I remember a yoga class I took years ago in NYC at around this time, just before the clocks turned back. The teacher asked the class to name what we didn’t like about the darkness, which flew out of our mouths easily. She then asked us to name what we loved about the darkness, since most of us expressed some kind of aversion to it. Many had to really think of answers, and I was just quite surprised that I never thought of trying to like it. I always equated the darkness of Winter with the doldrums, being cooped up inside, and being sun-deprived. I am a beach lover after all, and I think I was a sunflower in a past life. This day brought a great moment of reflection about the benefits of this season.
I’ve come to love the parts of Winter and darkness that ask me to turn inside and love being blanketed by quiet, warm root foods, and good wool socks. Since I had to learn this, I came up with methods of transitioning into the field of innermost and concealed beauty. Extra darkness and less time outdoors is a great opportunity for more reflection. Can you use it for taking a personal journey into what is unexpressed, hidden, and private? The dark is also a surefire way to reactivate some creative juices, and of course being inside more is a great time to do some art, play some music, or reorganize your space. But for the internal world of the heart, here are my 5 tools to transform each day of darkness into a world of sunlight:
1. Meditate. Sit with yourself, daily. It’s the most obvious one, but tends to be the hardest for most to do. Quiet reflection without interruption for even just 15 minutes, plus a 5 minute savasana, can awaken your private world immensely and shed light on where you are this day. Even on the train to work, if you get that coveted seat, how do you use that transit time? What if you used it to become more reflective and centered for your day?
2. Stay un-plugged. How quickly does the iphone or computer enter your field of awareness first thing in the morning, abruptly pulling you away from the peace of sleep? Do you check email immediately upon waking, and Facebook, second? Teachers often teach to come out of savasana slowly at the end of a yoga class, and transition mindfully back to their lives. It’s the same thing waking up for a fresh day. What if you gave yourself a half hour, at least, of no electronics upon waking? Do your meditation, your morning routine of nourishment, caffeine, whatever – but try it before electronics.
3. Read. While un-plugged, what if you read a paragraph or page of something inspiring instead? I’ve got a myriad of inspiring books surrounding me, as I’m sure you do. Try different books each day, or even a book per week. Filling your awareness with words of wisdom, awakened thoughts, and beautiful images through words will set your heart in a more open space to face the day.
4. Stay un-plugged 15-30 minutes before and after your practices. Be it yoga class, home practice, or meditation, let your awareness stay off-the-grid. Internal practices like these are designed to calm the nervous system, and help you find the buzz of loving life coming alive inside. It can feel amazingly like a light turning on. Why kill the buzz so fast? I can’t tell you how quickly I see students grab the cell phone right after class, or come into class on the phone. Why not give yourself the silent gift of not being available? Not being distracted by others needs of you? Social media is a helpful tool, but it can pull you into the world of comparison, self-judgement, and self-doubt. Lay off the phone before and after class, and see if your spirit remains brighter.
5. Look for pockets of time to be with yourself. This remains one of my favorite tools. Most days will have lulls in them, small pockets of time where you could shut down the computer, move into an empty room not being used, and sit for 15 minutes. End up at yoga class early? Find a quiet spot and sit. Make it home before the partner or family? Sit. Or, read from the morning book selection that paragraph again, or page of inspiration. Or, in that sacred alone time listen to inspiring music to set the tone for dinner. Or, grab time at that art/sewing/painting project. Any alone time is considered in a way, a time of darkness, a time of quiet. How do you fill your spare time? Fill it with creative endeavors and creativity sparks more. Turning inwards to hear the silence of being is where the light of insight often appears.
Julie is one of the most sought after yoga teachers in NYC/Brooklyn. She leads Shaktiyoga Align+Flow 200/300 hour Teacher Trainings, Wisdom of the Sages Immersions, Meditation Essentials workshops, The Teachers Lab Mentoring webinars, Advanced Practice level 2/3 classes, and private Therapeutics. Her next 200 hour Teacher Training begins in January 2015. To read more of Julie’s work, click here or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.