Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sweet Darkness

If you have been reading the last few blog entires, you will know that I was on a yoga retreat in the beautiful country of Italy. In between our yoga lessons, we had the opportunity to visit local areas and take in all the wonderful sites of the countryside. We have toured and visited some of the amazing cathedrals, museums, and galleries. We have tasted the Chianti wines, the flavorful gelatos, and a slice of pizza or two.

Continuing with the yoga retreat theme of transformation, our next yoga practice had us think about stepping into darkness. Sometimes as we experience shifts and changes in our lives, it is not always smooth and pleasant. We may often have to walk through challenging and trying circumstances before we can reach our final destination. Those trying times may also be dark and mysterious. They may even be scary and uninviting. This darkness may entice us to stop the journey, turn around, and go back to where we started, having never reached the completed transformed self.

I'm reminded of the journey of the lotus flower and how it comes to be. The seed of the lotus plants itself in deep, dark, murky waters. As it sprouts, it must take on the journey to find the light in order for it to finally blossom. This may seem like a simple task, but think of the obstacles the plant must face in order to reach the top: the refracting sunlight on the water makes if difficult for the plant to see the light clearly. But instead of turning back and giving up, the lotus plant continues to grow upward until it finally reaches the light where it can then blossom into its full potential.

Lotus Pose
The Lotus Posture is a very symbolic yoga position. It represents peace of mind, stillness, completion, arrival, etc. It is often the seated posture used for quiet meditation and chanting. Although the pose represents peace and stillness, it can be a challenging posture to move into - just like the journey of the lotus flower itself. But once achieved, having moved through the darkness, one can experience bliss.

Disclaimer for this pose: it is recommended that one has fairly open/flexible hips and ankles to achieve this pose. If you are not as flexible as you'd like to be yet in these areas, try a modified seated posture like Easy Pose (simply sitting on your yoga mat with your legs comfortably crossed.)

To move into Lotus, sit on your yoga mat and bring one foot high up onto the opposite lap. As you're able, take the other foot, cross it over the first leg, and take it to the opposite hip bone. Both feet will be resting visibly on your lap. Simply sit here with a fully extended spine for 10-20 breaths. If you'd like, cross the legs the other way (the bottom foot now on top) and remain for an additional 10-20 breaths.

Candle Gazing
To further your journey in this pose, here is a meditation exercise that can truly settle the mind. It is called Candle Gazing. It is an ancient practice, yet simple to do.

Light a candle in a room without much light. While sitting in your Lotus Posture, stare at the candle without blinking for 20 seconds to start. Then close your eyes for 20 seconds. This is round one. On the second round, open your eyes and stare at the candle flame for 30 seconds, then close your eyes for 30 seconds. You can do as many rounds as you'd like. You can keep the time period the same for each round or increase the time you stare at the candle and have your eyes closed as you desire. (This exercise is best done when using a timer that tracks the time you have your eyes opened and closed.)

Notice how you feel after this meditation practice. You don't really need to bring anything to mind while doing this practice. Simply be at peace, in the darkness, and drawn to the light of the candle. Become the lotus plant moving through sweet darkness to reach the light ready to blossom into a brilliant flower.

Written on July 24, 2013 in Italy.

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