Churning of the Ocean of Milk
We are approaching Winter Solstice, the low point of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. The time of year and the election/transition predicament have me reflecting on an important myth in the yoga tradition.
It is called the Churning of the Ocean of Milk and tells the tale of a search for immortality. In order to find it, opposite beings must work & churn together; half on one side and half on the other. Alas, once it is found there is another struggle for which half shall imbibe it.
In the story, the light beings/Devas are the one half deemed to receive it. The dark forces/Asuras are tricked out of it; although, they receive much bounty along the way and would likewise have tricked the Devas themselves. Some of the dark forces get the nectar and are made immortal nonetheless- they continue to show their power in the form of eclipses, regularly blotting out light from the Sun and Moon. They also show their power in the form of wars and plagues in general; delusion, greed, and hatred in particular.
I image you are thinking, this sounds pretty familiar…
This myth, like many of its kind, points to the incessant struggle between light and dark forces. The supremacy of light, but also the relevance of shadow and darkness as well. In the full story, they were needed to churn the ocean and helped bring many gifts and splendors to the world. For instance, the last figure to arise from the Ocean with the chalice of nectar was Dhanvantri, a celestial physician and giver of medicine. And lest we think the Devas are perfect, there are plenty of stories of their follies and foibles.
What is useful about myth is the potential to see life from a non-logical, right brain perspective. They are links between our personal and collective dramas and a deeper understanding of life and humanity. The renowned mythology scholar Joseph Campbell called myths ”pubic dreams” and dreams “private myths”.
I invite you to gently consider what is useful about this story as you live into the rest of this strange, sad, and significant year? How do dream your private myth?
The outer light is waning at this time of year- the inner light is always available. Here’s my dream:
I shine my light for the benefit of all, without exception. We work together to create a better world for all beings.
Natasha Korshak is a long-time teacher and trainer of yoga, meditation, mindfulness and MBSR, and has been working in the field of integrative health and wellness her entire professional career. She is a graduate of the Interfaith Theological Seminary and an ordained Interfaith Minister specializing in contemplative practice, grief processing, and spiritual direction. Her study and training of mind/body/spirit methods is extensive and she has learned from many of the pioneers in their discipline. As the founder and director of the Sol Center she is well regarded for her depth, warmth, authenticity, and the smile in her voice.