Monday, December 22, 2008

Honoring Darkness and the Inner Landscape during Winter Solstice

Here is an excerpt from my Yoga class focus today, December 22, 2008, honoring Winter Solstice.

During this season of Winter Solstice, we celebrate darkness. Winter Solstice, which this year is December 21, 2008, is the day of the year when we have the fewest daylight hours.

During this time, we can harmonize with life’s rhythms and honor our connection with earth seasons by cultivating our connection with darkness. To paraphrase one of my teachers, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, we can learn more and grow more spiritually by turning toward the darkness of our psyches than by turning towards the light. This is the perfect season for such a turning to our inner landscapes, often hidden from awareness due to a busier, more external focus. This season is an invitation to open to the darkness inside of us, knowing and trusting that beauty and underlying essence of life is omni-present.

For clarity, it may be helpful now to refer to a drawing of mind created by Swami Rama of the Himalayas. I invite you to draw this for yourself… He draws a large square with an ‘X’ from corner to corner. In each of the four triangles with the square are the four parts of mind: 1 – left side) Manas: the activity and movement of mind and the ever-present stimulation through the senses, 2 – top side) Ahamkara: the walls or structure of our identity formed by fixed concepts/ideas/beliefs about ourselves, others, and life, 3 – bottom side) Citta: the deep well which holds the seeds of all our thoughts, core beliefs, tendencies to act, and the potential of all humanity, sometimes known as the subconscious, unconscious and the collective unconscious; and 4 – right side) Buddhi: the ray or beam of deep intuition, the discerning wisdom part of the mind. To the right of buddhi is a big circle attached to the right side of the square. This circle represents Purusha, Jiva, also known as the individual soul. Gradually, through spiritual practice, the line between buddhi and the individual soul thins and disappears, so that buddhi is informed directly from the Soul. As Buddhi becomes more refined, it is known as Dhi. Around the whole picture is a larger circle, which is universal soul, or Atman.

Darkness is Citta, and aspects of Ahamkara which are unconscious to us. In our Citta lies the seeds of our Soul’s beauty and greatness, the seeds of destiny, as well as the seeds of the tendencies which cause us to suffer, and to hurt ourselves and others. Depending on our spiritual practice and life choices, some of these seeds will bloom, bear fruit, and manifest fully in our lives, and some of them won’t. The power and responsibility of which ones bloom and which one’s do not in your own life is up to you and chosen by you – either consciously or unconsciously. To me, this is one of the greatest gifts of being human – this freedom, this choice, and this creativity to determine which seeds we will water, and what and who we will become.

Today our yoga practice will include three approaches to darkness – utilizing three distinct Yogic paths.

From Raja yoga or Patanjali yoga, we cultivate steadiness and stability of body and nervous system, in order to align with our inner observer. From this ‘seat’ we can witness whatever arises in the psyche, unaffected by and unattached to what we are witnessing. When we witness and observe, the seeds from Citta do not root and grow in our lives. For those of you who practice the process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), this approach correlates to one of the 4 components of NVC – observations. Wes Taylor, one of my favorite NVC Trainers, said, “observation is the doorway we pass through for any spiritual practice.”

Tantra Yoga is approach to working with life energy in a multitude of ways. In our practice today, we will work with energy in a particular way to facilitate lightening the grooves of our unconscious tendencies and emptying the deeper contents of mind (Citta) as well as releasing accumulated tension in the body and nervous system. Apana Vayu is the name of this letting go energy. With this approach, we focus on the sensations of energy in the body, rather than observing the contents which are being released.

In Bhakti Yoga, we recognize that all feeling and all expressions of life, regardless of how they appear externally, are actually manifestations of love and the divine. In this approach, all experience is openly welcomed, felt deeply through the heart and the body to the universal quality and essential energy of love which is at its source. This is an approach of love, feeling, trust, surrender and devotion to source. In the process of NVC, this correlates to the components of ‘feelings’ and ‘universal human qualities or needs.’

Blessings to you during this season. I invite you to gift yourself with some kind of ceremony or ritual to honor your own darkness and beauty, and to celebrate the gift of life.

I'd love to hear your comments about what I've written, and invite your feedback.

Lots of love,