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)
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 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,
how to breathe.
Though my heart has not forgotten last night,
on rough hands and knees
drilling into the wood planks
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