Monday, December 27, 2010

The Promise of a Brighter Day

Last week we experienced the darkest and longest night of the year. Like I mentioned last week, this time of year reminds us that there's something about this journey toward understanding ourselves that requires that we embrace darkness. And while being in the dark is very harrowing, an encouraging thing begins the very next day—it starts to get light again. There is a new dawn and the days begin to get longer and longer, the promise of summer and warmth and brightness.

One thing I've discovered this year when I've hosted my special Glowga events, where we turn off the lights, black out the windows, paint each other in glow in the dark paint and have gobs and gobs of fun while doing yoga in the dark, is just how difficult it is to get it completely dark. That no matter how dark it seems to be, there's always some light shining through somewhere. That light, no matter how minute, seems to draw all of our attention. The most encouraging lesson with Glowga is the fact that in the moment of our greatest darkness, what shines the brightest and gives us encouragement and joy is each other. Surely you have been bright lights for me this year.

Unlike any other year, this has been a seminal year for me. I've experienced some wonderful growth and changes this year and have been overwhelmed by the incredible support and encouragement offered by so many friends. I guess what makes me the most emotional is how many friends have stood up next to me and have effectively said, "I'm pickin' up, what you're puttin' down." When I wrote This is Where I Stand, so many of you stood up next to me, took my hand, and bravely and honestly proclaimed likewise. When Celeste and I went to India at the beginning of this year, so many of you supported us when it was our moment to say "YES!" and go. I will never forget the moment when I came back from India to a yoga class filled to the brim and told them all two things I learned in India: first, you don't need to go to India to find what you're looking for, that it can only be found within; second, that the greatest treasure in the world is a true friend. Truly in that moment, I was standing in a room of treasure.

This year I made a very courageous move away from my comfortable and beloved Centered City Yoga to open Prana Yoga with Matt and Jennifer Ellen, something which has and will inevitably cause me exponential growth. And even though we are still in our temporary space at Banana Republic while Matt is over at our permanent space swinging hammers, you have shown up. You've come to classes and have supported me and us. I can't tell you how touching that is. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love you all!

I want to celebrate this new year with you. I invite you come to Prana Yoga with me on New Year's Day at noon (sober up, then show up) and with ceremony and yoga and meditation, bury the old year and prepare for the brightness of what's to come. I invite you to come and sit and practice in the presence of like friends, some whom you've not met, friends who are like shining stars, and practice together as we shine our way toward a new day and a bright future. See you there!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Singing in the Dark

One thing I've learned from life and from sages is that on the journey toward self-understanding, we must inevitably experience darkness, grief, and loss to some degree or other. Part of our understanding is to see the whole picture, not only the parts which are peachy. We evolve from our naive understanding of God or the Universe as something which is only beneficent to the ability to hold the fact that to understand the whole picture means that we have to hold both of life's pleasures and life's losses. That to truly fall in love with this life we must somehow embrace the darkness. And I guess the true lesson, that lesson that ultimately will apprentice ourselves to experience the greatest joy, is the lesson of how to sing when you are in the midst of great loss and sorrow, when you feel the most abandoned. I guess we learn that it's not about that shallow definition of "success," but what "success" really means is defined by who can speak to whatever place they find themselves, who can stand at the end of the battle, when your house is burned down, your life feels like it's in ruins and stand with your integrity and honor and sing into the darkness. Or at least hum a little, even if it's interrupted by tears.

The universe has promised us a very dark night tonight. Tonight is the winter Solstice, when the sun is at its lowest point on the horizon, the days are the shortest and the nights are the longest. Solstice means "sun stands still." On this winter solstice, something very rare indeed is happening tonight: a lunar eclipse on the same date as the winter solstice, an occurrence which hasn't happened since December 21st 1638. And, weather permitting, those of us in North America will have prime seats to see this celestial show. At around 12:41 am, early Tuesday morning, we'll get to see what darkness really means. If you can see it, or can't bear to go outside in the cold, NASA will be streaming it online.

Yoga, of course, is a mirror for our life. Our practice of every-day living finds expression and offers us understanding through the ancient wisdom of yoga. So tonight, I'll be the crazy person outside singing to my darkness around 1 am practicing moon salutes to a vanishing moon as I learn and celebrate what it means to be utterly in the dark.

I'd like to leave you with a beautiful poem Celeste wrote about this deeper understanding of life and loss.

Poetry and Prayers

I speak poetry and prayers to myself.

These are my nursery rhymes,

sung soft and low,

as I wash with a fresh mango

and the gauzy morning sun in the bathtub.

Clean and feed myself,

(yes, that is what you can do)

and then

come to rest

change the shape of my body, and

begin to pray . . .

Let the sweetness and the harshness

wash over me.


I prop my warm, clean chest open,

arms and legs wide on the wood floor,

and move out,

here and there,

beyond my thoughts,

into here,

into what surely must be bliss.

I taste the tender, sweet morsels

so easily now,

heart open to breeze and birdsong,

the life moving outside my window,

reminding me

how to breathe.

Though my heart has not forgotten last night,

on rough hands and knees

drilling into the wood planks

beneath me,

wet with tears and anguish,

the wild animal of my heart

moaning its tenderness and loss.

Yes, my body is a canvas

of both fevers and flavors,

and does not forget.

The shadow of last night still

hugs me in deep places,


Yet in the rebirth of morning,

I've enticed myself


into a quieter and softer shape,


So that joy and hope

sift quickly and easily

in and through, and effortlessly

take me


Monday, December 13, 2010

Dance with Destiny aka The Bare Knuckle Brawl

Almost exactly 10 years ago, I worked in a different town for a little loan company , processing loans. The man who owned this company (we'll call him "Jeff," mostly because that was his name) taught me many valuable things, many about people, others about myself. He taught me that even more important than processing people's loans, my real business was connecting to people. Among other things, he taught me how to focus under pressure and how to organize around priority. He taught me principles which I've used every day for a decade. He showed me parts of myself waiting to come out.

Everybody has their Kryptonite. Despite Jeff's shining attributes, he wasn't a very good business person. I grew very concerned the day that my paycheck bounced. When I approached him with this dilemma, he asserted that even though the company was in a little slump, everything would soon be ironed out.

It never was.

When I finally left the company, he owed me about $1,000 in wages--a lot of money for a starving student, right before Christmas, who needed to pay tuition for next semester's classes. Come to think of it, that's a lot of money, period.

I became bitter. I wasn't going to easily let this go. I called the Utah Labor Commission and filed a complaint. They began to subpoena Jeff to arrive in court. The process was unfruitful and painfully slow. I soon realized that I could easily gain my $1,000 back if I were only paid five cents every time I heard the Labor Commission say the phrase, "your file is under review and we'll notify you once we know anything different." This empty search continued for over two . . . (I pause for effect) YEARS. Each new attempt to resurrect my file brought more pain and frustration.

Then I had a dream. I dreamed that I met Jeff. I saw him not as the evil person I'd made him out to be but as just a simple dude with a five-O'clock shadow (that's the way he was in my dream) who fell on rough times. In my dream, I forgave him of the whole thing. Completely. In my dream, he didn't seem very thankful or changed, nor did he seem really to even care, but that didn't matter because I had changed. Instead of angry and dark, I was light and free. So, I woke up that next morning let it go. I let it all go. Immediately, I felt better. I even began to forget that the whole thing had happened.

It took me several years to understand that even though Jeff wasn't a good business person and I had suffered because of it, he still taught me some very valuable things. I began to think that my lost $1,000 was a tuition paid for some very valuable lessons. Unbeknownst to me, my lessons weren't over yet.

I hadn't thought of Jeff and that incident for several years until one day about 10 years later when something on the radio jolted my memory of Jeff. I didn't remember so much his faults but all the positive things he taught me. Not only did I harbor no ill will, but remembering Jeff, I felt like I'd even grown from the experience. Proud, I said to myself, "If I ever meet Jeff again, I promise that I will vocally forgive him and thank him for what he has taught me."

Something else I've learned: when you call Destiny out for a bare-knuckle brawl, know that she'll come. She'll test you just like you asked her to. She'll give you what you wanted but expect a little more blood--your blood.

Almost exactly an hour later after I'd promised Destiny to make amends with Jeff, I was relaxing at The Beehive Tea Room, nursing a cup of Raspberry Mint tea when over my shoulder I heard a disturbingly familiar voice. I didn't have to turn my head to know that it was Jeff. It was 10 years later, a different town, in an entirely different context and I already promised Destiny that I'd forgive him.

I sat there in a cold sweat. Now that it came to it, I didn't know that I go through with it. I hadn't seen him in several years. It felt like I'd just noticed an old girlfriend who didn't leave on very good terms. I'd had even subpoenaed Jeff in court. There surely wasn't a good vibe between us. He started to get up to leave. If I was going to act, it had to be now.

I took a deep breath, stood up, and turned to face Jeff. As I stood there, I reintroduced myself. It took him a minute to remember me but when he did, he sort of stepped back as if I were about to throw punches. As I explained who I was, I reminded him of how he had hurt me and with a genuine smile, told him, "but you know what? I forgive you." I also explained all the things that I learned from him and how valuable that information was in everything that I do. He stood there for a silent second, stunned. He didn't know what to say. He made no apologies. He didn't try to explain. He simply told me that I made his day. I made mine, too. At the end of the day he gave me his business card, I don't know why. Maybe it was a token of remembrance.

And no, he didn't write me out a check for $1,000.

I learned that intentions are powerful. Our yoga practice is one way to act upon the privilege of dancing with Destiny. With clarity and self-awareness, we can see through the muddy waters toward the lotus.