When I came out of my afternoon asana practice and meditation, I picked up the John Friend Teacher Training Manual to look up one of my favorite passages. In describing the “attitude” that brings us to our deepest practice, John Friend writes that there are two reasons to practice yoga: “1. Co-create in the art of life. 2. Realize and awaken to our divine nature.” John Friend, Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual (9th Ed., Anusara Press 2006). He explains that sometimes we come to our mat because we are happy and we want to celebrate. Other times, we are sad or confused and we want to remember our essentially divine, blissful nature. This particular teaching has continues to resonate for me. I find great comfort in it because it recognizes that we do forget; we will not always act perfectly. All life, though, is part of our practice, and we can keep trying to co-create and remember the light in all beings in our daily lifes just as we keep can coming to the mat.
It is always a temptation for me to stay home when it is cold and dark, to miss yoga class (when I am student, not teacher), to do my own practice and read and cook and play with the cat, rather than to be more engaged with all that is outside — friends, group yoga, and all the offerings of the city. I am always happier, though, for having gone out. Home is much more pleasing after an interlude with the outside. And if I dress right, it is even enjoyable to walk out in the cold, dark, rain, and say hello to all the dog walkers.
I used to note the first day of winter as a marker of the long, cold and dark season ahead. Now I mark the first day after the solstice as the an opening to the light. In only a few weeks, even though the weather will be wintry, the days will be noticeably longer. This time of year, I walk on the sunny side of street and choose the middle of the day to be outside, in contrast to summer, when I walk in the morning or late afternoon on the shady side of the street. When I went out at midday for a long walk, the light was almost blindingly bright. The blazing sun seemed that much more of a treasure for the cold blustering wind and the shortness of the day. That the light was so clear and vivid seemed an apt reminder that going through periods of cold and dark can clear us for newly illuminated paths if we are only open to the sources of illumination — inside and out.