Churning the Waters

We arrived at the ocean two days ago for our family vacation – a time away from our usual routines and surroundings, a time to be present with one another and create memories. One of our beloved family rituals is watching the sunrise and sunset over the ocean.

The beach is a magical and mystical place for me. I can spend endless hours walking, sitting, and standing by the ocean; watching the waves roll onto the shore and the myriad of colors in the sky. When my eyes catch sight of the horizon accompanied by the continuous murmur of the water, my body and mind immediately release tensions that I may not have even noticed were there.

I remember myself as a child, spending our summers at the German North Sea Coast. There was a sense of holiness and reverence in that moment when I would see the ocean for the first time from the car. It was as if time stood still and I went to a different place deep within me.

Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being. Rumi

For as long as I can remember, this same sensation of sacredness and awe has washed over me every time I catch a quiet moment to turn my eyes to the night sky, in particular to the Moon.

When I have the chance to see the Moon over a body of water, this is truly Heaven on Earth for me, or what I call a 'God Moment' in my life.

It is like a magical portal opens and there is an illuminated path leading directly to my soul.

Everything else becomes non-important – my worries, my fears, my to-dos – they all dissolve as a strong sense of knowing and peace arises.

With my Sun in Cancer, I am a water sign ruled by the Moon, and thus my affinity for both makes perfect sense to me. As does my restlessness, unease, and unsettledness that has accompanied me throughout life. There is a dark side, a dark feeling that shows up for me hand-in-hand with the calm and peace that both the sea and Moon radiate. It is mostly the fear – fear of the unknown, the vastness, the power – that they both symbolize for me.

I have been through the turmoil of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks many times. This has left me paralyzed with fear, feeling vulnerable and powerless.

It took me several decades to understand and trust that the magic and mystery lies within the balance between the dark and the light, in the churning of the water -- to bring the hidden things to the surface, so that I can look at them and decide what to release.

Only then, once the waters are calm, can I enjoy them.

The practice of yoga has only been part of my life for a few years. I opened myself to it right around the time when I slowly began to understand the true meaning of equilibrium and balance. Opening up to yoga was another 'God Moment' in my life. Early in my practice I felt a strong force pulling me gently but quickly past the initial attraction of movement and mindfulness into the deeper layers of wisdom and knowing.

I discovered a new path, which, once I allowed myself to observe with attention, beautifully intertwined with and even deepened my already existing spiritual practice.

I discovered how to find moments of stillness and glimpses of my soul while moving to the beat of my heart and the tune of my breath.

I began to practice daily, beyond just movement and breath and exploring the myriad of tools and lore yoga has to offer.

I surfed on this wave of bliss for a while; dutifully forgetting that where there is light there is also darkness. The shadow arrived -- at first it was like a little nagging voice in my head from time to time, which I was able to shush away initially.

But the nagging got louder and more consistent until I could not ignore it any longer. I began to truly be still and to sit with my discomfort as I listened and learned about the many ways in which I can cause harm as a White woman practicing and teaching yoga. I began to understand what honoring cultures, people, and practices means.

But, with each bit of understanding sometimes came more questions and confusion. Still, I keep listening and learning -- it’s messy and I keep making mistakes, but throughout all this, I sense the guiding presence of the force gently pulling me along.

I find myself again churning my waters to clear the path and eventually arrive at my practice with integrity and alignment, physically, spiritually, socially, and environmentally.

I've come to understand the ripple effect of my practice in that I do not practice for my wellbeing and my benefit alone, but that my practice is service.

When I serve myself by taking care of me, I serve those whose lives I touch and who cross my path.

I began the year with a meditation on my sankalpa, my vow and commitment to support my highest truth. I wrote it down and return to it again and again, sometimes with ease and light, and sometimes with effort and shadow:

Love over Fear. Faith over Doubt. Service over Ego.

I learned to surrender, not in the sense of giving up but in the sense of releasing my resistance and allowing that which wants to be.

I allow myself to be pulled to where I need to be, much like the gravitational pull of the Moon on the ocean.

I've begun to understand that I can only be of service if I know to surrender when it’s time, and that those sacred moments of stillness and awe only arise out of true balance.

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