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Warning: naughty language ahead.
It’s an early spring morning in the Pacific Northwest, right before sunrise.
The air is cool, and the steam from my freshly brewed coffee, in my Harry Potter coffee cup (Team Gryffindor till I die), is spiraling up toward the sky. I watch it as it evaporates, disappearing into the thin air.
On the right side of me, the skies are dark and the clouds look like puffs of grey smoke billowing in the sky. On the left, I can see the peak of the sun coming over the hills. The clouds are pink, white, and orange, like a creamsicle—mixing together so perfectly like a painting you see in museum. It’s beautiful, humbling, and awe inspiring.
In between the spaces of clouds, I can see little blips of a blue sky. Not the regular blue the sky is during the day, but a pale blue. Dense even. There is a jet cloud going horizontally across the sky. The smoke formation is tiny and gradually becomes wider, lighter the more the jet moves.
When I was little, I was convinced these little strips of smoke were aliens, piercing our atmosphere to say hello as they pass from galaxy to galaxy. Let’s be real, I still believe that.
Whenever I’m having a bad day, I like to look at the sky. Look at the beautiful piece of art God created just for us. That leads me to look at myself as a creation of God, too—just like the sky. And just like the sky cannot be light all the time, neither can I.
You wouldn’t know it on the outside, but there’s a war going on inside my head—a war between the light and the dark. I believe I have a certain type of darkness, not the kind present in evil, but the kind that comes when you’ve been through some shit. The type of shit that leaves the scars of a certain type of life, evidence of a harsh reality.
I don’t really know; all I know is that I feel the darkness, often. Some days, it feels like a little, dark cloud is following me around. Some days, I’m so encased in the darkness it feels like I’ll never get out. And other days, it’s somewhere in between. But because of that darkness, I can illuminate the light. I can illuminate the love this world so desperately needs.
Because of the darkness of my past, I can help others who are experiencing or have experienced the same trauma. Sometimes I feel like I have a shield of energy around me that people gravitate to. It’s like they can intuitively see that I, too, have the darkness. So they come to me, talk to me, confide in me, cry to me. I am able to provide that safe space for them.
And for that, I am grateful.
Darkness is what brought me to my yoga practice. I was 22 years old and completely shrouded in grief. I had just lost my mother to a long battle with cancer, and it tipped me over the edge.
At this point in my life, I had been through the kind of shit some can’t even imagine, including a childhood full of darkness and evil that I carried with me. At this point in my life, I had done yoga but only at hot yoga studios and purely for the physical benefit. It wasn’t until I felt there was no way out that I turned to yoga for emotional healing.
I was at rock bottom, and it felt like there was no light in sight.
Yoga was a way for me, mentally and emotionally, to find that light. So many nights, so many hours spent on my mat. Sometimes moving my body, sometimes sitting completely still. Silence.
Every emotion you could imagine would show up each practice: sadness, anger, happiness, confusion. Desperately trying to find my way out of the darkness. Trying to find that shred of light to save me from myself. It was like I was stuck in a coffin, six feet under, and I couldn’t get out.
I shed thousands of tears on my mat—and I still do, on the daily. Each day, I showed up for myself—and I still do. Little by little, day by day, my world became a little bit lighter. I became lighter. Darkness led me to my practice, and it led me to be able to shine that light for others. I knew deep in my bones that I needed to help others see that light; I needed to share. Teaching yoga is my way of doing that.
Something that I am big on teaching is vulnerability, and allowing ourselves to feel and recognize every emotion that comes through. That means the good and bad, the dark and light. I tell my students, it’s almost like a dance. You cannot have one without the other.
As yoga teachers, we are always taught to shine our brightness, to lift others. I was never really taught in my training to be vulnerable with my darkness and know that it’s okay. But you can’t be fucking cheery 24/7 with a plastic, fake smile attached to your face—it just isn’t possible. So I’m open and honest with my students when I’m moving through something, that way they are able to, too. I’m here to help, but to do so, I have to be able to be myself and be vulnerable with my students.
Because if I’m not, how the fuck can I help them?
Sometimes in class, while watching a room of my students tap into their breath, into their light, I get emotional. If we are really being honest, I get emotional during class a lot. (Fine, I’m emotional all the time okay…) Sometimes it’s because I get so happy watching them, but also because I am moving through my own darkness.
In these moments, I start to feel the tingles up my neck and chin and all the way up to the crown of my head. My heart starts beating, my eyes well up, and I begin to speak. My voice is shaky and my hands are trembling, but I let it all out and tell them what I need to hear. It’s really like a punch to my gut. But in those moments, I know that I’m doing what I am meant to. I’ve tapped into that un-tappable place. Their tears start to flow and I can physically see their bodies relax.
It’s a release. Not only for them but for me.
Being able to hear my students tell me how I changed their lives, how I showed them there is a way out of the darkness, how through my teachings they finally see the light—this means everything to me. It pulls me out of the darkness. What my students don’t realize, is how much they help me.
The things I’ve been through, what I continue to go through, they are dark and scary. I’ve always been ashamed and embarrassed of not being “normal.” How can I be a writer? How I can be a yoga teacher? How can I preach positivity and light and love if half the time my mind is shrouded by darkness? How can I do these things if I haven’t lived this perfect, holy life?
But, it’s because I have been through it. Because I haven’t lived a cookie-cutter life. I battle the light and the dark daily so I can teach others how to do the same. This is my purpose, my mission. This darkness I feel, I discombobulate it and I turn that shit into light—the brightest fucking light you’ve ever seen.
I want others to know that it’s okay to be the light and the dark. It doesn’t make you a fraud, a freak, emotionally unstable, or not good enough. It makes you human—human enough to admit things aren’t all peachy fucking keen. Hell, if you took a look inside my brain, it would look like all 64 Crayola crayon colors were used to scribble in circles in my mind.
It’s so important to remember there is no magic pill or practice or mantra that will eliminate the darkness. It’s not possible. It will never be eliminated. We have to work at it every damn day. Whether that be by reading a book, listening to music, practicing yoga, meditating, being in nature, breathing, writing your heart out, seeking therapy, serving others, or being with your family, find what brings you joy—what pulls you out of the darkness—and do it.
Even on the days when the darkness feels like a dementor constantly trying to suck the life out of you, get up. Don’t be afraid of the darkness. Face it. Respect it. Nurture it.
Like I tell my students, it’s a dance. One cannot move without the other.
And so, I dance with the darkness every day. But I think that’s okay, because without the darkness, there can be no light.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross