The Light and the Dark

Yoga teaches us to remember balance. Yoga teaches us to unite with our selves and with the practice and with one another. Yoga shows that, in Seane Corn’s words, we possess both the light and the dark, and must learn to reconcile, rather than recoil from, both of these parts of ourselves. [The quotes are taken from the transcript of an interview that she completed with Soundstrue.com and it can be read in full via the links and here. The words are my own.]

You have to go into the shadow to understand the light. You have to understand what love isn’t in order to understand what love is. And so for some people in the yoga practice, they will get to those places, but only when they are ready. Only if they are open to it.

Facing the light is easy. I do it every morning. I get up at 6 a.m in the now mostly-dark and walk East. The view isn’t pretty, necessarily; upon hitting the broadest avenue past my house I look out across a track, a Con Edison plant and the occasionally reeking Live Chicken purchasing/killing/whatever place. For some, this is the dark, for me, this is my neighborhood and a vehicle to face the light – the now gentle tinges of color spreading across the patchwork cloudy sky, that eventually burst into a cacophony of sunrise as I get in my three or so miles before breakfast. I watch the dark of the clouds change. I watch the rays from a blistering orange sun merge seamlessly into the still-dark of the West, better than any photograph, any watercolor can render. As I turn from the light to the now glimmering Manhattan skyline, the dark buildings burn: windows shimmering, blinding, white, until suddenly, the sun raises high enough to balance out the dull bricks with the glint of the light on windowpanes, chrome and steel.

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It is one thing to hold the light within myself, but how can I hold the space for another being when they are in their shadow and still love them? And not judge them?

Some people fear the light. Some people fear the happiness and that “unbearable lightness of being” because they need to cling to a tangible suffering. Some people are so entrenched in avoiding this light that they exist only in the dark, focusing on the darkness because they’re scared of what will happen if they finally open up and breathe and try to be light. Happy. Secure. They exist in the dark because it’s safe and they no longer know how to accept and expel it and to welcome the light. They don’t even know what light is anymore.

Love shows up in a lot of different ways and it is very often not in the way that we expect.

Accepting and embracing the dark parts of yourself is not easy. It means you really have to go deeper than you ever have been, to maybe practice yoga. Although we can live through these dark experiences, the body remembers. It clings when the mind has released. Yoga, movement, the breath, help the body to release. To remember that the dark will be there, but to accept its presence, a presence that cannot or should not be expunged because it is part of who we are, but to prevent this darkness from consuming, festering, or dominating. We eventually learn that like the sunrise, the dark and the light can seamlessly coexist in a swirl of color and human experience, such that one can barely perceive where light begins and dark ends.

We are here to learn what love is. In order to learn what love is you have to experience the opposite. It is just life. And so the more we can go though these challenges and understand that it is teaching us compassion, it is teaching us awareness. I know because of the work I’ve done on myself over these years that when I am confronted by someone who is doing their crazy dance, when they are acting out in ways that other people might think are inappropriate or shut down or unconscious, I can hold that space for another person because I see their humanity, I get what they are working through, and I don’t know how many times they are going to have to do this crazy dance. But it is not my business. My business is to love them, is to hold space for them, and maybe even pray for them. But it is not to judge. And the only way that I am going to judge them is if I am still judging me. And so by doing the work of empowerment allows me to create that space where I can empower others, not by teaching or preaching but just simply living as an example and holding space for someone to do whatever they need to do.

It is extremely hard to remember the light in people when they have gone so far into the dark that we barely recognize them anymore. When we can’t understand what is this darkness. What makes the dark persist, exist and eat. Why these people have lost the light. I know though that light has to be there, somewhere, no matter who we are, what we have done. I don’t call it hope, a god or a soul, but everyone still has some light, despite a potentially decades-long entombing in darkness.

Because I know that the universe would not exist without balance, and we are no more less of the universe than we are of one another.

The most important story that I need to ignore is my own. I need to let go of all of that other stuff. I cannot possibly know what is really going on. All I need to know is that I need to dignify the human experience as it is with no attachment to the end result. And love bigger than I ever imagined possible.

 

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