Tips From The Yogi’s Toolbox
I was lying in bed angry, sad and grumpy. The more I thought about how I felt, the angry I seemed to get. Frustrated, I laced up my running shoes. Sometimes running can be very zen —just me, my breath and the sound of my feet crunching on the trail. This was not one of those days. I was running away from my discomfort.
Suddenly, a hawk burst out of the bushes next to the trail and began a low, lazy circle above my head. I froze, a rush of tears in my eyes. “Thank you,” I whispered, “for reminding me to stop running.”
Being In The Moment
I turned my awareness inwards and faced my own agitation. I felt heaviness in my body, tightness in my chest. Instead of wanting it to stop—to keep running from it—I accepted the moment. I felt each emotion and physical sensation to the fullness of my capacity. The heaviness began to lift. In its place was a light. My light.
This is contrast at its essence. Light and dark existing simultaneously. Through contrast we can more easily distinguish the whole. Light allows us to see, but without dark it’s as if we’re staring directly into the sun, and we see nothing at all.
Accepting Both Dark & Light
We need the dark as a place of rest, reflection and reconnection. We need light to reveal, illuminate and transform. As humans, it’s easy to get lost in one or the other. We seek only joy, an unrealistic and false sense of being ‘up’ all the time. We celebrate the good without honoring the difficult. Or we get stuck stewing in the dark, feeling depressed, angry and complaining about life.
Often, we identify with our experiences and emotions and lose site of the deep, presence at our core; the part we might call the Light. We feel all the ‘bad’ sides of dark: alone, separate, different, outcast, rejected, not good enough, dumb, sad, afraid, anxious.
We forget that in the darkness of our emotion is also compassion, understanding, empathy and the ability to rest, refresh and heal. Clouds make for a beautiful sky, a breathtaking sunset, cleansing rain. And behind the clouds, the sun is still shining.
The Human Condition
In yoga language we call this the process of concealment and revelation. Vilaya, or concealment, is the perception of separation and isolation. With our tendency to forget our connection to others, we can feel like victims stuck in the ‘bad’ side of the darkness. But there’s a unity to recognizing the similarities of our shared human condition, and remembering that everyone has or will experience suffering.
The good news is that the darkness is what allows for the revelation of light. We call this anugraha. Translated, it means —with grace. This isn’t grace in the traditional sense; it’s not a blessing given for right behavior. It is the very gift of life, and the presence of the great mystery that lives in all things.
The latin origin for grace, is the same root as for gracias or grazie. Thanks. Gratitude. Acknowledging abundance. Remembering spirit within. Honoring all of life, even stress, anger and sadness. The more grateful we are and the more we look for grace, the more we see it.
It’s normal to forget our connection to source and to each other, to feel ungrateful and alone. But that’s the point, without the dark, we wouldn’t see the light.
Tips From The Yogi’s Toolbox
- Concealment is part of the process.
- Shadow is often where the peace you’re seeking lies.
- Pause and breathe it all in, honoring both the challenges as well as the joys.
- Appreciate what you have.
- Learn what’s enough and practice contentment.
- Be grateful for what you’ve been through.
- When you face your emotions just feel them, you don’t always have to figure out where they came from or what they mean.
- Let go of identifying with your emotions and experiences.
- Draw your awareness to the quiet, unchanging, steady part of yourself that intuitively knows how to roll with life.
- Be compassionate with yourself and others.
- Dark is not always bad; learn to use dark times to rest and renew.
- Be open to grace.