This weekend is the convergence of several holy-days. Candlemas, Imbolc, Aquarius New Moon and the Chinese New Year.
Imbolc is often associated with the coming back of life. After a long, hard, dark and cold winter, February is when the ewes start lambing. An awful time for anything to give birth -- with little food or warmth to carry them through -- they miraculously create new life anyway, not only feeding the young with their luscious milk but also sharing it with humans and giving them life as well.
To the Celtic people, this emerging sign of life was their beloved Bridgit, the triple goddess, bringing fire back from the underworld so that we might live again. Fire, after all, being the thing that sustains and grows all life.
Later, the Christians celebrated this time of year – known as Candlemas, 40 days after the birth of Christ – by lighting candles and bringing the first snow drop flowers into the house.
Yet, even with these signs of new life and the hope of light return, for those of us who live in the North, we know that early February still promises many more cold and dark days ahead. We even ask a groundhog – how much longer will we have to wait until we’ll be warm again?
This, my friends, is the essence of Imbolc. We have been in the dark, facing the void and unknown, digging into ourselves at the deepest of levels. Our souls called us here, so that we may know ourselves, but now, we are not sure how much longer we can hold on. If it goes on like this forever, we may loose our grasp.
But just when we think we can’t take another step, or make the next push, or face the same excruciating inner or outer challenge, something happens. Grace floats down, magically, out of nowhere. She picks us up and says, “Hold on my dear child. You do not have to do this alone. I am here and I promise, very soon you will be playing in the green fields under the strong sun, alive and on purpose.” She gives us hope.
Yet, she often only comes when we are on the brink of exhaustion and hopelessness. We feel that we are at our wits end, and the larder is bare. Then she comes. She ALWAYS comes, but on her own timeframe. It is the cycle of the year, and it is more than just our faith that makes it so.
This year, within this faithful yearly cycle, is another cycle. That of the zodiac. This year Imbolc/Candlemas/groundhogs day/etc falls not only on a New Super Moon in Aquarius, but also on the Chinese New Year.
2014 is the Year of the Horse. The last two years have been water years and before that, metal years. Like that dark place right before Imbolc, these years decended us into the space of the void. We dissolved. Everything felt chaotic, and our internal world held sway over every attempt at external control. It was a time of deep soul searching – sometimes the result of destabilizing situations. Yet, these years were a gift. It was here that we found important parts of ourselves and a relationship to something bigger (call it whatever you will).
But NOW, in the year of the wood horse, we are about to gallop into the energetic place of purposeful action. Light, hope and clarity emerge in this cycle of regeneration. We feel our buds bursting open, passions flaring forth, and feel ready to harvest our abundant fruits.
Wood is growth, and the Horse is Fire. The wood brings energy and the horse spirit. The horse has an indomitable desire to be free in every aspect of life. Even in it’s service, it comes by its own terms (perhaps a bit like grace).
With wood and horse coming together, this is the year to follow our intuition. To follow our inner voice like never before. It is time to let ourselves be guided by the wisdom of our abundant, overflowing hearts. As there will be tremendous force to help bring whatever we desire into fruition. The paths we trod into the unknown future will be paved with trust, pleasure and vibrancy.
As the horses come charging in, we may want be prepared to meet it. Take time to build your Agni, or inner fire. Agni, also known as the god of fire, lives within us and when burning brightly takes away the doubts and fears of the past.
Ignite the inner flame, so that when that wood horse gallops your way, you can grab hold of the trusted stead, swing onto its back, let out a loud whoop of delight, and gallop into the direction of your dreams. But hang on tight, for you are about to embark on a wild ride.
(Pssst. Friday’s practice will be all about tools and techniques to build Agni, our own inner fire!)
We love ourselves at our brightest – the place where we feel the most on fire. In class after class, indeed in my own practice and teaching, I often find myself encouraging both myself and students to pay attention to the light -- after all energy follows thought. Yet, one of my dearest mentors, Swami Rama, used to say “you will go further in your Yoga by exploring your dark than you ever will by simply hanging out in the light.”
Hard to believe, but after years of practice, I have found these words to ring true. Many of us glimpse our darkness and run from it – often hiding it from ourselves and others. If we were to allow ourselves to go there, we would have to face our grief and despair, anger and betrayal, and meanness and pettiness. We are afraid that by going there, we will fall apart, and lose everything dear to us. Yet, for those who are brave enough, they find that in the falling, we are caught. In the darkness, we find the authentic sparks of our own being and truth. Here, we discover our Yoga.
As we face the challenges of our darkness, it is vital to be armed with the tools that keep us from drowning. Just like the rest of our yoga, we must be skillful in our approach. I found that while I explored the dark, I needed to thread – or suture – to the light. The tools that connected me to the light, came from Samyoga.
Even with hundreds of styles of yoga in the world, according to the ancient texts, all yoga fall into one of two categories: yoga that strengthens the connection to who we truly are, and yoga that removes the things that get in the way of connecting to who we truly are -- Samyoga and Viyoga respectively. Both are needed, and I found SamYoga to be vital for the journey into these deeper, hidden aspects of myself.
If you are dedicated to self-understanding and want to find the heart of Yoga, come discover some of the tools of Samyoga. We will weave together postures, breathing, intention, attention, sound, mindfulness and meditation to enter into our own state of Yoga, and discover the jewels of our own Self.
Jackie Dobrinska is a beloved yoga therapist, holistic health educator, minister and author. She recognizes that finding fulfillment and beauty is an inside job - the result of an inner radiance that comes from connecting to the core of who we truly are. She teaches at Asheville Yoga Donation Center on Fridays 1:30 - 3:00 and Asheville Community Yoga 9:30 - 11:00 on Tuesdays. (and as a self proclaimed yoga nerd, she promises to leave the left-brain discussions at the door!) www.ASimpleVibrantLife.com