Windows

by Sarah G., Guest Blogger

Sarah's Window 06.30.09

Light streams through the trees and throws dappled shadows over the ground. The shadows morph and shift with the light as limbs and leaves respond to the breeze. Light has a way of looking and feeling different throughout its daily life cycle, and morning light is my favorite.

The shadows and light, just two dancing partners on Nature’s vast stage, begin to creep through the window and climb up the wall. The effect is that of a thousand butterflies alighting momentarily and then taking flight, over and over again. I stare up at the wall, admiring this performance, and begin to feel warmth on my face as the sun sends itself through the window panes. I close my eyes and I can still see the massive swarm of butterflies through what seem like semi-transparent lids.

I open my eyes and fill my lungs with air. I breathe out and extend my right arm, my hand slipping into a patch of sun on the floor. Most of my arm is still cloaked in shadow, but my upturned palm is awash in pinkish gold, catching the hundreds of tiny particles that sun rays reveal. This is why they’re all here this morning; they are all reaching for the light. Emerging from the darkness, longing for the luminous, they’re embarking on an epic journey out of night.
 
At least for a little while.

In my three years teaching yoga I’ve worked with cancer patients, cancer survivors, a blind woman, an Iraq War amputee, a school shooting survivor, and someone who barely escaped the collapse of the first tower on 9/11. Sufferers of multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, degenerative disc disease, osteoporosis, scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis, trigeminal neuralgia, epilepsy, bulimia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Parents mourning the loss of their children to tragic accidents, children mourning the loss of their parents to age and disease. I’ve seen people in unspeakable amounts of physical and emotional pain, tears slipping silently down their cheeks in class. I’ve taught doctors, lawyers, soldiers, community leaders, teachers, musicians, farmers, artists, children, athletes, a professional skydiver and a NATO pilot.

I get to hug these people, offer them my tissues and my ears, and remind them to breathe. They start out seeming like “everyday” folks, but sometimes after class they feel compelled to share their stories and I realize they’re quite remarkable folks. The class is a safe haven for them, a neutral space. I’m not offering medications or judgments or specific advice, but rather an opportunity for them to just feel what they feel and know that it’s okay. Despite what some of them have been through, despite all the darkness and palpable pain in their eyes and their movements, they are so full of light and hope. Their thanks are always so sincere and unaffected and they tell me I teach them so much, but I feel I’m the one who’s always learning.  In a gracious symbiosis, I help them see their worlds with a new awareness and they help me see new worlds through their eyes. A job of service is one of constant re-orientation and perspective, and that’s worth so much more than any monetary gain that comes from it.  Each time I go to work I am humbled, inspired, and reminded of something greater than myself.

The shadow butterflies grow larger as the morning grows older, and the frenetic dance begins to slow. The room has been given new life with the warmth of bodies and soft whispers of breath. They’ve opened some windows of their own, and they rest in the comfort of knowing that they don’t know.  They are reassured, even if only just for now, that the journey isn’t about the origin or the destination; that these shadows and light…they need each other.  They’re able to lie back and watch the play, the morph and shift of their lives, and appreciate the beauty of the dance.

At least for a little while.

[Updated with photo 7/6/09]

Undiffused

It’s interesting how the light doesn’t spread; not even a beam shoots down from the source, as if Scotty was never in charge. Nobody’s going anywhere. A visible beam would mean light shining on particles in the air. No dust? No skin cells? No moisture? Or is the darkness just that oppressive? How do you even know where you are, if the light is your only point of reference? It’s not illuminating anything else, but the darkness can’t cover it. It can’t snuff it out. The point here is not that the light isn’t shining on anything; the point is that it’s shining at all, and that you can see it. You might try to get semantic and say it’s shining on the dark, and without the darkness, you couldn’t see the light. The darkness provides some competition for your eyes, true, but do your eyes follow the darkness or the light? Can your eyes focus on complete darkness? In the dark, your pupils dilate, wider and wider, to let in as much light as possible, fumbling for the slightest flicker, because darkness is nothing, except the lack of light. Darkness is a void that light too easily fills. It doesn’t have to be completely dark for light to take over. It’s darkness that spreads when light fades; there are no beams of darkness. Darkness doesn’t even have a chance.