“And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.”
(Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin)
As a child in Bosnia I was drawn to this song although I knew only a handful of English words back then and had no idea what the song was about. I was fascinated by “the lady” and wanted to know who she is.
As a teenager, living in Germany, one day I spontaneously drew an adult version of myself and included some verses of Stairway to Heaven in that drawing. It was odd because I hadn’t heard the song in years.
About 15 years later, while teaching a yoga class in Reno, Stairway to Heaven started playing on an electronic music Pandora station. I almost fast forwarded to the next song, but I’m glad something told me to let it play because it wasn’t a mistake.
“The lady” kept visiting me through the years but I guess I hadn’t been quite ready to hear her message until that day in 2011.
It was only then that I finally heard the lyrics of the song and understood what “the lady” had been trying to tell me since the mid 1980s!
I cried then and cry still most times now when I hear this beautifully heart opening, wisdom filled and almost otherworldly song because I know I’m taken care of and have been all along.
Since 2011 I’ve heard this song play in many “random” situations in which I felt discouraged and dispirited. “The lady” just knows when I need her guidance and love.
That’s just how the Holy Spirit works: always there, always speaking to us, always having our back. We ask for guidance and help, but do we really listen? Are we open to get our answer from unconventional and unexpected messengers?
There are infinite ways through which spirit talks to us. Whatever is going on in our life is our lesson and the answers are hidden within our questions. And, like in my case with “the lady,” we’ll hear the message when we’re ready. All is well and everything works in perfect timing. Because, like “the lady” shows us, everything still turns to gold.
The 108 sun salutation practice is the epitome of togetherness, the glorious mental and emotional reset and in many ways the triumph of love over fear. A room full of open hearted yogis who courageously leave their ego armor at the door and move, sweat, breathe and sing their way to freedom and do so together.
Less than a week ago, when this ever-unstable world got even more unstable, all classes, including the 108 practice, had to be canceled. I was going to do my own thing at home, but the together part is what makes this practice the magical experience that it is.
And just like when there’s a will, there’s a way, when there are open hearts yearning for healing through togetherness, nothing can stand in the way. We got together today, maybe not physically, but full heartedly all the same. And we moved, and sweated, and breathed and cried and sang and healed – together.
Thank you, my yogis, for joining me in this new way of continuing our together. We would have all preferred to share our practice in the same room to joining virtually but we joined, and that’s what matters and what heals.
This too shall pass.
Real hugs will return.
I love you ❤️
Many of you asked me to share the nine dedications that precede each round of 12 sun salutations, as well as the playlist. The dedications, and the songs I chose, start off very “human,” pained and dramatic even, although carrying an invitation to change our minds about the purpose of our pained and often dramatic and traumatic human life.
To make a choice for peace, we first have to look at the inner conflict. To rise, we first have to acknowledge that we have fallen. And to say no to the ego, or the fearful self, we first have to open our eyes and hearts to the presence of that fear inside of us.
As we continue this moving meditation (and it is definitely moving in more ways than just the physical), we gradually loosen our attachment to the little self, the part of us that feels insecure, trapped, fearful and alone. Because we have turned toward the fears of the seemingly separate “me,” we have diffused the power of that false self to reign over us. We slowly detach from the mask – the person – and move toward presence, the spirit and unbound love that we are in reality. Having remembered our true Self, we rejoice in the connectedness to the home we never left, even if that joy seems very temporary.
Truth is always true, just like illusion is never true, so even the tiniest moment of Self-remembrance is enough inspiration to move us forward on our way back home. As we continue to navigate the uncertain waters of this human experience, we find that we meet life’s lessons with a little more grace, trust and openheartedness.
This is the purpose of our practice of 108 sun salutations: looking at and moving through the changeful as we remain grounded in the changeless, ultimately remembering that we ARE the changeless and that the changeful has had no effect whatsoever on our reality as spirit.
Here are the dedications, followed by the songs I played for the respective round of sun salutations:
1 ~ 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.
Superman by Rachel Platten
Heroes Fall (feat. Essa) by Hidden Citizens
2 ~ 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.
Land of Confusion (Epic Trailer Version) by Hidden Citizens
Nothing Is As It Seems (feat. Ruelle) by Hidden Citizens
3 ~ 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.
Here We Stand by Hidden Citizens & Svrcina
Awake My Soul by Mumford & Sons
Believer by Imagine Dragons
4 ~ 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.
Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas
Carry You (feat. Fleurie) by Ruelle
5 ~ 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.
Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
Man In the Mirror (Acoustic) by James Morrison
6 ~ 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.
We Get By (feat. Ben Harper) by Mavis Staples
Carry On by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young
7 ~ 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’ll Fly Away by Rising Appalachia
Down to the River to Pray (feat. Sonia Isaacs) by Wanda Vick
Sun is Shining by Bob Marley & the Wailers
8 ~ 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.
Bring Me to Life (Synthesis) by Evanescence
Light of a Clear Blue Morning by Maggie Thorn
9 ~ 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.
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
Aad Guray by Deva Premal
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 choose from spirit rather than from the ego, 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 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.
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.
Several people came to me this week, saying the same thing, more or less: “I just feel so confused. I have no clarity right now.” I didn’t think I could possibly inspire or console anyone because I felt the same way. Wave after wave of stupid and senseless violence had me thinking I was back in Bosnia, a child in the middle of a war, trying to understand how humans and the world and life can be so damn cruel…
After the violent incident in Las Vegas, which shook up the whole state, I even doubted whether I should keep teaching yoga and owning a yoga studio because all I wanted to do is hide from the world, preferably after letting myself scream every variation of the F word because of my frustration and disappointment with the said world.
This one hit home more than I expected, maybe because Nevada is my home now. Maybe because as a child I witnessed humans turn into monsters overnight, brutally killing anyone who opposed their sick agenda. Maybe what disturbed me most is seeing how effective the fear-based conditioning and propaganda has been since we seem to be turning against each other in ways that are increasingly soul mutilating for all.
If there would have been a way to get “beamed up” and out of here, I think I would have taken that option on.
But as always, teaching yoga and doing my best to be a space holder for others — even and maybe especially on days I feel like I’m not qualified to be that — turned out to be the magic trick for getting my head out of you know where. Yes, we were sad, disturbed, angry, disappointed and scared. But we also were, and still are, warriors of LIGHT.
Consider this: If the dark could have won, it would have won by now. Throw your darkness at me and you may disorient me for a moment, “But still, like dust, I’ll rise,” as Maya Angelou said.
For me personally, this was a reminder to go back to my study and a practice of A Course in Miracles. I had drifted away from it a bit, not because I didn’t fully resonate with its teachings but because my ego tripped me up and I dropped back into being attached to the ways of the world, although I fully know that the world is nothing but a projection of our fear based thoughts of separation. Something that is based on fear, like this world, can only produce fear. And my fear reaction to anything happening in the world just perpetuates the whole illusion.
It is so easy to get carried away by the insanity of duality. It may not be as easy to get ourselves out of the whole mess of having followed the ego down the rabbit hole, but it’s also not impossible. It’s actually very much possible and in reality, all of us are already outside of this silly dream of separation and fear but we haven’t yet woken up to our own reality.
Knowing this, what else is there to do and what else could I possibly strive for other than remembering fully what I am because once I know what I am, everything else will take care of itself.
So here is my message to us all (including myself, of course):
Don’t expect to make sense of an insane world.
Your lack of clarity about the world is a sign of your recognition of the nonsensical and fear based nature of this illusion we have mistaken for our home.
Embrace your feelings of confusion and even helplessness, and ask for a different way to interpret these feelings. This new way will help you see that all acts of violence, hatred and fear are disguised calls for love by those who have completely forgotten what they are. It’s up to you to remember what YOU are, and forgive those who are still in the dark, “for they know not what they do,” as a beautiful brother of ours taught so long ago.
Remember this: You are not here in reality at all, but while seemingly within this dream, your job is not to understand the world, or to figure out why it is the way it is. You are here for one reason only: to remember what you are. Your mission of self remembering, once started, is the greatest gift you can give to the world and the most powerful — and only — catalyst for change.
I believe in you. And I love you.