Lost in the Light* (originally published 4/25/15)

Last night marked the end of a difficult day. I’m prone to depression and certain conditions and hormonal shifts can kick it into high gear. I’ve learned to manage it, but those with first-hand personal experience understand it’s not something you can “shake off” as well-intentioned folks will often suggest. When it grabs me, this feeling, it seems as though my brain is the dark mysterious inky liquid in the Magic-8-Ball, but the answers just won’t float to the surface. Last night after the children had gone to bed, even the sweet angelic face of my daughter peacefully slumbering next to me couldn’t raise the shadow. I worried about her future, her brother’s and mine, the fate of the world at large. I was tired but I couldn’t sleep.

So after a little tossing and turning I thought I’d do some research for this morning’s classes. I recalled that I’d discovered a piece of folded 8.5×11 paper when going through some files a few weeks back, and I’d left it in the “unfinished business” pile. I had noticed that I had written some yoga sequencing on it at some point and wanted to give it a look before I tossed it. When I run across notes from classes or workshop from the past I find that revisiting them always provides a little creative spark as the old stuff strikes the rough, rawness of the newer version of me. What I found upon closer inspection was freedom…

Awhile back, I could never remember if it was ’07 or ’08, I went out to Ojai for the Yoga Crib, a weekend of workshops hosted each October by the lovely and generous Kira Ryder. Participants register for two workshops on Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. My Sunday workshop swan song was with Dana Flynn of Laughing Lotus NYC (where I am currently working toward my 500-hour training). In short, it was a game changer. Dana was playing with some really interesting transitions at the time, with names like “Shakti” and “I Am Free”. Her playlists were full of soulful music that spanned a myriad of disciplines and cultures and she infused her teaching with rich language and poetry.

I suddenly saw how my love of art and dance and reading and writing could dovetail with my yoga practice and teaching in much deeper and more meaningful ways. I was particularly moved by a poem that she shared, but when I got home only the idea of it lingered. Something about a path…but that was all I could recall, along with the feeling of comfort the words provided. I’d thought about it frequently through the years hoping that I’d stumble across the quote in its entirety, but in all of my research and reading it had never resurfaced.

Then last night as I looked more closely at the piece of paper that I’d hastily sorted a few weeks back, I realized that it contained my shorthand notes from Dana’s class in Ojai. I’d jotted them down on the back of my boarding pass that had been printed October 24, 2007 – seven and a half years to the day before my re-discovery of it. I’d written down some of the names of those interesting transitions and then there in the top right-hand corner were the words: Directions to a Poem. And that was it. I went straight to the googles and as you might imagine “directions on how to write a poem” and thousands of similar sites popped up. I finally tried <”directions to a poem” poem> and the second suggestion offered a link to some verses under that name by a Jewel Mathieson on a random Facebook page. I clicked on it, and there in the dark of the night echoing in the dark of my mind were the words I needed…

From Main Street: It’s best to leave well before dawn
Weather permitting, drive into the storm
Cross the bridge where the hemlock grows wild
These roots make the best medicine
Don’t follow the tracks
Take the tunnel at the end of the light
Dig along fault lines
Press yourself between rocks and hard places
Wait for the undertow
When you think you’re lost, you’re there.

And I was definitely there. It was as if the Magic-8-Ball had provided the answer I was searching for, the red dot on the map at a tourist attraction: “You are here.” There’s comfort in that. Context. Presence. Peace.

I always tell my students and myself that forgetting is more than okay, because it allows us to connect with the divine experience of remembering. I believe that it’s a huge part of the nature of being human that we get lost over and over again so that we may find and be found. It’s how we grow and evolve. Yoga doesn’t remove darkness from our lives, but it allows us to see it as inextricably linked to the light. It is the luminousness of the sun shining on the moon that creates the shadows that then sculpt the shifting crescent, the slivery smile and the grape-shaped gibbous. Light begets shadow begets light. We live the duality of infinite spirit contained, for an indeterminate time, in a finite form. As long as we are tethered to these beautiful bodies we will stay in the dance of forgetting and remembering, creation and destruction, our spirits continually rising like the proverbial phoenix.

“Directions to a Poem” speaks to the courage we must have to be committed authentically and presently to the ongoing process of breaking down to break through, to release the patterns that once served but come to eventually imprison, to be willing to spend some time in the murky mud so we might blossom like the lotus. The words remind us that it is only by traveling through the dark forest of the unknown that we find our way through to the light. So don’t be afraid to drive into the storm, to pass by the well-trodden paths for parts unknown, to put yourself between a rock and a hard place. Only then will we know – check that, may we remember – what we’re made of…spirit, stardust, song, Shakti, Shiva, shadow and the bright, life-giving light of the sun.

*”Lost in the Light” is a lovely song by Bahamas, although the lyrics don’t have much (if anything) to do with the content of this post.  It’s s a good listen nonetheless, and clearly I love the title.