This year has been intense so far, and it’s about to get even more intense. How do I know? I don’t know, but I just feel it. Although I love winter — if I could live in a world of fall and winter only, I would —I’ve been excited about the spring of 2017. And here we are, on its first day.
This year, 2017, is a “1” year, since 2+0+1+7=10 and 1+0=1, which means, according to numerology, that this year marks a beginning of a new cycle. According to Chinese Astrology, it’s the year of the Fire Rooster, and we know what rooster’s message is: wake up! The spring always heralds and represents rebirth, renewal and resurrection.
Whoa. New cycle, new life, new beginnings and a gentle yet persistent reminder to wake up? Does this mean we’ll miss the opportunity for new life and new ways of being if we ignore the mantra the rooster has given us? I think so. Or I feel so, I should say.
To me, this new-all-around invitation has one main theme — and again, I don’t know this, I just feel it: to reach a new level of awareness, to be renewed into a being that shines a little more of that innate divinity that’s the true nature of each one of us, we first must delve deeply into our humanity. The process of remembering our timeless Self is not one of discarding or bypassing our imperfect humanness, but one of fully and unashamedly integrating our humanity with our divinity.
I’ve been thinking a lot — and getting teary eyed — over the verse in the Bible that describes Yeshua’s (Jesus’) final moments as a human. He asks God to take this cup from him, which we could translate as: “Please, God, make this go away.” We can’t blame him for asking that. I find this so touching because the fear in Yeshua’s mind was proof of his imperfect humanity. He acted like any one of us would under the circumstances because he was like any one of us (which, by the way, is what he was trying to teach us). But as soon as he begs God to change his fate, almost in the same breath, he declares: “Not my will, but yours be done.” As soon as Yeshua descends fully and fearlessly into his fear-filled humanity, he is released by his divinity and his absolute trust in God, or the Tao, or Spirit, is restored.
Who knows whether this story is actually true, and I honestly care as little about the historical facts as I care about the word you or I or they use to describe what God is. The words don’t matter, but the meaning does. And the message, or the meaning, of this story is this: to be reborn as that which you have always been, independent of time, space and human suffering, you must completely make peace with all that which is under the laws of time, space and human suffering.
In other words, to remember our immortal nature as spirit while in this body, while in this incarnation, we must unconditionally accept all aspects of our flawed humanity. Since yoga came into my life and smacked me upside the head with the most self love I’ve ever felt, I knew that I was being shown a path of radical self acceptance. As I often remind my students: this practice of yoga, just like this human experience, is not a self improvement course but a course in radical acceptance of who and how you are right now.
We all want to transcend, and I get it. Being a human for a few lifetimes has that affect. But there’s no transcendence in avoidance. And that’s what the rooster is here to tell us: No matter how comfortable you think the dream is, and how uncomfortable waking up can be, wake (the you know what) up!
One of the facets of waking up is taking full responsibility for our part in staying asleep for so long. To continue with the Biblical flavor, we can go through life asking: “God, why have you forsaken me?!” Once we see that we made an innocent mistake and have been looking for happiness, fulfillment and freedom in the wrong direction — outside of ourselves — for so long, we reframe the question: “God, why have I forsaken you?!”
As soon as the direction of the search is reversed, from outward to inward, you have started waking up. And once you start waking up, you can never go back to the old ways of being. That’s what it means to be reborn, renewed and resurrected.
This is why this practice of yoga is so powerful, intense and rewarding. And it really doesn’t have much to do with poses. You may look at this photo and see a bunch of fit people sitting in a clean and warm room (which is true, but not the whole truth!) but what happens in each of these spirit warrior’s hearts is pure alchemy. Yesterday we flowed together through 108 sun salutations to welcome the spring, the new, but also to remember the ever stable truth of who we are. As yogis, we get a chance to practice turning base metal into gold and that means waking up the human to his or her divine reality. Because there is no bigger prize than finally meeting yourself.