Asato ma sadgamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrityor mamritam gamaya
Om, shanti, shanti, shanti
Lead us from unreal to real
Lead us from darkness to the light
Lead us from the fear of death
To knowledge of immortality
Om, shanti, shanti, shanti
The Groundhog saw his shadow and we’ve been told that means an early spring. Too bad the Groundhog couldn’t have said a word or two about a coming pandemic.
But even if we knew what was coming, it’s one of those big waves that comes over humanity that is, like so many things, outside of our control.
How many of us plod along through our daily routines, secure in our personal accomplishments and self-created schedules? Oh yeah, I’m talking to moms — that’s most or all of us.
Don’t we all sometimes feel accomplished for the little things, like clearing the sink of dishes, getting our toddler to dress themselves in the morning, or doing 5 minutes of yoga a day?
I know I do, as many moms do.
So when something as big as a pandemic comes through and things get cancelled and your friends go into social distancing mode, if you’re like me, it’s already a natural response to look to the little things to uplift us because our mom worlds are a sort of collage of little moments.
I am an optimist, so it’s been easier for me to focus more on the coming spring than on the terrible possibilities that COVID-19 presents.
And just as the Punxsatawny Phil emerges from the darkness of his burrow, spring is all the more powerful because it comes after the dark days of winter.
But, spring is fickle and since our old groundhog made his prophecy, we’ve gone through stints of warm weather followed by regressions back into winter. Spring comes at its own pace, and tentatively.
But, in my two decades of practicing and teaching yoga, I’ve also realized that spring is within.
The Groundhog saw his shadow, which they say means early spring. But think of it: he saw — not the sun, a flower, or a bird singing — but a shadow. What a great symbol for us as we daydream of sun and bloom. A shadow comes from light casting a dark spot and in our minds, we know there are opposites all throughout life: happy/sad, dark/light, good/bad. But a shadow is a mix of opposites; it is light made obvious by darkness.
In yoga philosophy, there is so much about opposites. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is a practice called pratipaksha bhavana, which is more than just positive thinking.
The biggest challenge in using this practice is noticing our darkness so that we can uncover our own light. However, it’s one thing to just rigidly maintain a sunny disposition in the face of adversity or discomfort. Instead, pratipaksha bhavana offers an opportunity to dive into our darkest selves, and the darkness around us in order to discover the sunshine in a day that is cloudy on the surface.
But visiting that darkness in a spiritually and emotionally meaningful way does not mean sitting around immersed in our negativity before abruptly shining the light upon it. It is venturing toward that darkness, knowing that if we go through it, we get to the other side.
It’s somewhat like waiting for the cloud to pass over the sun, before the golden rays emerge from the other side; or like holding space for a child’s tantrum, knowing that they will eventually be smiling and laughing (maybe even before you’ve gotten over your own stress about the situation!).
It’s very popular these days to suggest meditation to anyone and everyone who wants to work on their own emotions.
I love meditation and incorporate it into my daily routine, but I also acknowledge that sometimes, what brings us to the light is movement.
Sometimes it’s not as powerful to sit and wait until the storm of a dark moment blows over as it is to take action and make a move towards light and warmth.
Go for a walk with no destination; write out your thoughts and feelings in a journal; lean on a friend and talk things out; dance; do yoga.
When emotions or thoughts are really stuck, the movement gets things flowing. And then maybe when and if you do get through that darkness, sit for a meditation.
This is a guest post from Jacquie Bullard, a member of the Abundant Mama Wake Up & Thrive Network. Jacquie was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California where being a beach bum was her favorite pastime. She’s a yoga and kids yoga teacher, and a self-professed language nerd. As a writer, she enjoys sharing ideas on how yoga intersects – or collides with – modern Western culture. Her newest venture is Yoga Mama, a blog that shares ideas on real yoga for real busy moms. She lives in Chicago.