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Experiencing profound darkness

I had the unique opportunity to practice in the pitch darkness. My dear friend and teacher, Nathan Mills, held a workshop called Dark Yoga. While so many other workshops in the yoga community use words such as “illuminate, brightness, radiance,” Nathan held space for us to dive deeply into the void, the darkness, and discover for ourselves, where the light resides when all other light goes out. In the first few moments after the last candle was extinguished, I experienced what felt like a pause in time where I thought “Ah, wow, amazing, he really meant dark.” I even found myself smiling at the situation I had chosen.

We don’t experience this profound darkness very often in life. Artificial lighting continually bombards us, including computer screens and televisions. In this room where we all practiced and could hear each other breathing, I found comfort in the darkness. I contemplated the yogis in caves at the base of the Himalayas. I longed for a time and place where there was less stimulation from the world around us, and more availability to the mysteries held inside the teachings of yoga.

However, this is not what my life looks like, and thankfully, the mystery is still very alive, even with the ipods and ipads (notice that it is “i” and not “I”) that constantly beg for our attention. I had a friend and fellow teacher recently ask me “How are you so disciplined?” which made me laugh since I live with external and internal distractions on a daily basis. The answer was simple… “Practice anyway.” Turn the computer off, the phone off, dim the lights, light some candles, plan some time in solitude and get on with it. However, remember that your entire life is yoga, so don’t stop once you rise up from savasana.

Reflecting back to my time in the dark, all I can say is that the experience as a whole left me speechless, literally. Both the slow intentional asana and the radical guided meditation were equally profound. After class, some students gathered to share in conversation, while I quietly left the room, the building and walked out into the brisk Portland night.