There are many names for the struggle between what is light and what is dark; favorable and not.
The New Age crowd tends to refer to the darkness inside as a mirror, yogis often talk about the distractions of the monkey mind and growing up in a Christian household I was taught this darkness had a name: The Devil.
The Devil is on a Single Mission: to destroy Heaven on Earth and to drive those in search of peace and grace to confusion and mistrust of themselves, their relationship to the mysteries of what’s greater and each other. The Devil has already lost the throne and the Devil is as far as I can tell one pissed off amigo.
I believe in all of that really which is why for me, the Devil is my teacher. Perhaps my most influential one.
I recently received an email in which an individual espoused the reasons why I suck, or how they believe I am sick; basically it has something to do with my Scorpio moon & the perception that I have an overactive physical yoga practice which have to my detriment both intersected in my solar plexus causing a host of Satan-like manifestations. According to this individual I am spiteful, manipulative, resentful, arrogant, and have driven a divide among the healing community in my small Florida town. According to this email I have single handedly destroyed what is beautiful and calm and just and healing. Oh, I apparently also have latent issues with mommy and daddy which will lead to knee problems if I don’t hurry and schedule an appointment with said emailer for help.
I gotta say two things. Wow!…. And thank you, Devil.
My first reaction quite honestly was laughter at the absurdity of all of this since I don’t actually have a personal relationship with this individual and because I know that they have been fed more than a few stories about how I have ruined yoga and how I have embodied all of the aforementioned negative qualities. In all honesty I was trying to create more of a relationship with this person but we were unable to communicate effectively and my instincts told me that it was time to walk away. Clearly I was right.
My second reaction was sadness because I once again am faced with the reality that no matter how much light I spread, no matter how much work I do in order to be a better human being, no matter how much I pray for and dedicate my practice and my meditations to these individuals who seem to hate and despise me, no matter what it is that I do, there is no changing them. That’s the key really. We can’t change the Devil. He is on a mission. We can continue to draw strength from our practice, from our prayers, from our meditations, and from a healthy relationship with a God of our understanding. We can continue on our path and ignore the Devil and/or we can continue on our path and engage and disarm the Devil. We always have a choice.
In fact I continue to understand that it is not me who is hurt and angry and scared. Yes, my actions, both bold and necessary, have no doubt impacted the community. How could they not? We are each delicately connected to the greater fabric of life and whatever we do, both “good” and “bad,” will ripple across the experiences of those we come into contact with. Yet, I am not responsible for the choice of people who are rude, angry, aggressive, mean spirited, or downright abusive to me because of my choices. I’ll be damned if I just sit around and let the Devil kick me and kick me and kick me.
I want to scream, “grow up!” Get behind me, Devil!
On my bad days I want to call out these little devils publicly and tell the world my side of the story. Then I breathe and do my work and I remember that the people that really matter already know what is going on, they see that it’s the Devil. They joyfully remind me that in the end all the hatred the Devil sends my way just becomes an opportunity to grow stronger. (Thank you, thank you, thank you. I accept!) I choose to use these bricks of hatred to build a firm foundation for myself & others. I can continue to honor their twisted spirits and praise them for choosing to host the very negativity that teaches the rest of us what it means to walk in the light. I bow down to these persons and say, “thank you for teaching me.”
Being human I still want to reach out and protect those that I know are being taken advantage of by these Devils and I feel called to love and honor and feel friendship and peace with all involved. I want to be in love with them. I strive to forgive them. I know I will continue to learn from them. I just feel so lucky to be a part of the greater human community. As we continue to grow it is wonderful to see how we are all just on our own path and that we are all so fragile and fleeting. We are children, really. It’s amazing to be floating along in harmony and see that the Devil keeps changing tactics to get under our skin in hopes we will renounce our divinity and power and light.
These experiences lead me to want to be instrumental in the greatest work that there is: healing the spiritual void in those that have succumbed to the Devil, be it the dark side within or the very real spiritual warfare of the highest order. As teachers we can help burn through and unwind these Sanskaras that are hindering our growth. We can forgive those that trespass against us. We can say, “thank you.” We can disarm. We can prevail.
Little did I know that while the Devil is being sneaky and spreading rumors, while the Devil is sending mean emails to me and telling students that my yoga teaching is liberal and destructive behind my back, while the Devil is busy trying to destroy me the light, The Light, is gaining in intensity around me. I hear angel wings and voices of choirs sing praises as students make breakthroughs on the mat and as they learn to be courageous in their lives. It’s true what they say, that love wins!
I am. We are. You and I and them and us are all the same and I am in fact part of this vital and beautiful community and it is okay that we disagree and it is okay that our students have a multitude of choices because it forces us to listen and to change and grow to serve them and that growth is good for us all. In fact, I think this world is full of amazing and gifted healing professionals and if I have failed to say, “thank you” loud enough for you to hear it, then read closely.
Thank you for making me stronger, for pushing me out of your nests and your heart and thank you for not signing that lease when you had the chance on a space that has become a vibrant and loving studio full of potential and laughter; a space that I am proud of and have the honor of participating in. Thank you for continuing to talk about me behind my back and teaching me that we are all part of the same spirit, because every time you do I am forced to pray for you and meditate for you and practice in your honor. And in doing these things I actually am growing in my practice and in the light and I feel the hand of God moving and stirring and healing.
Thank you for that last email. I had to sit and think about when I have, in truth, been all of those things because, sure enough, I am prone to the darkness within just like you. Thank you for my weekend meditation. It was valuable and it pushed my partner and I to talk and discuss and it caused me to reach out to my mentors and my family and have a frank discussion about when I have, in fact, been those awful versions of myself and it gave me a wonderful perspective on just how much light must be emanating from my little corner of the world. Otherwise, sweet Devil, you just wouldn’t waste so much time.
So I will continue to breathe in and out, pause, and repeat. I look forward to hearing from you because you always bring the most amazing gifts. I will continue to sway my hips as I walk down the street listening to my own music even though I know you are going to make another snide crack. Dear Devil, I love you, damn it! You are an awesome teacher.
See ya ’round.