This year Winter Solstice - the dark of the year - is accompanied by the eclipse of the moon - and the phrase "double dark" seems appropriate. Here in the northern latitudes, wiith it's heavy cloud cover, I might have to up the ante to "triple dark".
This morning as I was preparing to teach - looking for a Winter Solstice theme and sequence - I was gliding over a couple of likely options. I could design a class that would meet the triple dark with triple heat, in which case we would do a lot of sun salutations and other vinyasa to generate Light from the inside out. I also considered "going into the dark" and sequencing a deep quiet practice of hip openers, forward bends, restoratives.
I was not getting too interested in either of those approaches. And then my mind - which had been flitting and swooping around in search of a theme and sequence - landed on a good sturdy branch. And I got straight to work. I'm going to teach on the concept of darshan.
Darśana (Darshan) means "sight" (from the Sanskrit root dṛś "to see"). It is commonly used for "visions of the sacred," or "to see with reverence and devotion." The formal ritual of Darshan occurs between student and guru, or between devotee and a sacred image, which focuses and calls out the consciousness of the devotee. In either event, a heightening awareness of the Light of the Heart - is the intended effect since Darshan is ultimately an event in consciousness—an interaction between practitioner and the beauty of her own Great Heart, which is always waiting for her.
Each of my true teachers has granted me darshan - a glimpse of my own Great Heart. Mostly it has not been in any traditional ritual or Darshan Hall. For example John Friend "granted me darshan" in mostly sweaty yoga studios and - as his following grew - great big rooms full of mostly sweaty Yoga practitioners. John and so many teachers put up with being a placeholder - mirroring back to students our own Radiance - until we finally "get it" that we are That.
I was hugely fortunate to participate in formal darshan for several years with Lee Lozowick. That is what really brought home to me what exactly it is that darshan is aimed to bring forth in the student. At first - like with all my teachers - I attributed all the happiness and light of the darshan to Lee. Gradually I began to see that Lee was in complete surrender to the Sacred. At times it seemed to me that he was in a sort of slavery to that great Light - willingly binding himself to it - sitting still to be a great mirror for us - so we could finally look at him and see our own Light reflected back. Which is exactly what he wanted - begged for - for each of us.
All of this brings me to a recent teaching from Paul Muller Ortega. He was talking about the practice of Bhavana (formal practice of contemplation) and it really ended up sounding to me like the essence of the practice of darshan. He said that articulation and expression is essential. We must translate the Sacred into our own vocabulary and creative expression, referencing our lived experience, our body and bone and breath - to stabilize, anchor and illuminate the teachings, to bring them from obscure to real and immediate. Only when the inspiration is brought forth as word and Work and expression is the process of Bhavana brought to fruition. Expression is essential. The creation of forms of beauty - (for example through our asana practice) - is essential. The time comes when it is vital and "mandatory" to move from listening to expressing. It is only then, when we hear our own words, when we express through our own bodies - that we have a true darshan. We permit the great Light of the Heart to speak though us, move through us - as us.
Fear happens. It seems impossible - too hard. This is the recoil of the anava mala (the "cramp" in Lee's words - which tells us that we are incapable, unworthy and outside of Love). What to do? Continue to practice, to steep mind and mala in the Light of Consciousness. And be willing to express, to close the circuit and have true darshan.
Time to stop writing and fine-tune the sequence......another way of closing the circuit.
I bow with great gratitude to Paul and John and most especially to Lee. I bow to the long line of True Teachers who have bound themselves to the Light to teach me the essence of darshan.....to teach me to not curse the darkness but instead, as Maharshi said, "Bring the Light"