I love nothing more than when my yogis ask me after class to share what I read or tell them more about what I talked about during class. My purpose as a yoga teacher has always been to share this practice as a way of life rather than just ego-boosting physical exercise. The practice of 108 sun salutations is a perfect example of taking our yoga way beyond the physical — although the physical part is certainly intense, no matter how many sun salutations you complete and regardless of how those salutations look like. The form of our practice never matters, but the content does. Which is why the bread and butter of my 108 sun salutations practice are the nine dedications that precede each round of 12 sun salutations.
Several of my yogis have asked me to share these dedications since our Fall Equinox 108 sun salutations yesterday, so they can keep digging deeper into their own yoga practice during their daily life, where the power of yoga really hits home if we only allow it to. Thank you, friends, for practicing with me and for living your yoga. May we all continue to unbind our minds and drop deeper into the one unbound heart we share.
I open my heart and offer my light to my human, imperfect self. Deep in my gut, I know that achieving perfection as a human being is not only impossible, but an unnecessary burden that keeps me stuck in fear and self loathing. Deep in my heart, I know that as a soul, I am progressing on my path just as I planned and that every experience I had and am yet to have is a perfectly chosen piece of my soul’s mosaic. I am a perfect expression of my divine nature in this imperfect human form. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to all my fears, and all the aspects of myself I consider dark and negative. Remembering my own choice to experience the full spectrum of human emotion — the so called positive as well as the so called negative — I’m now making a promise to myself to own all the aspects of my personality that I have disowned out of fear of being seen as unworthy of love. In the name of love, which is what I am, I allow every fear, every feeling and every thought that arises to be fully integrated in my experience, so I can live with integrity, knowing that darkness is simply unawakened light and fear is nothing but a confused expression of love. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to every obstacle yet to appear on my path. As I look back on my life, I can see that every seeming hurdle eventually provided impetus for my own growth and was therefore a gift. Bravely embracing my fear of the unknown — not pushing it away — I fully trust that whatever hardship and pain are yet to appear on my path are simply part of my path, remembering that ultimately, all of life is the path. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have ever shown me love. Every expression of love, no matter how small or infrequent it may seem to occur, completely imbues my being with the totality of All That Is, which is love. I give thanks to each and every being whose love fills my heart with the ancient song that reminds us all that love is all there ever was, is and will be. May we all be overwhelmed with love. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to all those who have hurt me, including myself. I know that every act that doesn’t come from love is simply a disguised call for love. Lack of love is evidence of the hurt we all carry in us, the hurt that stems from our ignorance of our true nature and the forgetfulness of our joint source, which is love. I ask love to show me the way every time I’m tempted to believe that I can be hurt. And as I give love and forgiveness to others, no matter what they have given to me, I know that I’m graced with love and forgiveness. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to the uncertainty every day brings. I give up whatever illusion of control I think I have over life, and instead choose to courageously surrender to the gifts of grace that abound in each moment. Knowing that who I am in reality can never be hurt or damaged, and that I can’t possibly ever fail or fall short, I allow life to come to me as is does. Expecting nothing and welcoming everything, I now promise to stop fighting with life and instead fully cooperate with what is. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to the eventual death of this temporary human form I inhabit. I open my mind to the possibility that any fears I may have regarding death are fears of my ideas of death and not death itself. As I listen to the whisper of my soul, which constantly reminds me that I have been on many such journeys countless times before, I remember that reality is infinitely larger than my human side can ever perceive. As a brave soul who chose to temporarily forget its immortality, I celebrate life and embrace my fear of death until that fear itself dissolves into my timeless recognition that life does not start or end, but simply changes form. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to all teachers that have appeared on my path and those yet to appear on my path, knowing that everyone and everything that teaches me about myself and helps my growth is my teacher. My heart is full of gratitude for those who have taught me through love as well as for those who have taught me by withholding love. How blessed I am to have been graced with teachers in human form and beyond, those born and unborn, and even those only my subconscious can perceive. I now can see clearly that this earth life, which seems full of suffering, is a school and that teachers and teachings abound in every moment, and I choose to learn as much as I possibly can, ultimately remembering that the only lesson to be learned is that love is all there is. And so it is.
I open my heart and offer my light to the ultimate source, the divine creator, infinite spirit, God, All That Is. How can I possibly live in suffering if I choose to connect to that which I’m never disconnected from? How much longer do I want to live in ignorance of my true nature, seeing myself as a separate little body when all the glory of God has been inside me all along? Once I was blind, and I forgive myself for that, but now I have opened my eyes and I see that I am That which I seek. My search for God has always been my yearning to know myself, and now that I realize what I am, I can’t help but lift my head and laugh at the sky. And so it is.
A few days ago, after the winter solstice 108 sun salutations practice, a few of the first timers to this intense class told me that they felt off, disoriented and agitated afterward, although they also felt exalted and inspired. I assured them that this is a good sign because the practice encourages the deeply buried to come up to the surface. We would never wonder whether the feel good energies are normal, or even physical exhaustion or fatigue, but when it comes to mental and emotional stirrings we default to feeling that there’s something wrong, either with us or with the practice. That’s because we’re conditioned to avoid, deny and cover up the uncomfortable and the dark and instead focus, often artificially, on the feel good and the light.
Carl Jung said: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” The second sentence in this quote brings the power of the quote home for me because it tells us the way we operate: we just don’t want to look at our shadow side. Why not?
Just look at most celebrations of the winter solstice and you’ll see that they stress the return of the light, which happens AFTER the longest night of the year. Why do we conveniently skip over the longest night part? Why are we so afraid of darkness? Does the night make us uncomfortable because we’re afraid to look at our own shadow? What would happen if we faced the darkness within ourselves? Would we find an evil monster and an unworthy sinner within, as we subconsciously fear, or would we maybe, just maybe, give ourselves a chance to reintegrate a part of ourselves that we disowned long ago by extending love and compassion to the places from which we once withdrew love and compassion? (We do have an unlimited supply of love within ourselves, after all.)
What if this becoming enlightened is way simpler than we think (and I’d say that everything is way simpler than we think), and all we have to do is make the darkness conscious, like Jung said. Making the darkness conscious means that we first have to acknowledge that there is darkness within, and that’s where we get hung up. But I’ll tell you a secret, which is not a secret at all: you and I and everyone else who walks on this earth has a shadow side because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. The shadow side is not the problem, but denying that it exists is. How can I offer up something to the light when I keep suppressing it deeper into the abyss of my unconscious?
We can’t possibly embrace the light, even though we may conceptually know that light is what we are, until we set free whatever we have hidden from the light. And what is darkness but temporary absence of light? Once light shines on darkness, darkness disappears. But the darkness has to be brought up to the altar of light first.
The first step, then, toward making the darkness conscious is an honest look at all the convoluted ways we have employed to deny that the darkness exists. The second step is a decision to offer up that darkness to the fire of the light. The third step is developing trust that this process will take time, patience and discipline, or, in other words, the third step is repeating the first two steps over and over again.
In celebration of the winter solstice, I invite us all to relentlessly embrace our own darkness. Yes, we ask to be led from darkness to light, but without an honest look at the darkness and our acknowledgement of its existence, we can’t possibly be led into the light. May the time of self denial and spiritual bypassing be over, and may our hearts have the courage to stand up to our conflicted minds and lead us into the basement of our being so that we can recover, with love and compassion, all the light-starved parts of ourselves. This is our journey home.
This year especially, I’ve been grateful to have the choice to forgive. This was the intention I invited my yogis to set during our Thanksgiving practice today, and to keep that intention as we ride out the rest of this intense 2017 and slide into the next year.
Being grateful to have the choice to forgive doesn’t mean I’ll make that choice every time. And it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s an easy process. For a master, forgiveness is unnecessary because a master doesn’t see fault to begin with. A master’s heart is saturated with love so much that nothing can disturb it. A master sees beyond the duality of good and evil, birth and death, right and wrong. I’m far, far away from being a master but I trust that the day will come when I too will not need to forgive anyone because love and nothing else will flow through me. But in the meantime, as I often struggle to integrate my humanness into my divinity, I’m grateful that I have the choice to forgive, however imperfect that process may be.
To forgive, to for-give, means to give forward; to give love, compassion and understanding no matter what we perceive was done to us because we trust that doing so will benefit all. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone hurtful actions. It simply means we choose to understand that those hurtful actions are projections of the unhealed minds of people who are hurting, whether they know it or not. To forgive in no way requires we keep a relationship with the ones we’ve forgiven. It’s a process that happens by us, for us, inside our own hearts and it really has nothing to do with others.
Until we’re ready to wear the long white robe of a master (not literally, of course), we can surrender to the call of the heart to forgive and trust that the heart will never leads us astray, like the mind has done countless times. It takes the same amount of energy to resist, contract and sell out to fear as it takes to let ourselves surrender, expand and give over to grace.
This is the prayer I shared with my yogis today:
Let the fire of my heart consume any judgments, resentment and fear until all that’s left is understanding, compassion and forgiveness.
I ask for forgiveness from all those I’ve hurt, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or action. I forgive all those who have hurt me, knowingly or unknowingly, and release them. I also forgive myself for having held on to judgment and resentment.
May the energy of my heart be naturally, effortlessly and courageously expressed through me; through my body, my thoughts, my words and my actions.
May my own practice of understanding, compassion and forgiveness benefit others.
I know that this is the way of love, the way to freedom and the way back home.
Recently, after teaching a class, I witnessed one of my yogis, a gorgeous woman in her late 20s, come up to one of my long-time students, a graceful and elegant woman in her 60s.
“You’re so beautiful, it’s ridiculous!” said the younger one in a matter of fact but very much from the heart tone. “I just wanted you to know.” The older beauty looked at her sort of stunned at first but quickly her eyes just sparkled with joy and gratitude. They hugged and then I introduced them to each other, as I giggled with happiness, feeling almost euphoric to have been part of this honest and innocent expression of love. This is the main reason I freakin love my non-job!
There is a lot of hugging and warmth and love going on at Rishi Yoga. I wanted to have my own yoga studio not to make money, or to be the princess of yoga in this town, but to create a space where humans can come back to their natural, innate and divine desire to express love and feel loved. This may sound cheesy and naive, especially in this love-deprived, competition-based and fear-ruled (in other words, ass-backwards) world, but I have learned long ago not to go by the ways of the world. I much prefer the ways of the heart, as cheesy and naive as they may seem.
When do we usually give compliments? To those we know well and like? To those we want something from? To the people who are popular and trendy? To those who are not a threat to us because they’re not better looking or smarter or more successful than we are? And how often are the compliments we decide to give honest expressions of how we feel?
We’re conditioned to always calculate what we say and do and carefully gauge the effects of our words and actions against the consequence of those words and actions as they relate to our possible benefit. Or, simply said, we’re taught — whether overtly or in subtle ways — to filter ourselves depending on who we are talking to and what we may need from that person.
I’ve never been very good at playing that game. I’ve been told I wear my heart on my sleeve and I say what’s on my mind as if those things are somehow defects. I remind myself that the world is ass-backwards instead of trying to contort myself to fit the unnatural mold of “how adults should be.”
In my world, a compliment is an honest giving of my heart to another being. It’s a spontaneous and effortless giving for no other reason than the joy of giving itself. A true compliment can never be a giving-to-receive because that sort of giving is not giving at all.
So I will keep telling men that they’re handsome and women that they’re beautiful for the simple reason that this is what I see in them and I want them to see that beauty in themselves. It’s really not that hard to be kind. We all want and need the same thing and that is to feel loved and appreciated and seen for who we are at the deepest level, beyond the mask of the person and the meat suit we wear.
The world tells us that this is the season of giving. To me, every day is the season of giving as I have the choice to give freely from my heart, knowing that the miracle of true giving is that I receive exactly what I give.
What are you consuming emotionally, mentally, energetically and spiritually?
Everywhere we turn, we seem to be bombarded with opportunities to distract ourselves from the root causes of our pain, sadness, frustration, anger and fear. Instead of a compassionate, patient and honest — and private — inquiry into our own wounds, we latch onto the conveniently pre-packaged and heavily concentrated opinions, beliefs and views of reality as they are sold to us by the media, the pop culture and other offshoots of the mainstream mind and soul numbing machine. We adopt these ready-made life “facts” as our own, without even realizing that we have been fed toxic garbage our entire lives.
Some of us digest this sort of garbage easier than others, and we keep on “keeping on,” until we can’t keep on any more, in this lifetime at least. Some seem to even thrive on the soul sucking, fear and separation hungry energy being hurled at us from all angles. But those of us who find the ready-to-wear opinions, beliefs and “facts” of the mainstream extremely difficult to digest, those of us who have been nauseated by the spoon-fed version of reality since before we could even understand why it was so, those of us who yearned for a better way, a brighter world, a love-infused life rather than wishing for fame, success and recognition: we are the ones who have chosen to detox from illusion and drink and eat from truth instead. And just like with any detox, things seem to get hell of a lot worse before they get better, but they do get better.
So ask yourself again: what am I consuming energetically and spiritually? What sort of mental and emotional food am I choosing for myself? To what sources am I turning this day, and every day, for my daily bread? If you don’t like the taste of what you have been consuming, it’s time for a detox. Unplug, get quiet, learn to be alone with yourself — regularly — and repeat the process until the process itself becomes your daily bread. All the guidance you have been seeking and all the facts you thought you needed to find out who you are, and what the world is for, are waiting for you and have been waiting for you nowhere else but within you.