One of my very favorite expressions is: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Someone had shared this phrase with me during grad school. I was experiencing the impact of self-isolation while writing my master's thesis which included reading eighty books in eight months. Fast-forward 35 years and this has been a year like no other. We have been through a lot and our hearts feel the heaviness for all who have suffered. As we experience the dark night of the collective soul and a collapsing of what has been familiar we must remember that even in the darkest times, the shadow can only exist with the shining of the light.
If all that is dark and hidden must come to the light in order to be transformed, how do we do this and how do we cope? Over the many years that I have been teaching yoga and mindfulness I have continually shared the important message that being present is all that we really have and that we have all the time in the world right in the center of Now. It is essential to anchor into stillness in the midst of chaos and to practise finding that inner state of peace that exists within each one of us. As we awaken the breath to go to our center and the stillness within - the presence that is our true home - we encounter the self where nothing has the capacity to disturb us, even the lockdown world that we are experiencing. We simply must maintain this practise of centering in the present moment and developing our inner locus of control to cope with all that we are currently facing.
As we practise yoga and mindfulness, we learn to also awaken to each day grateful for the simple treasures in life, our family, friends and community. Awakening with a full heart to the reservoir of wholeness within and seeing the precious gift of the present moment can occur at any time, day and night. Experiencing and expressing our gratitude, and honing our awareness of presence and all that is in the moment, truly helps us to remain calm, centered and openhearted, moment-to-moment, breath-by-breath.
We are all deeply saddened by the vast reality of the virus and the broad sweeping effects of it. Thankfully, there is Yoga! One’s yoga practice is totally portable and can be a companion wherever one is at, helping to keep one sane, stable and steady and for healing and spiritual growth. I am blessed with being able to live and practise my yoga and mindfulness in a place of water, rocks and trees, and fortunate to experience the special beauty of each day and each season. Though my living space has changed and my studio is closed for now, yoga as always, has come with me and continues to nourish and nurture me in so many ways. From asanas to pranayama to dhyana, on my mat or seated at my drafting table, with my loved ones or while deep in solitude, yoga’s wisdom continually guides me to a place of presence, connection, grounding, adaptability and resilience during these difficult and heartbreaking months.
Recently, I experienced two traumatic events. Challenged with what was unfolding in the moment, I needed to silence my shock, fear and other emotions in both situations in order to remain calm and thoughtful. Undoubtedly, my yoga and mindfulness practise greatly aided me in managing these difficult situations as it has on so many occasions over the years, including what might seem like the darkest of times right now. One situation had to do with making the decision whether or not to call 911; the second situation involved helping someone very dear to me build confidence and resilience when overwhelmed by a new medical diagnosis.
Interestingly, after these ten days had passed, my lower back said, “Okay, here I am. I am where you parked your shit. Now heal me!” Having strained my back muscles, once again my yoga was instrumental in guiding and supporting me, this time to heal my injury. In addition to providing the correctt asanas, sequence and practice for physical healing, yoga has always helped me with so much more: how to receive the unwelcomed changes that come unwittingly; to accept that which cannot be controlled and work with what can be changed; to recognize that because uncertainty is the new normal the present moment is the right one to be in and enjoy as we live one day at a time; and, to heal mind, body and soul, returning again and again to the breath and to presence. As yoga moves us from darkness into the light, the light of yoga gives us a wisdom that is deep within us, and we are better able to perceive even the very smallest hints of light even in the darkest hours.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
– Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning