The dark days of winter are here. You probably noticed.
In the midst of darkness, we need reminders of the light. Perhaps that’s why so many of the world’s religions have a celebration of light scheduled in the darkness of winter: Diwali, Christmas, Winter Solstice, and Hanukkah spring to mind. Perhaps you can think of others?
Themes of light and luminosity are sprinkled throughout the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (the book that lays out the classical path of yoga practice). The Sutras define yoga as ‘the stilling of the mind’s fluctuations’ and remind us that when we bring the mind to stillness, our true self can ‘shine forth,’ transparent and luminous. When our inner light is revealed, we become a source of warmth and comfort for ourselves and others. But how do we still our minds so that our true self can shine? Patanjali suggests
“….focusing on the light within which is free from all suffering and sorrow.” Sutra 1.36
Screeech. Stop the bus. That’s an actual place? Free from suffering and sorrow? And it’s inside me?
The ancient mystic yogis would say, “Yep, it sure is.” They believed that there is a divine light of awareness seated in each of our hearts. This inner light radiates love and compassion, it illuminates the truth, and it connects us to one another. And the bonus — it’s always there — constant and unwavering, like the light of the sun. Yet, we can get so caught up in the drama of everyday life we fail to remember it’s shining there.
Here are 5 practices to help you still the mind’s fluctuations (vrittis) so you can reconnect with your most radiant self and get your inner glow on.
1. SET AN INTENTION – Remember your why!
Quick refresher: What is the purpose of yoga? The purpose of yoga is to still the mind’s vrittis so your true self can shine through. How can you do this? Set an intention to re-connect with your inner light, and repeat positive, light-affirming phrases that will guide you to stillness.
Be of service.
Share my gifts and talents with the world.
Let my inner light shine – for the benefit of everyone.
Repeat these phrases often — upon waking, before bed and anytime you feel unsure of yourself. Write these phrases on a sticky note and place one on your mirror, your laptop, the fridge, heck, anywhere —to remind yourself of your unique talents and innate goodness at every opportunity. Then shine them all over everyone. Completely indiscriminately. Like the rays of the sun that shine down on everyone.
An alternate practice: play the song 'This Little Light of Mine' (below). And sing it like you mean it!
This is your why!
2. SAYING NAMASTE
In modern India, ‘namaste’ is commonly said as an everyday ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ Here in the west, you’re likely to hear it at the end of a yoga class. But it means more than Class is over. You can pack up and go home now. ‘Namaste’ literally means ‘I bow to you.’
The ancient mystic yogis believed that there’s divinity in everyone and everything. When you say ‘namaste’ to someone in the context of a yoga class, it’s more than a casual greeting/parting. It means you recognize and honour the light of divinity in their hearts. It’s the same spark of divinity that resides in your heart. When you say ‘namaste,’ think of it as a practice in acknowledging that deep down, we’re all the same. ‘Namaste’ encourages us to look past superficial differences and connect with our universal heart. We ALL share the inner light of divine awareness. When we remember that, it guides us to act towards others with compassion and kindness, however different we may seem on the surface.
Using Sanskrit terms is also a way to connect with, acknowledge and show reverence for yoga’s roots
In Sanskrit, mudra means ‘sign’ or ‘seal. A hand mudra is a gesture used in yoga and meditation meant to illicit a particular state of being (seal) or to symbolize a particular meaning (sign). It deepens one’s practice.
In Anjali Mudra, the hands press together, fingers touching and pointed up, with the thumbs at the heart centre. It’s a symbolic representation of our interconnectedness and an acknowledgment that we see the divine light in one another.
Anjali mudra is also used throughout a yoga class — at the start of each Sun Salutation and in poses like Tree and Prayer Lunge Twist — bringing the heart centre into the practice.
In the yogic view of the body, the spiritual heart center is hidden deep inside the chest in a space known as the cave of the heart. Anjali mudra nourishes this awareness, gently encouraging you to contemplate your inner light and bask in the radiant glow of your heart.
4. CONTEMPLATE YOUR CONNECTION WITH OTHERS.
We may disagree with each other — we all know discussing religion or politics at the dinner table is risky business. Those conversations are loaded with the potential to create lots of friction and highlight our differences. But, even when our loved ones tell us about their bizarre food choices (Keto, Vegetarian, Meat Eater, or pineapple on pizza), it’s good practice to remember that in our hearts, we all essentially want the same things. We want to be happy, to be healthy, to feel loved, and to feel safe.
One of my favourite practices for acknowledging this simple truth is the ‘Just Like Me’ compassion practice. You can do it as a formal seated meditation, but it’s also the perfect thing to do when you’re right in the moment with someone that’s irritating you. Say, when you’re grocery shopping, and the cart in front of you has twenty items for the express check-out, or honestly, I’m just trying to merge on the highway, repeating ‘Just Like Me’ is a total game-changer! This practice reminds you to look beneath the superficial layer of the difficulty you’re having with someone and to see that we are the same in our hearts.
Mirabai Bush and Ram Dass include the ‘Just Like Me’ meditation in their book, Walking Each Other Home
Let’s take a moment. Pull up a seat, get comfortable, bring a difficult person (or any person) to mind, and let’s begin. As you hold this person in your thoughts, mentally say:
This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.
This person has experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This person has at some time been sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, just like me.
This person has felt unworthy or inadequate, just like me.
This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me.
This person will die, just like me.
This person has longed for friendship, just like me.
This person is learning about life, just like me.
This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me.
This person wants to be content with what life has given them, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be safe and healthy, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
This person wishes to be loved, just like me.
Now, allow wishes for well-being to arise:
I wish this person to have the strength, resources, and social support they need to navigate the difficulties in life with ease.
I wish this person to be free from pain and suffering.
I wish this person to be peaceful and happy.
I wish this person to be loved . . . because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.
Click here for a guided audio version of this practice.
The Yoga Sutras tell us that the root cause of human suffering is feeling ‘separate’ or disconnected. So, it’s not surprising that many of yoga’s practices, designed to help us quiet our minds and uncover our light, also invite us to sense our heart’s connection to others. We are connecting to the glow, the light, the source, the unity of humanity and beyond.
5. CHANT ‘AUM’
The sacred syllable ‘AUM’ represents the sound of everything in the universe vibrating together as one. It’s an audible reminder that everything is connected and that divinity is everywhere – even inside you. Yoga Sutras 1.28 & 1.29 tell us that “when expressed with great devotion, the sacred sound reveals our Divine nature” and that “with faithful repetition, the inner light luminously shines.”
If the sound ‘AUM’ doesn’t resonate with you, chant Shalom or Amen or Salaam or Amin or Omkar or... Do you know what all of these sacred sounds have in common? They contain the root sound ‘AUM.’ Coincidence? I think not.
Here’s how to get your chanting practice off the ground:
· Sit comfortably
· Choose a sacred sound, one that fills your heart with love.
· Chant it out loud
· After chanting awhile, repeat the sound in silence. Let the sentiment come straight from your heart. Tune into the feeling of your heart beating. Allow yourself to feel the sound’s vibration moving in and out of your heart centre with each pulsation. Connect your heart’s vibration with the universal vibration.
· Bask in the afterglow.
Here’s an ‘AUM, Shalom, Amen’ chant to inspire feelings of love & connection with others.
MAKE TIME TO REMEMBER YOUR BLISSFUL INNER LIGHT.
It’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays – to get so stressed and distracted that we forget to carve out time to connect with our inner light - and the light in others. Remember, to take some time each day to quiet your mind, drop into your body, and re-connect with the innate wisdom and goodness in your heart. To clear away the stressors and distractions so that your inner light is revealed.
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Amanda Tripp, Yoga/body nerd and woman of a 1000 opinions