I walked into the bathroom the other day to get something, and I turned on the light. It was an unintentional move, a simple habit. I thought to myself, “you don't need the light on, you know exactly where every thing is in here, you are merely wasting electricity, you aren't being environmentally friendly.”
However, when I left the bathroom and just as unconsciously switched off the light I again was uncomfortable with my choice. The space before me was no longer gently illuminated. “The light is so soothing,” I thought, “a way to ensure nothing has blocked your path (such as a stealthy dog I have a tendency to trip over).” This act of turning on and off a light got me thinking, as you can tell.
Many traditions speak of a light within. A small flame at the center of your heart, an energy, a divine spark, etc. As we go through our life, struggling to fit in while simultaneously trying to develop our own unique sense of self, we slowly hide that light deeper, making it darker, until sometimes we don't realize it's even on anymore. It is like putting one lampshade over a light, then another and another until it's no longer a light with a job, instead it is a place to hang a mask. On a side note, in the yogic tradition these shades are known as veils, or to be technical, Koshas. We have five of them, divided into the physical, subtle, and causal bodies, or body, mind, and soul. Not to take up the page going into each of these, we can take our natural sheaths and work at keeping them clean by eating well, studying, practicing selfless acts of service, meditating, taking time to mindfully breathe, etc.
We have a choice. We can live externally and take on all the struggle and strife of the world, of our ego or small self. When we do this the veils we accept are full of color, they seem pretty, full of energy and life. But as we put them on the brilliance may feel short-lived so we seek again.
The veil we chose that was full of color and the world, is too dark for the light to shine through so it loses its vitality. Without a light to shine through it gets dull. Now the other choice is to be mindful, intentional about the veils we accept. Bringing in things that are healthy: food, breath, vows, meditation (there it is! This is a blog about meditation, I had to bring it up sooner or later!), daily practices of compassion. These veils are clear. Theses veils allow light to shine brightly through. Meditation helps us disengage from all the desires of the world, all of the seeking for a light that we forgot we already had. We have an opportunity to be our own gentle glow along our path, to be a gentle glow along someone else's path. We have all that we need already.
We can move through our day, life, world, moving habitually, using false external light. Or we can live intentionally each day, consciously using our own light, the light we find through a committed meditation practice, that leads to truth, to peace, to illumination. It makes me think of a child's Sunday School song, “This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!” So to end, turn off the lights in your house, it's good for the environment. But let's make acommitment to walk through the dark house of ourselves, cleaning house as we go, dusting and shaking out those veils. Let's make a vow to never switch off our own light. That's good for the environment too.
Tamara Millken began practicing yoga in 2003, and teaching in 2007. She trained and is 500 hour certified through the Shambhava School of Yoga. She currently teaches Yoga for Healing, Tibetan Heart Yoga, and meditation at the Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio and the Millwood Community Center.