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Seated in the Light

Would you choose to buy two lovely used leather chairs if you knew that an elderly couple committed a double suicide in them? This is a question that I have asked numerous times this fall as the opportunity to purchase these chairs became available. Family, friends and students’ immediate responses have been overwhelmingly negative. I have found this to be of great interest. From these strong responses, it appears that people are completely spooked and unnerved by the idea of occupying the seat that someone has passed away in. Yoga teaches us about the impermanence of all things, and that death is just another aspect of life; however, in our western culture we do not to have an easy acceptance of death. We fear it and perceive it as dark and scary. Hence, the common resistance to even sitting in a chair that had an appointment with death.

Fear of death is a major cause of human suffering. Thousands of years ago Sage Patanjali wrote in his text, the Yoga Sutra, that the basic causes of human suffering are fivefold: avidya (spiritual ignorance), asmita (egoism), raga (desire or attachment), dwesha (denial or aversion) and abhinivesha (fear of death or clinging to life). We can gain a deeper understanding of our own death and insight into that which is deathless by gaining insight into these five aspects of suffering.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, death is viewed as just one minor event in a cyclic process of rebirth and transmigration. From a Yogic perspective, death is regarded as an integral part of Life and emphasizes the importance of facing death before we die in order to not be overwhelmed by extreme fear. Yoga helps us to refine our perception and encourage a process of discovering what we are as human beings on a deeper level including gaining insight into the nature of death and what is beyond. By going deeper into the nature of death we are provided with an invaluable opportunity of realizing that aspect of our Being which is deathless and we can begin to see life beyond the ego. Yoga can further give us glimpses into that aspect of ourselves which is unchanging, or undying.

In our four-season climate, the seasons do change. Death, decay and dormancy within our natural environment can be observed as we transition from fall into winter. In turn, we also prepare for greater cocooning in our homes during the pending winter months. As darkness and cooler days begin to descend upon us, some people anticipate our potentially harsh conditions of winter with trepidation rather that with an attitude of receptivity and acceptance for the unknown and the inevitable changes that lie ahead.

Last week, Deepavali, the festival of lights, was celebrated in India. This festival celebrates the light and abundance of life. In the west when we fear the darkness we can remember Deepavali, turn inward and rejoice in the inner light that is our true divine nature. By opening our hearts through yoga practise, and accessing spirit, we can choose to spread the light to those we care about. Through the very powerful tools of yoga, we can experience our energy, find joy in the longer days of darkness and choose to resist our reactive tendencies towards fearfulness or negativity. During these fall and winter months, why not commit to a regular yoga practise and bring to it an intention of sharing your inner luminosity with others by embracing change and finding peace and acceptance within the darkness?

“The heart chakra is the seat of the soul.”

-BKS Iyengar


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