The Source of Light.

FYI: Practicing yoga in the dark is hard

It’s like that moment in a yoga class, when you’re twisted into some awkward standing balance sequence when your calf is already on FIRE and the teacher calmly suggests, “If you really want a challenge, try closing your eyes.”  So you do, and you fall – magnificently – and you half-giggle, half-shrivel inside because while you’re slightly embarrassed, you don’t want everyone to see you taking yourself so seriously.

Yoga in the dark is just like that – over and over again.

Tonight I found myself there. What began as a “bright idea” sunset yoga session quickly ended when the insanity of the pinks and the last bit of golden cloud lining tiptoed in to the next time zone, and I was left standing on my mat in total darkness. 

My balance was shot. I literally felt like I was at sea – wind milling my arms to keep balance, digging in to the mat desperately with my toes, but to no avail. To be fair to the experience, it was not so much “yoga,” as a semi-choreographed “experiment in falling and flailing” in the darkness.

It wasn’t exactly what I’d been hoping for. The turn of yet another year just a few days off, and the questions of “Where am I headed?” and “what exactly am I doing with my life?” were playing round and round on my “Questions Sara Prefers to Discuss Over Wine” record. They fired in every synapse in my body, and dripped gooey reflection from my mind. Yoga seemed the best thing available to maybe-hopefully-pretty-please get some answers flowing out of me.

These are some of the darkest days of the year.  How ironic that they coincide with a time so deeply entrenched in goal setting and renewal.  Goals that are typically of the fixing, improving, and perfecting variety.  Goals that are about changing toward a brighter, better ideal… and by the same virtue, goals that are about saying “I am not that,” or “I will no longer do that,” or “I no longer see value in that.” We draw a line in the sand, and we push these pieces of ourselves away – cut them from our fabric of self and leave them chained behind at 11:59pm, December 31st

But where’s the integrity in that? And is it really that easy? The millions of broken New Year’s resolutions each year tell me maybe not. What happens to our goals when we’re distracted, when we stumble, when we lapse in to the leftover holiday cookies (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything)? We slink backwards in to our darkness… lamenting but justifying the fact that we’ve failed once again.

All this flashes through my head as I pitch sideways out of my lunge. I look around me for something to cure my balance… a teacher to tell me it’s okay to turn the lights on outside, an excuse to back out of this magnificent flailing performance. But that’s the caveat to a home practice – it’s just your mat, the moment, and the voice inside your head that whispers, "Stay."

I get this image in my head of a fortune cookie paper I re-found just earlier today.  It has to be about 11 years old now… or older… it lives in a bobby pin box from when I was wearing my hair in a ballet bun years ago.  It says:

“For light, go directly to the source of the light, not any reflections.”

So wise, so simple. So TIMELY. On our mats or off, and no matter the time of year, where do we draw from when the lights go out to get through our life’s practice? Let us not walk over to the wall and turn on the light switch, flooding our experience with artificiality.  Let us not turn toward over-indulgence to block out discomfort.  Let us not fall into metaphor of darkness as something to be avoided, but as something that very truly should be respected as half of our everything: the night to our day, the yin to our yang, the question to our sureness.

Imagine doing ourselves the honor of looking inwardly for this light rather than to outside distractions. We wouldn’t need compliments or approval from others – we already know our true worth. We wouldn’t train our bodies to rely on some super extreme diet – we would already know our beauty. The need to constantly plugged in to everyone and everything would ease – we could already see connectedness.

If we did this moment by moment, the days, then the weeks, then the months would pass in the creation of a new habit… one of turning inward toward the light, and finding the dearest teacher we will every meet: ourselves.  A teacher that asks not only that we fall, but asks that we fall INTO the unknown, the scary, the questionable... the darkness.

This New Year, let’s resolve to fall a bit more. To find our light, and find more of it, as we fall with grace in to the darkness – falling with love, and not fear. Falling with grace, not perfection. The dark is not that scary (unless you are, in fact, afraid of the dark... in which case your proven options of success are to 1) find a cape, or 2) put your big girl panties on). Find that little voice inside you that encourages you to leap, dance, tiptoe, or boogie in to the unknown.

May we... 

Give in.
Fall in.
Dive in.
Look in.
Search in.
Soften in.
Be in.

So that we can…

Glow out.
Grow out.
Expand out.
Dance out.
Shake it out.
Shine out.
Live out.

The more we can get to know the darkness, the better we understand it. The more inwardly we know ALL of ourselves, the greater opportunity we have outwardly to expand. What better gift can we give ourselves, and the world?

We all have infinite love, infinite potential and infinite depth - each and every one of us. There's no more critical time than now to fully, deeply acknowledge that.  So, here’s my challenge to you:
Go there. 
Go far, go deep.
Take your light there. Grow it.
Discover your full spectrum.
Paint the darkness with it… 
After all, the world could really use some brighter colors.


Of Red Strings and Wings.

I had the craziest dream last night.

I dream a lot, often and always. 
They are typically lucid, colorful, and instinctual.
Sometimes, in the early waking hours after an intense night of dreaming, it’ll take me an hour of tossing and turning, or at least the consumption of an entire French press, to shake out the dreamscape from my lifescape. The dialogue in my head usually goes like this…

I’m sorry to break it to you, but all that time you just spent packing? Well, it didn’t really happen.

Shoot. Do I like Thomas Markham? I don’t think I like him, but he was just so nice to me in my dream.  I think I have a crush on him. What am I going to do when I see him in the lunch room today? Shoot, shoot, shoot.

No, you can’t levitate off the ground by inhaling.

No, Dad didn’t really come back for just 24-hours… but yeah, maybe you did actually get to see him last night.

You get the point. 

Last night started with a green parrot. Green, as I identified on my handy-dandy bird identification dream card, with a skinny red line marking across the entire upper reach of his wing span… yellow dots to accent, and a bit of faded white between the red and the rest of it’s green body.

I knew the bird was a sign, because I had already dreamed about him earlier… not on some other night, but within the dream I was currently in. A dream within a dream… the bird was like an omen.

Deep in my stomach, I knew I had to take the bird.

The complicated part was that 1) the bird was severely injured, and 2) I was getting ready to leave some country in South America back to the states.  In effect, in choosing to keep the bid, I was agreeing to smuggle the thing back in to the states.


I really didn’t want to injure it more. In front of me, the parrot held its left wing to its side delicately, fluttering his right wing for balance. There was red string tied off at his shoulder to keep things stabilized.

Rationality aside, I packed the bird. In my suitcase first for volume and breathing room, and then reconsidered in to the pocket of my carry-on backpack. Enter flash scenes of getting through security, and fear over potentially being caught and forced to separate with the bird.

Then… Home. Safe.

Yet now, scrounging in the depth of the bag I can’t seem to find the bird. I unzip it entirely to lay open, the contents facing the artificial light in my bedroom. Nothing. Then, out from under a book and some papers flitters a tan and green butterfly.

In my head, it’s obviously the parrot. I don’t even stop to think about how strange this is that the bird has morphed life forms.  I’m more reassured knowing that the tiny red string is still around its left wing.

I’m so happy he’s still alive. My butterfly. I place him up on a ledge in a little square paper house I’ve made for him, where he’ll be safe.

The next time I come back in the room, I look up in the little paper house. The butterfly’s wings are on the floor… tan, dried and still. The red string is lying there too. 

It’s about all I can do to choke back tears. Why? I think. Why would that happen?

Then from inside the little paper house things start to grow. A green fern slowly unfurls and fills the space inside the house, poking its fingers just outside to glow silvery from the light. Looking closer inside, I can see the home has now been filled with things that felt good… soft things, small budding ferns and succulents, and flecks of gemstones. 

Just then, from behind one of the leaves, out crawls the body of the butterfly.  It moves spritely, with purpose and intent. He’s been busy – cultivating, creating, dreaming.

And only then did it click: his wings hadn’t fallen off, but the butterfly had chosen to let them go.

He looks at me just then, and if butterfly bodies could smile, he did before crawling up to the ceiling and weaving himself in to a cocoon.  Silver, glowing with green and blue threads. Cut off from the world at first glance, but transparent enough to see, the butterfly became the glimmer of a secret of something much bigger, and much more beautiful, yet to come.

Now here I sit.  Something left to ponder in my waking hours.