My yoga practice invites me to tune into rhythm and shifts in my body and in the world around me. I feel a strong pull this time of year to settle inward.
The December days in Santa Cruz grow short and crisp. The clouds build and empty rain onto our dry earth.
My lap is warmed by my kitty as we sit for morning meditation. My body responds and opens with the heat of asana.
I find myself exploring the darkness of the season. This journey takes me into the realms of story, mystery, ritual, archetypes, and the shadow within.
I waver between the joy of the season and a sense of sorrow. I miss my family on the east coast. I recognize this sorrow in others as well.
In the loss of a loved one and the prospect of celebrating this first Christmas (their favorite holiday) without them. In speaking with a homeless woman and knowing she is sleeping in the cold, wet rain that I am so grateful for. In financial challenges and the fear they evoke. In the stress and tension I observe in a yoga student, and the shift that happens in their breath when it starts to empty. In my own breath and belly as I practice taking soft, full exhales.
I re-read the story of Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It reminds me that we all have our own path. That we cannot spare anyone else from taking the hard road of life. And that by attempting to do so we only cause us both more suffering.
Siddhartha's tale reminds me to listen. To listen to the river of life. To listen to its joy and sorrow swirling together for moments and then flowing on endlessly.
As the winter solstice brings the transition toward more light and longer days, we celebrate light and community. In this darkness, we sit alone. And yet, not alone. Community events bring a sense of coming together, but the pull to go inside is also strong. We explore a tipping of the scales toward balance. And we revolve, a turning of one year into the next.
As children, the days seem to stretch on long and endless. The years are cyclical and are marked by how close we are to Christmas. Yet as we age, time seems to stretch out on a time-line with an unknown ending. We keep feeling like time goes faster. We march along the time-line with deadlines and to-do's and find ourselves steadily making our way towards its "end."
How often do you hear and say, "I want/need to, but I don't have time."?
Eventually, we may make time for things we think we can't. But we have to want it (or need it). It must become a priority. And we may have to give up something else.
During the transition to the new year, we often set resolutions or sankalpa (intentions) for life and practice. There is a sense of empowerment that comes with this. An opportunity for tapas (discipline) to be re-infused when we may have gotten discouraged or lost.
These intentions may be something we want to cultivate, something to surrender, or an offering. It is important to infuse your own reverence into your practice and intentions - and this takes time. So be patient, and offer what feels appropriate.
Have realistic expectations for yourself. "Be soft in your practice."
As Sheng Yen says:
"Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go on its way meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight it will take you there."
As we flow into this moment more fully, we remember this is all there is. This chance to reflect the light, to hold the darkness - to balance the scales of light and dark - this is all there is.