Fire is the element of Summer and relates to the energy of creativity, intuition and motion. Imagine a world without fire, light or heat. Nothing would exist. Fire is the basis of the Universe, the core of creation. In the body its function is to maintain heat and to give warmth to others. In yoga this is the quality of tejas. The Upanishads, a tantric text defines it as, “the radiant splendor of personality that shows itself in love, compassion, creative action and as a melting tenderness, which draws all hearts.”
Therefore, it is no surprise that in Chinese Medicine the organ associated with summer is the heart. In yoga the heart is Anahata chakra meaning “un-struck”, i.e. beyond the sorrows of the world there is a pristine place of peace within.
The style of yoga that I teach is Para Yoga, founded by my teacher Yogarupa Rod Stryker. It is born of Tantra. One of its meanings is to weave. It is reweaving the fabric of our lives, to return to that place where the original spark came in. Tantra is also to bask in the light of both worldly and spiritual prosperity, to thrive in and of the world and taste the sublime energy of Being.
One doorway into this “being” is by embracing our shadow. Summertime reveals the most intense light and casts the largest shadow at the same time. It is both sides of the coin and to prosper we need to learn to integrate them. To increase our amplitude and carry more light we must first excavate that, which is uncomfortable, that which we tend to shy from. We must tenderly shine the light of our own awareness on those parts of ourselves that we judge as unlovable or unworthy so that prana, (life force) can fill the tight points and melt resistance. Love that you are fearful, jealous, envious, and see what happens. Chew around the edges and eat your own shadow until it become yummy!
When we begin to integrate shadow, alchemy takes place and we brave into ourselves, returning to Original Nature. We literally get turned ON from the inside out and remember that we are made of stars. The same light that lights the most distant star in the sky also resides within you as You. This smarana (self-remembrance) magnifies our ability to hold and transmit more light.
This fosters growth and our sixth sense, intuition or inner vision, the integration of the inner and outer world. This seeing within is where we let our feelings voice their hearts desire. This center, the third eye or sixth chakra called ajna is said to open and close depending on how much light you can handle. One of the definitions of a yogi is one whose spine is filled with light, which means that there is more light inside the body than outside. As we broaden our bandwidth to carry a greater charge we grow our intuition, an attribute of the fire element and truly a sense of the heart.
Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Listen, listen, listen to your hearts song”
Be interested and curious, and then become aware of your feelings and the flashes of insight that come into your awareness. These sparks of realization can happen anywhere at anytime if you’re open to them. Guidance from your heart is always available. Our hearts know the truth.
One of my favorite meditations is Healing The Heart Meditation. An excerpt of it follows and can be found in its entirety in my teacher’s book, The Four Desires.
Sit tall with the crown of your head over the base of your spine. Become aware of your breath, become aware of your heartbeat and relax the whole body. Imagine that you are surrounded by positivity, boundless well -being and light. Bring your attention to the space above your head and feel an infinite ocean of healing, love, and light. Now as your body breathes in feel a stream of light and joy descend through the crown, down your spine and into the center of your chest. As you exhale it fills your heart- your spiritual heart. Feel light, love and positivity fill this space. On your next inhale feel any shadow or density, any sadness or suffering lift out of the heart center. As you exhale release all the darkness that’s been sitting on the light of the heart, release it out to the universe. Continue with this practice as long as you are comfortable. If it’s helpful you can add the mental repetition of “I Am” or in Sanskrit “So Hum” So… on the inhale and Hum… on the exhale. Sense a light beyond all sorrow and when the mind becomes still, rest in this light in your heart. Rest and feel the feeling of wholeness and complete joy.
Sylvia Plath from The Bell Jar… “I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be the shadow.” This is powerful to me in that when we bring that which has been operating on the unconscious level to the conscious level we find treasure, our own gold, we dip into light. When the Japanese mend broken objects they fill the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. And in the great lyrics of Leonard Cohen, “Ring the bells that can still ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Then, there is artful repair and integration in this offering from poet Antonio Machado. “ I dreamt… marvelous error… that I had a beehive here inside my heart and the golden bees were making sweet honey from my old failures.” We embolden what has been hidden and it becomes a gift, a note of grace upon our character.
The juxtaposition of shadow and light can be found in the yoga posture ustrasana, Camel. A camel lives in the arid desert and has to find ways to survive by drawing in. Camels can store ample amounts of food and water in their bodies living up to two weeks without water and a month without food. Withstanding brutal temperature changes they can lose up to twenty five percent of their body weight through sweat without suffering. As Yogi’s we embrace the teachings and store them in our bodies and minds through sadhana (practice). Then they are always available to nourish our soulfulness even in the bleakest of times, for even under a cloud cover the sky is always blue.
In ustrasana, kneeling like a camel, the tailbone reaches down into the molten core of the earth as the head surrenders to the heart, which lifts courageously to the sky in dignified humility. This shape creates a bridge where the mind bends to the heart opening the anahata and ajna chakras. In the merging of shadow and light we curve into ourselves. Daring greatly, being vulnerable, being all in, risking emotional exposure and baring our hearts with throat wide open, we reach deep inside and reconnect to that succulent core of the heart that spirals back out and feeds our essence, that which the world is thirsty for. This is how we both brilliantly engage in seeing our own shadow, leaning into it and emerging triumphant in the integrated Light of Being. By embracing our shadow we belong to ourselves again and bask in the joy of summer light.
Play is the crux of a creative life. The impulse to play is an instinct that may have been snuffed out all too early. Reclaim the instinctual impulse to bend over backwards for yourself. Dive into the sweet honey of your own heart. Bless the shadows and darkness with the very glitter that runs through your veins and remember the fire in your belly that roars… “In me there is a Light that lights the whole world.” Let that be the legacy you brave into.
- Mary Bruce