tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

Last year a friend convinced me to teach a guided meditation class, after his  teacher abruptly left Atlanta. I emphasized breath awareness—no particular tradition, just embodying the mala of one’s breath as a way to stay present.

This post is based on last year’s class at vernal equinox—considering the balance of light and dark, as we move into the light of the season.

I debated how to present meditation as a blog post, if I should write the transcript. In that case, much of the content would be about breathing. But I thought so much about breathing would bury the other content. However, the duration would be more accurate—that the meditation lasted about 45 minutes, which is far less time than you need to read this post.

But if you do want to read (silently or aloud) as meditation, I included a few reminders at the beginning. Then I used line breaks and symbols as reminders to breathe more deeply. Or to relax any tension in your shoulders, in your jaw. Or perhaps to sit more comfortably, or to rein in the monkey mind in from the jungle gym of distractions.

Take a deep breath, and take your time.

Wendy Hasenkamp © 2013

Wendy Hasenkamp © 2013

Here we sit, vernal equinox. § breathe §
This day of equal dark and light, § breathe §
this threshold of the season. § breathe §

§ § § [deep breath] § § §

Here [in Atlanta], of course, spring appears before this day. § § §
But for the sake of observance, § § §
I consider the newness, the transition into spring§ § §

§ § § § § § § § §

bare branches ready for the light of spring
SK © 2013

Spring.
When seeds break through the ground,
when flowers bud.

§ § § § § § § § §

And yet, despite requiring light, plants are first born in darkness.
Seeds usually sprout in the ground, far from light.
Other factors—such as water, temperature, oxygen content—
catalyze seeds so that they burst into life,
often without the light that is later necessary to sustain them.

§ § § § § § § § §

So at first, seeds must grow towards the surface of the ground
without the light on  which they will ultimately depend in order to live.

§ § § § § § § § §

By the time we see signs of spring,
the movement towards light has already begun,
invisible to us.

§ § § § § § § § §

Imagine life’s courage, faith, perserverance
to begin without the actual presence of what it needs to live.

§ § § § § § § § §

The wisdom of plants also demonstrates the necessity of the dark ground.
Where roots, the anchors, must grow.
Even though they are invisible to us.

§ § § § § § § § §

We tend to think of a tree as a trunk with a canopy overhead,
but  in reality a tree is more like a vajra, the trunk in the middle.

SK © 2013

SK © 2013

As above, so below—roots are underground branches.
And in some cases,
root systems are larger and more complex than what is above ground.

§ § § § § § § § §

Likewise, most births or rebirths, including our own, begin in the dark.

§ § § § § § § § §

I think of my own seeds, my own intentions planted this past winter.
And I consider my growth.
Though my intentions sprouted unseen, simply as thoughts,
they have journeyed through the dark.

§ § § § § § § § §

And now, at equinox, they are ready to break through the ground.
To be visible.
To be tangible.
To live fully.

§ § § § § § § § §

And yet, I also recall times when breaking out of darkness,
after those courageous journeys of faith,
when I felt overwhelmed by the sudden light.

§ § § § § § § § §

When I wanted to retreat to the security of darkness,
rather than face what seemed overpowering.

§ § § § § § § § §

Consider when tiny sprouts break through the ground.
Are they dazzled by light, temporarily blinded, after all that darkness?

§ § § § § § § § §

But even if they were at first overwhelmed by light,
or warmth, or wind,
life compels them to remain above ground.

§ § § § § § § § §

Visible.
Tangible.
Fully alive.

§ § § § § § § § §

And thus that which seems overwhelming is precisely what we need.
We are compelled,
by forces beyond us,
to remain in the light, regardless of any reluctance.

§ § § § § § § § §

We too must root in darkness,
recognizing its capacity for growth,
its ability to stabilize the the dynamism of growing and living in the light.

§ § § § § § § § §

Roots keep us cognizant of our past,
absorbing nutrients—the lessons, the wisdom—from the dark.

§ § § § § § § § §

And so,
to balance thriving in the light
with anchoring in the dark.

§ § § § § § § § §

We live.

ink drawing by Chelsea Darling
SK © 2013

One of my favorite mantras:

asato ma sad gamaya
tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
mrtyor ma’mrtam gamaya

translation:
Lead us from the untruth to truth.
Lead us from darkness to light.
Lead us from death to immortality.

~ from Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 1.3.28, recorded before the first millenium BCE

(The first line is often translated as “from the unreal to the real” or “from ignorance to truth,” though I prefer the more literal version.)

∞ Thanks to Wendy Hasenkamp for the photo and Ian Boccio for transliteration.

§ § § [breathe] § § §

SK © 2013

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About stephanie francesca

Stephanie Francesca lives a life of eclectic and ecstatic passion. In no particular order, she is a writer, yogini, musician, teacher, nomad, lover, thinker, reader, dancer. She strives to balance effort with surrender, precision with laughter. Live life, love live, live love.
This entry was posted in environment, identity, nature, the South, yoga. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

  1. Pingback: spring forth | southern with a small s

  2. Sues says:

    Bless you for writing this out. I just had the most lovely experience going through it. I love you!

  3. Pingback: why commune | southern with a small s

  4. Pingback: darkness and light | southern with a small s

  5. Pingback: San Francesco | southern with a small s

  6. Pingback: another new year | southern with a small s

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