There is a song that I play in my classes for Savasana by Steve Gold where the lyrics say, “There is a light that never goes out, there is a light.”
This past weekend I found out that a young girl that was in our yoga program that we had started for at-risk youth, took her own life. Her life and light is what inspired this blog. When we say Namaste at the end of a yoga class or a greeting in India, we are saying, “The light in me bows and honors to the light in you.” What is this light? We can’t measure it because by measuring it we take away from it. We can see it but it doesn’t look like a light beaming straight from their eyes because that would look like someone is possessed. When someone has a “light, ” it looks more like radiance, or a glow that expands from the light within and has changed or transformed the outer shell. If you have ever cleansed or seen someone after a detox, the whites of their eyes are brighter, their skin is glowing and they “look” lighter. We don’t realize how much we carry our thoughts, feelings and emotions in our bodies until something doesn’t work.
And that’s when practicing yoga comes in. When we practice yoga, most forms that we practice come from Hatha yoga, Ha (sun) Tha (moon), where we practice postures or shapes to align our physical bodies so we keep the energy channels on the inside open and flowing freely. It also helps to balance the solar or fiery energy and the lunar or more reflective nature inside of us.
I know about the “light.” I feel the light open up and move through me when I sit down to begin teaching yoga. I see the light when I was in the presence of the Dalai Lama, Amma or when I am in the presence of my teacher Shiva Rea where she oozes with so much light that we all just smile and groove with her and open up our hands to catch the overflow that pours out of her. I see the same light in a baby’s eyes when they are looking at their mama and in the mama’s eyes looking back at their baby. I can still see and feel the light in the form of love from my lover’s eyes even though we have had our dark days. I saw the light in “Kate,” the girl that took her life, and so did many others even if she couldn’t see it in herself. I feel her light even though she is gone.
The opposite of light is darkness. We just celebrated the Summer Solstice, the longest day of light of the year, on the other side of the cycle in 6 months, there will be a darkest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. We are reminded of this in nature from day into night, when the sun goes down and the moon shows up. All of these cycles remind us of the natural expansion and contraction of all life, experiencing it even on the most micro level as our breath, every big contraction precedes a expansion, every inhale is followed by an exhale. When we are surrounded by darkness, we forget that it will be light again. This could be the case with “Kate” and so many others.
I know “Kate” knew darkness and it has triggered me to remember my own darkness at her age. I remember belting out the song, coincidentally, “Can’t Take That [Light] Away” from Mariah Carey, into a hairbrush in my bedroom when I did something that got me ousted from the popular girl table at lunch in the school cafeteria. I never wanted to go to school again. I thought my life was over. I thought this is the way it was always going to be, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. As children we don’t know yet and as adults we forget, “this too, shall pass.”
Just recently, I am letting out a big exhale and after a shaky dark period, I am just starting to inhale again. It is one of the reasons why I couldn’t keep up with the blog. I couldn’t get myself to sit down and write because then it would make it all too real. The survival wall of haze seemed like a better fit for the past 6 months. It would make the lonely nights of crying, real. It would make the feelings of being lost, too much to bear. It would make the feelings of regret, true. It would mean that I failed because I moved my whole life across the country and it didn’t work out. It would make me look foolish. It would mean I was unhappy. How could I be unhappy when there is so much love? It would look like I lost my connection to myself and my light and if I am a yoga teacher and talk all this talk, that would make me a fraud if I lost my own light.
Some wise teacher told me a long time ago that you can have a Pity Party but just don’t invite too many people and make sure at some point the party ends. My pity party was happening in full swing in the middle of a move to a new city, meeting new people, teaching at new studios, meeting new students and adjusting to a new living situation while healing a broken heart and being 3,000 miles away from home, family and friends. My party sucked! Seriously, my party sucked. I can joke now but I was in a very dark place. For Realz. A cocoon of my own doing, weaving me into a thicker and thicker mess and spinning myself into a darker hole. I was stomping my feet on the inside and cursing the outside! “It’s not fair! I did everything right! I took a chance! I gave up comfort, safety and security! This was a love story of a lifetime breaking geographical borders, gender lines, age boundaries, styles of life aka city meets country” I followed my heart! It’s not supposed to end this way! WWWWWTTTTFFFFFF!!!!!!???
Aren’t you glad you weren’t invited to my party? And yet, it wasn’t as expressive as that. I couldn’t even speak those words. My darkness showed itself as sadness, depression, helplessness, frustration, anger, and feeling lost and alone. I was cranky, bitter, miserable, snappy, irritated, judgmental, short and making a big deal out of everything. Can you imagine if you didn’t really know me and that is whom you met? Ugh. I didn’t exactly show myself “in the highest light.” Even though there were new friends and strangers who could see it even though I couldn’t, I missed my friends and family. They remind me of my light when I have forgotten in the same way I reflect the light on them when they are in the dark. Even the word “guru” translate to someone who destroys our darkness; One who removes the layer of unawareness of your own body, one who sheds light on the dark emotions or someone who teaches you how to remove your own survival wall of haze. I am grateful to my gurus near and far.
My gurus reminded me of who I used to be and who I want to be. I lost my light. I lost myself. I was living someone else’s dream and I lost my sense of my purpose and everything and everybody was so foreign to me that I couldn’t find my way. I soon realized that I can’t live off of someone else’s light, nobody should. For sure in relationships, there are always sacrifices but choices never include dimming your light to let someone else’s shine. There needs to be an equal balance of light.
Below are ways we can brighten or diminish our lights. And as always I am talking to myself!
Conscious Practices to help bring out the light in us:
1. Physical Practice of yoga: Working from the outside in. Keeping our outer shell strong, supple and fluid to keep the energy lines flowing.
2. Surround ourselves with similar light bearers: Attracting non-judgmental people who bring out our light and help us honor our unique self.
3. Daily practice of removing the clouds of doubt: Meditation in that we learn how to see through our own veil of confusion or distraction.
4. Seeing light in other forms: Spending time in nature and seeing our reflection in the cycles of the earth.
5. Celebrating Solar and Lunar cycles: Experiencing sunrises and sunsets. Especially during summer, taking in more daylight by being outside and lots of stargazing at night to sip in the moonlight.
Unconscious Practices that drain or dim our light:
1. Spending too much time on foreign things to the body like computers, cell phones, electronic games, and watching TV.
2. Comparing our light to the light in others: Surfing social media and silently judging ourselves or them; feelings of jealousy, not being good enough, gossiping or talking about other people’s darkness dims our own light.
3. Looking outside our selves for validation or validating our selves by spreading negativity: This could also be in the form of excessive posting or “selfies.” I understand as yoga teachers we need to use social media as marketing but there’s a limit and only you will know what that limit is when you pause and ask yourself why am I posting this? I promise I will do the same.
4. Surrounding ourselves with emotional vampires: Toxic people or people that drain, steal or dim your energy don’t mean to but they do. It doesn’t mean we have to de-friend them in life but bringing awareness to them with compassion might help them see how they dim their own light and therefore others around them.
5. Toxins and Unawareness of food or products that we put in our bodies: Drugs, alcohol, caffeine, processed food, non-organic or GMO produced food. Our outer shell needs to be strong to let the light and energy flow freely. Things that the body does not recognize or things that take longer to break down will slow down the flow. Things that distract us or medicate us will only push things down further into the darkness. The only way out is…through.
Summer is here. The perfect time to surrender and let go of trying so hard. I have noticed in myself and in students in my classes that we run on 2 speeds; fast and hard. Summer is the perfect opportunity to encourage the lunar side of our practice. There will be time again in the fall and winter to build strength again. Now is the time for expansion, using the light, energy and warmth that you have cultivated to encourage flexibility and opening. A farmer doesn’t plant seeds and drown the earth with water when flowers and crops are blooming! Take time to harvest the fruits of your desires and let yourself grow and expand. Chill out and swing in a hammock or go bask in the sun!
The other lyrics in “There is a Light” by Steve Gold is the
First Vedantic mantra, Mantra to the Supreme Light:
Om Hrim Hamsa So’Ham Swaha
“Om is the Supreme Brahman
Hrim is the mantra of the spiritual heart
Hamsah is the mantra of the liberated soul.
So’ham means “I am that” meaning the Supreme Being.
Swaha indicates consecration into the light.”
The mantra can be used along with meditation to realize the Self within. To me it means, when we acknowledge the divine that is inside of us, our heart awakens and frees our soul where all boundaries and imaginary walls that separate us melt away into the light which allows me to the see the divine in everything and everything sees the divine in me.
“Kate” may have taken her own life but she hasn’t taken her light. Because that is something that no one can ever take away. Even when the body leaves this earth, there is a light that never goes out because it is connected to a bigger light and little lights all around us; little ships connected to the mother ship. The more connected we are to our own light, the more other people see the light radiating from us and the more they can see it and let it shine from themselves.
“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Marianne Williamson
Go Shine, Yogis. Namaste.