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Many Ways To Be Light

At this time of year, when we celebrate Winter Solstice and the gradual coming of light, our Looking In Breathing Out conversation has turned with the season homeward. In "Construction, Obstructions and Clearing The Path" I speak with my life partner, Matt Ford. One might not immediately observe a strong connection between construction work and yoga--safety goggles/yoga pants, work boots/bare feet, tough/tender--however! If we "push through" (to quote Matt Ford) and LOOK IN a little deeper, we find they correlate quite well! Certainly the construction and yoga worlds collide in our home on a daily basis and a strong connection has emerged.

Even though Matt and I both grew up in religious households, mine Catholic/his Christian, and even though we've both sort of strayed from those traditional paths as adults, we remain on a (less formal, less dogmatic) spiritual path together. There are pros and cons to religion vs. spirituality. I suspect that if both members of a partnership are committed to a particular religion, like our parents, then it is easier to be spiritually connected in a strong way. The vocabulary is shared and the expectations are all laid out for you by the organizing body of which you are both a part. It is not as neat and tidy, but I think the connection that Matt and I share goes equally deep--even if our pursuits are ostensibly disparate!

There are a few things I adore about this gentleman builder. Let me count the ways! Several of them are succinctly expressed in a thing he mentions right at the end of Part Two of the podcast. He's talking about how there is a spiritual element to building for him. He says he's choosy about his projects, that he has to be willing to put his heart and soul into it. He talks about believing in the job and in his ability to complete it. And then he says: "When I make a saw cut, it is more than just a saw cut." He says it's a feel, like he could do it blindfolded. It makes me think of sword throwers in the circus, or anyone who performs death-defying tricks, especially ones that happen to involve blades..! But when he describes the saw cut, he quickly equivocates, "I don't know if that's spiritual." Which is funny, because what he is describing there is Samadhi. Not just a brand name for yoga clothes, the sanskrit word "samadhi" actually refers to the deep state of unwavering focus in which one is so profoundly immersed in the object of one's attention that one merges with it and experiences unity. This is like the whole point of yoga! An experience of samadhi requires a ton of practice and the surmounting of multiple obstacles. Cutting wood may not be quite as flashy as the skills of a circus performer or, say, a concert pianist or champion athlete. Or--to reference another classic movie--like Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, who has clearly reached a state of samadhi with his karate, and then Daniel, less practiced, only glimpses it in the final tournament. But even a glimpse is enough to beat the bad guy and secure the heart of his lady friend. We love watching people in this state! Because it is beautiful. A master builder might not sell as many tickets, but it is the same beautiful steady mind and steely resolve that won my heart.

And that is the spiritual path. It is that striving, that curiosity, that impulse to grow and awaken. It is precisely what we celebrate with our various winter holiday traditions, both in the macro-sense of the natural world and within our micro-human nature...the pull toward light.

I leave you with a gift. I will admit that it is a re-gift..! It was sent to me by one of our illuminating guests from Season One. It is a poem:

For Light

Light cannot see inside things. That is what the dark is for: Minding the interior, Nurturing the draw of growth Through places where death In its own way turns into life.

In the glare of neon times, Let our eyes not be worn By surfaces that shine With hunger made attractive.

That our thoughts may be true light, Finding their way into words Which have the weight of shadow To hold the layers of truth.

That we never place our trust In minds claimed by empty light, Where one-sided certainties Are driven by false desire.

When we look into the heart, May our eyes have the kindness And reverence of candlelight.

That the searching of our minds Be equal to the oblique Crevices and corners where The mystery continues to dwell, Glimmering in fugitive light.

When we are confined inside The dark house of suffering That moonlight might find a window.

When we become false and lost That the severe noon-light Would cast our shadow clear.

When we love, that dawn-light Would lighten our feet Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight Would illuminate treasure In the fields of memory.

And when we come to search for God, Let us first be robed in night, Put on the mind of morning To feel the rush of light Spread slowly inside The color and stillness Of a found word.

--John O’Donohue

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