~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

To Shine

September 20, 2012
I head out the door with first light, after one last sleepy smooch from each of my sons. My car’s gas tank is full, my music is queued up, and a steamy thermos of Earl Grey tea sits by my side.
I’m heading to my first weekend yoga workshop since my older son was born nearly a decade ago. Most of my days now are spent with wiggly children wrapped around my legs, and so the possibility of an entire day alone feels decadent and blissful.

The two early morning hours on the highway - with grey clouds shrouding the horizon and rain spilling down the windshield - feel like a beautiful retreat themselves. And then soon enough I enter the Yellow Springs community center where nearly 100 mats are already laid out from class the night before.

I slip my mat into one of the few open spots in the room and slide down onto my back. A sense of homecoming settles in. I’ve been here many times before - in another lifetime, it seems - studying with yoga luminaries from around the world. My life has been radically reshaped by the teachers I’ve met and the friends I’ve made in this hall. But today I’m not looking for transformation or any fancy new yoga poses. I’m just looking for a little stillness and ease, a day away from a jam-packed life, a chance to unplug.

Soon enough Erich Schiffmann arrives and the morning session begins. I nod in agreement as he reminds us that in the end yoga isn’t about postures but is about love. I smile when he reminds us that yoga means to yoke, and the practice connects our small selves with the big soul of the universe. And I sigh in happiness when he explains that we’re all manifestations of an energy more potent and vast than we can even fathom. I feel my spirit brightening along with the world outside the window, blue sky filling us both.

And then we move, first through a guided sequence of postures, and then into an intuitive, free-form yoga flow set to music. As I slip from forward bend to backbend, from lunge to deep twist, a wave of thanksgiving overtakes me. This yoga - this movement, this breath - has saved me so many times.

My mind reels back through the long parade of teachers who have guided me, and I find myself bowing internally to each of them. And then I consider all the yogis around me, and all those who’ve practiced here in the years I’ve been gone. I offer thanks to all of them for holding the space, for continuing the path.

A deepening sense of connection settles in. The circle widens, and inwardly I whisper thanks to all those bright souls on the planet who are practicing on behalf of us all.

Even now, at this very moment, there are yogis and monks and nuns and lamas all over the world who are praying for us, breathing for us, sending out blessings for you and me and for every creature in the universe. And we are invited to join them in offering up goodwill to the broader world. Isn’t that amazing?

Our mid-day break comes soon enough, and I forgo lunch and wander the nearby shops instead. I linger in the book shop, gathering up books about clouds and earth prayers and poets I've never heard of before. I wander into the funky emporium and buy jasmine-scented candles for friends.

And then I find myself at the steps in front of Mr. Fubb’s Toy Store, where novelties are stacked from floor to ceiling. I wander the narrow aisles, scooping up gifts for the children I so happily left just hours ago... and who suddenly I miss with all my heart. A light-up top called a cosmic light spinner catches my eye and I scoop up a pair, sure that the flashing lights and nonstop movement will delight my little boys.

And then I head back to the yoga hall for a few last hours of quiet contemplation. Erich begins again, reminding us that everyone around us is a brother or a sister and that we should treat each other in that light. He urges us to relinquish our small, egocentric perspectives in favor of a broader “cosmos-centric” view that emerges from an understanding that we are all tapped into the same source, that in the end we are all one.

As we slip into our last meditation of the day, my mind grows sweetly quiet. Words, poses, questions, answers even, fall away. My skin softens and my heart grows light. I drop into a place where everything shines and where nothing more is needed.

Life seems so clear, so simple. We are each here to shine, to plug our hearts into the giant light of the world, and to glow in that connection. Once we find that place of deep communion, the techniques and the poses grow unnecessary. They all slip away.

The saints and mystics were right, of course: At the heart of the universe rests love. In the end we’re just tiny, beautiful, mysterious, lovely twinkling lights, reflecting the glow of some eternal presence. We’re small splinters of divine love, shimmering brightly together, all rooted in the same source.

And so for the last few moments of the day, I rest quietly, breathing in and out, one small body among many in this one small building among millions on a planet of billions spinning through the cosmos. I’m just one small glimmer of light surrounded by so many more. Looking down upon the room from above, I’m certain, you’d see a breathtaking array of shining beings, just breathing in light and breathing out love.

Eventually Erich rings his bowl one last time, and the hall slowly begins to stir. A few beautiful hugs later, I’m back in my Volvo and on the road. I exhale and feel my heart leaning toward home, eager to pull my sons back into my orbit. I smile when I realize that I headed out for the day eager to be alone, to disconnect. But what I found was a connection so vast and so deep that I could never feel alone again.

Soon enough I’m covered in sticky fingers and warm hugs. In return, I dive into my bag of goodies and pull out the cosmic light spinners. My sons rip the toys from their boxes and dance through the house, the tops spinning and flashing as the boys pretend to sail their space ships all the way into the far reaches of the universe.

And then my five-year old suddenly stops. He pulls his blinking, spiraling toy right to the center of his chest, and smiles.

“Look, Mom," he says. "This is just like my heart, spinning and sending out light.” Yes, yes, he gets it. That’s just how my heart feels, too!

We finally tumble into bed, three bodies and two cosmic light spinners, sighing ourselves toward sleep. My mind reels back through my day, through words and meditations and postures and stillness and solitude and communion.

How beautiful it is to be so very small and so vast all in the same single breath. How wondrous to be together, always, even when we’re apart. And how lovely at last to know the secret: We’re all here to shine.

My sons and I watch the toys twinkle in the dark, the reds and yellows and brilliant blues spitting onto the ceiling like fireworks. I hear the breath of two sweet souls deepen as their bodies drift to sleep, and then for a few moments longer I watch the cosmic light spinners twinkle in the night.

At last the room grows perfectly dark. And as my own heart leans toward sleep, I slip into that sweet transcendent space where the cosmic light of the world shines forth, in us and through us and for us all.


Here's a beautiful "poem" I found nestled within the meditation instructions of Erich Schiffmann.