shiva is being you.
This can seem quite abstract, and yet it is actually extremely personal. I really understood this when I experienced it after taking vows as a yoga monk. There was both a deepening that happened and a crystallization of my individuality. The deepening was an inner opening and settling into my own essence — Shiva. And at the same time, there was this blissful tangible embodiment of my body and mind. It’s like I finally accepted that this body and mind are Shiva. And they are the equipment Shiva needs to shine into the world. From then on, I have loved myself more than I ever had or could before.
This is what happens, and more, when you discover who you truly are. To discover your own essence, you must go deeper than your body and mind. While they are made of Shiva, they will never give you the knowing that you are Shiva. For that, you must meditate. Meditation is your pathway inward. It gives you the tangible experience of cosmic Shiva while in your own individual form. When you open your eyes, you are sitting deeper within yourself. As you continue to meditate, you will fully embody your own body and mind. You will shine into the world. You can enjoy your life knowing that you are the One experiencing your life. For you are Shiva being you for the pure delight of being you.