The darkness is the light itself—not a pathway that leads to the light, but the essence of the light itself.
The beautiful postures of yoga are not an end, in and of themselves. The real teaching of the path of yoga is to use asana as a way to gain perspective on deeper life patterns. Like a ladder you climb to lift you out of the emotional mess of your life, the practice of asana gives you a much needed clear view.
Instead of sitting in the midst of cycles of suffering, without seeing a clear way out, when you practice yoga you gain both the power of clear perception, and a microscope to magnify your issues. It is that broadened perspective of the ups and downs of your life—of the suffering, joy, failures and successes—that makes asana meaningful.
In the Western world, we often orchestrate our lives to hide our weaknesses and make the sadness or pain go away. In doing so we place ourselves in a balancing act between attachment and aversion.
When we experience pain, there is a natural tendency to experience aversion. We run from the pain and hide it from ourselves and others. We do our best to ensure we never experience it again by trying to control inevitably uncontrollable circumstances.
When we experience pleasure, there is a natural tendency to want more. If you meet a person who pays you many compliments, it is easy to like that person and want to spend more time with them.
But this balancing act between attachment and aversion is the fuel for the cycle of suffering yoga seeks to heal.
If you are always running toward hope and from fear—holding onto love and firing up hate; praying for angels and fighting demons—then you are caught in the wheel of conditioned existence. All your actions will be fueled by one of these fundamental urges and you will spend your entire life running, like a hamster in a cage.
Yoga offers a way out of the cycle through a transcendent view of pleasure and pain.
If you walk the middle-way with a balanced mind, through the battlefield of your negative patterns, you emerge victorious and unharmed. The clear view will lead you to an experience of life free from the suffering associated with the endless fluctuations between the duality of good and evil.
It is not just that sadness leads to joy in yoga practice, but that the sadness actually is the joy. In this world, there is no light without darkness. In fact, there is no separation between the two when viewed from the highest perspective possible.
The darkness is the light itself—not a pathway that leads to the light, but the essence of the light itself. This is the unity the yogi must contain within the higher mind. Only then can the practitioner of yoga be truly calm in the face of opposites.
To repeat tritely, “all is one”, is easy. But to embrace your own sadness, fear and anger along with your beauty, happiness and joy is the test of a true yogi.
No matter how dark the darkness seems, nor how overwhelming the sense of sadness feels, the yogi will always remember it is the same emanation of soul. The brilliance of the mind is its ability to contain everything within its limitless field.
The depth and power of your emotions is a reflection of the depth and power of your spirit. It does not matter whether you feel intensity of joy or intensity of pain. It is all the same basic seed.
Accepting both your good and bad qualities, as essential aspects of your being, allows you to accept yourself totally and relax in your own skin. When you find your freedom from the vacillation between these opposing forces, you will find lasting peace.
In the physical yoga practice, it is important to remember to find the balance of opposing forces in every posture and movement. There is no inward rotation without a counter-balancing outward force.
There is no strength without softness, just as there is no happiness without sadness.
Every posture contains this tightrope walk across the abyss of human emotions. When you reach your arm forward along with inner edge, you always reach back down along the outer. Finding this experience in asana practice leads to physical experience of energy flow along the subtle body.
The road to personal discovery is long and filled with many trials. Like a mountain trek through a dangerous and fantastical new land, it is filled with heroes and villains, rain and sunshine, pleasure and pain. It is filled with the ordinary joys of daily life and the extraordinary bliss of a divine world. It is also filled with casual suffering and excruciating pain and loss.
You cannot buy yourself an easy passage.
There is no helicopter that can drop you off at the final destination.
The only way to get there is to walk every step over the easy path, every step over the abyss, and every step through rainbows, brilliance, hurricanes and snowstorms with balance, clarity and faith.
~ Editor: Jennifer Spesia