The Hidden Language of the Divine Light Invocation

One day last year I realized I walked in an imbalanced way, my left leg dragging slightly causing an uneven swivel of my hips.  When I started to put it together so tangibly I began walking intentionally balanced.  It took time to break the habit, but much less time than it did to create it.  With bringing my focused awareness to the way I walked I was able to much more quickly create a new way of walking than how long it took me to walk imbalanced in the first place.  The unconscious emotional and mental baggage and memories take their silent toll on each cell of my body, re-enforcing when to tense certain muscles and when to relax.  This is the inexplicable connection between the mind and the body.  The way my cellular memory holds onto thoughts and memories that have long passed from my conscious thought.  Uncovering this latent information, embedded into my being, is what Hidden Language Hatha Yoga is about for me.

Maybe after years more of practice all these thought-forms will be eked out and my Hatha practice will become deeper than rooting out the source of mental and emotional hindrances that currently inform my life.  I certainly do see snippets of this possibility.  Moments when the flow of my breath throughout my body seems to extend beyond each inhale and exhale.  Moments where the decades of habitual responses to life are somehow peeled back and I’m experiencing each moment fresh and new.  It’s the coming back from those moments that allows me to become aware of the slightly dragging left hip.  When I can notice what I come back to, what habits I put back on like a coat as I slip, late for something or other, out the door, then I can decide if I actually want them.  Do I want to wear that grungy jacket with holes in the elbows and sleeves too short?  Do I want to favour one side of my body putting my entire skeletal system out of whack?  I can notice these things, I then choose with awareness how it is I truly want to live my life.  

In the meantime I take advantage of these moments of heightened awareness where I can see in what ways I habitually move my body and how this might be detrimental to me.  I never cease to be amazed at the link between the mind and the body.  One way I get clued in to the infinitesimal details of that link is in noticing how subtle shifts in my body affect my mind so greatly.  The only trouble is that it’s not this linear and immediate process.  Sometimes it takes me years to realize that a change in my body corresponded to a change in my mind.  Eventually, after enough happenings of the sort – enough of realizing that it was when I noticed my jaw was continually held tight that I explored particular aspects of security issues for example – I begin to piece it together.  I get a kind of adventurist-like attitude; just what mental or emotional aspect will I work on when I finally remember to release the tension in my right shoulder?  This isn’t a day-long process.  This is the life of someone interested in self-development for the long-term. 

I’ve begun to shift the noticing of my body to the Divine Light Invocation.  I certainly utilize this practice enough that it’s bound to tell me something about myself.  It begins with my stance.  The practice itself opens by setting a firm foundation.  I elongate up through my spine, allowing space for the Light, and notice my body.  Did I have to roll my shoulders back to open my chest to feel into that firm foundation?  Or was my body already receptive and open, relaxed and comfortable?  I inhale and lift up my arms, repeating the invocation:

I am created by Divine Light
I am sustained by Divine Light
I am protected by Divine Light
I am surrounded by Divine Light
I am ever growing into Divine Light

Just how am I lifting up my arms?  Am I scrunching my shoulders up towards my ears or are my arms elongated and extended?  Am I looking at this practice like a burden I carry on my back or an opportunity to make everything I do an offering?  Basking in the Light I turn my palms in front of me.  Recently I noticed that instead of keeping my body in a single plane, with my arms in-line with my body, they sometimes creep out in front of me as I open the doors of my spiritual heart center, allowing the excess Light to stream forth.  Am I giving too much?  When I notice this and pull back there is a distinct feeling of opening in my chest created.  It’s as if by giving from a place of balanced centeredness I can give more freely.  There is no overextending myself, there is only a giving that allows the Light to flow through me without taking anything out of me.

Can I look at all of my physical actions throughout the day symbolically?  Yes, and that would surely tire me out.  I can, however, take a more sustainable approach.  I can practice Hatha and uncover glimpses of the concepts and thoughts that shape my physical mannerisms and habits.  Threading these glimpses together I gather a wealth of knowledge about myself and how I interact and engage with the world.  Then, looking at the tapestry these threads weave together, I can decide what in me I want to support, and what it is that I want to let go.

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East Meets West

A Scandinavian journalist met a bookseller in Kabul, Afghanistan and subsequently moved into his family home for three months to write a book about him.  It became an international bestseller and after gobbling it up I was thinking, I wonder if he sells it in his shop?  It’s not that it was particularly well written.  I was, afterall, reading a translated into English copy.  Yet the story compelled me and thrust me back to my time in the Middle East. 

I don’t know what it is that draws me to Islamic culture so much.  I don’t even know if “Islamic culture” is the most accurate or politically correct way to describe what it is that I’m drawn to.  The landscape, the culture, the language – it simply fascinates me in this way I can’t fully describe.  Reading this story made me want to rush to Afghanistan, don a burka, and be chaperoned to the bazaar by a male relative.  Ok, I’m exaggerating.  Slightly. 

I kept being hurled back to thoughts of Wadi Rum, the tiny village 12 kilometres away from the camp I lived and where I would go every few days and clean in the camp owner’s house.  Memories that I haven’t thought of in years come back with vivid detail: the feeling of cold, windowless rooms and my own naivety; electrical lights being turned on with a twist of a wire and a spark; unrelated men not being allowed through the door past the front parlour into the rest of the house.  I can’t count how many times I was stopped from washing teacups with soap – the never ending flow of visitors and travellers being engorged with sugar laden tea whose cups had only a rinse between each user.

One of my clearest memories is talking with the oldest daughter the first time I went into the village. The widower Mohammed’s second wife and some daughters had gone into Aqaba, the city nearby.  I met his oldest from his first marriage.  We got along extremely well from the start, I promised to help her with her English which she could already speak quite well.  She spoke of her dreams for her life: to travel the world, to see the pyramids, the Taj Mahal.  While we were speaking one of her young siblings was pulling at her leg, clearly wanting something.  They must have spoken some unintelligible lyric Arabic before the older understood what the child wanted.  She casually plucked the kitchen knife from the counter, out of reach for the little one, and handed it to her with a gesture of “leave us now, you’ve got your toy”. The moment was fascinating and the toy, luckily, as dull as all of the other knives I found in that kitchen.

I would sing as I worked, “Je ne comprende pas” which, I found out years later, is not the actual correct way to say “I don’t understand” in French but nevertheless was a channel for the mix of captivation and astonishment I felt for the social norms I experienced.  Looking back now I see, as I said, my naivety over it all.  I see just how different this culture is in ways that never fully penetrated while I was immersed in it.  And I would absolutely love to go back for more.  The concept of material comfort is experienced in simply a completely different way than what I know.  Sleeping on a mat with a room full of siblings for the entirety of my life before marriage is not very appealing to me. Especially when that mat is the only furniture in the house.  Like the family Asne Seierstad stayed with while collecting experiences for her book, Mohammed’s house had very little furniture.  No beds, no dressers, no western style dining room table. (My God I love eating on the floor; a plastic-backed table cloth protecting clothes from spills, no need for cutlery, just dig right in!) And, like Asne’s bookseller in Kabul, Mohammed was extremely rich compared to his fellow country-men.  I was witnessing a household whose way of life had altered dramatically in only the last two generations.  Tourists were what made Mohammed “the King of Wadi Rum” yet to stay clamped in one village, catering to their desire to see the vast desert, after generations of nomadic Bedouin life is hard to fathom.  Maybe I wasn’t the only one that didn’t understand.

I may have been feeling particularly existential as I marinated in memories, gobbling up the rest of the book in the late afternoon of my reflection day, but I couldn’t help but wonder, just where do people find purpose and meaning in their lives?  Unfortunately the opportunity to even think about these questions let alone take the time to fully investigate and experience them is not always given.  Would that 17 year old managing a household of younger siblings ever get to see the Taj Mahal, see Egypt?  Would it give her life meaning even if she did?  I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had just come from Giza’s Great Pyramids, that the Sphinx was smaller than I thought it would be, and that crossing a busy street one night in Cairo was the most exhilarating experience of my life.  Would she live out these experiences through the veil of her own perceptions? (no pun intended)  Would she fulfill her dreams, would she find meaning and success?

I’ve been thinking about successfully living a meaningful life lately.  What it means to succeed, how to match my temperament with the overzealous ideals of ambition and action equating to success, and what truly makes me happy.  The great Yogis say that we create our worlds.  I can’t help but think that which gives our lives the most meaning is exactly what it is in front of us; exactly what it is we’ve created.  I feel like this knowledge gives me a little secret that I carry around with me everywhere.  It links me to that 17 year old as she dreams foreign visions.  Meaning is found right in front of me.  I need not fear falling into some prescribed way of being: succeed this way, find happiness by looking under this rock.  The greatest secret to the universe is hidden right in front of my very nose: I create my reality and that truth, by far, offers me the most meaning for my life.   

It’s this search for meaning that’s got me feeling so grateful lately.  I can’t help but look at different cultures, look at the way women are treated as less than men, and feel grateful that I’m a woman in the West.  This gratitude isn’t loud and boisterous.  It’s a delicate gratitude that holds the story of gender roles in all parts of the world with this arms distance away, with this awe that we’ve created such ingrained views of looking at the world.  The truth is the men in the Middle East are just as oppressed as the women.  They’re as locked into their roles as a burka-clad female, unable to behave, act, or think any differently than the social norms without being completely ostracized.  Do they have time to ponder the meaning of life, look deeply at their dreams, hopes and fears, or to question the motivations behind their actions?  Well, they certainly have as much opportunity to as anyone else does.  Having the courage to face the lies and illusions our culture builds up around us takes the same tenacity in any country.

I’ve returned the book to the library and in doing so found a bunch more about women in Islamic culture.  I really don’t know what it is about this topic that jazzes me up so much.  Must have been a Muslim in a recent past life.  We’ll see what other gems await me.

February

Winter Walks

Snow falls and melts, resting deeply in compacted, dense units.  Like the snowflakes interlock into one another when the mercury hovers around freezing.  I go out for a walk.  There had only been a few vehicles on the road or, at least, they all stayed within the same tracks to give the illusion that there hadn’t been many.  The consistency of snow on the road was similar to thick cream; this white layer atop black asphalt.  My favourite thing about winter walks is being able to see the tracks of what had gone before me.

Small paws: Oh, that’s the coyote someone mentioned they saw on the way back from picking up the mail.  Delicate hooves: Those lovely deer have already eaten all of the rose hips on the bushes out front.  Woah, these hooves are more like moose: Was there a moose here this morning?!  The snow has covered up the cougar prints.  Felt like I was walking alongside one of the giant cats as I strolled down here last week. 

I reach a bend where to sun blasts full-tilt on a south-facing slope.  At first I keep the clip I’m at, briskly enjoying the view and the air.  Then I stop and really look at the melting snow beneath my feet.  The water just above the warmed road slides along, seeping under the fresh snow with intricate swiftness.  Little lines tracking the patterns of the snow, making it too disappear.  Stopping I can see it happen, walking on I miss the infinitesimally small details of nature.  What is it that I want to notice in life?  I slow down on my way back to Mandala House.  I breathe.