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There Was A Light November 14, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

[“Happy Diwali!” to anyone celebrating! May you be healthy, wealthy, and wise!]

“oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tat savitur vareṇyaṃ

bhargo devasya dhīmahi

dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt”


[Conscious, subconscious, unconscious mind, and every plane of existence, we meditate on the (adorable) Light, that it may inspire us, enlighten us, and remove our obstacles.]


– “Gāyatrī Mantra” from the Rig Veda (from Mandala 3.62.10)

During the darkest times of the year, people all over the world celebrate light. In each culture’s stories and traditions, light overcoming darkness is a metaphor for good overcoming evil; life overcoming death, wisdom overcoming fear; love overcoming hate; hope overcoming despair, and knowledge overcoming ignorance.  This year, the celebrations kick off with Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

Diwali is a five-day celebration which takes its name from Deepavali, which are rows and rows of lamps. It is a lunar calendar based holiday observed throughout India, parts of Southeast Asia, and the diaspora by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Newar Buddhists. Each day has different rituals and customs, which may vary between religious, cultural, and regional traditions. But, the common threads are the (clay) lamps and other great displays of light; pujas (“offerings”); feasts and sweets; epic tales of heroes and heroines prevailing; and a focus on relationships and also on wealth.

Today (the third day) is the biggest day: Diwali! It is a day that is normally marked by people getting together, feasting and celebrating. It is a day of new beginnings. It is a day, once again, when 2020 and the pandemic require people to figure new ways to honor old customs. People, once again, are finding their way through the darkness and into the light.

“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”


– quoted from “Tryst with Destiny” address to the Constituent Assembly of India in New Dehli, August 14 – 15, 1947, by Jawaharlal Nehru

This year, the primary day of Diwali coincides with India’s Children’s Day (Bal Diwas), which is observed every year on the anniversary of the birth of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s First Prime Minister. Prime Minister Nehru was born today in 1889 and was a prominent figure in India’s independence movement. He was known as “Pandit Nehru,” because of his Kashmiri Pandit heritage, and had such an affinity for the children of his country (and they for him) that Indian kids called him Chacha Nehru (Hindi for “Uncle Nehru”). He advocated for the rights, care, and education of children – who are the light of the world.

So, in honor of all these convergences, here‘s a quick lesson about light… and the laws of motion: light moves and light bends, just like us.

Want a little bit more? OK. Think about Newton’s first law of motion (also known as the law of inertia), what happens if the object in motion is a wave of light? Just like anything else, it will keep moving until it meets with resistance. Then what? Does it stop? Not really. Instead of stopping, light bends.

Well, technically speaking, light waves do more than just “bend.” It also bounces, or changes direction; which is what happens when it hits a reflective surface and it skips (over and around things).

Refraction is the most common term used when light bends and it applies to the change in direction that takes place when light waves (or other kinds of waves) move from one type of surface to another. Typically these surfaces would be transparent – so, think of how a straw in a half full (or half empty) glass of water appears above and below the water line. The optical illusion that makes the straw appear disjointed is refraction caused by the difference in density between the air (in the top of the glass) and the water (at the bottom). Optical fibers, glass lenses, and crystals or prisms are the types of objects used to create refraction. In fact, “correcting” someone’s vision with eyeglasses or contacts is a practical implementation of refraction. Dispersion is a special type of refraction that occurs when different wavelengths are refracted different amounts; which is how we get rainbows. Finally, diffusion is a softening effect created from dispersion.

On the flip side, diffraction occurs when light “bends” around or through something. For instance, if there is a wall with a partially open window and light is shining on one side of the wall, that light can be seen through the glass of the window and through the part of the window that’s opened.

Sometimes, when we move through the physical practice, I will suggest visualizing the breath as light. Of course, to really focus, concentrate, meditate on your breath as light, you have to understand how light works. In other words, what happens to the light when you bend forward, back, and side to side? Does it reflect (bounce)? Does it refract (bend) – and if it does, is there dispersion or diffusion? Where does it diffract (or skip)? Finally, where does it seem like the light ends, because it’s completely blocked (and did you block it on purpose)?

Yoga Sūtra 2.46: sthirasukham āsanam


– “Cultivate a steady [or stable], easy [comfortable or joyful] seat [or pose].”


Yoga Sūtra 2.47: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām


– “[The way to perfect the seat or pose] is by relaxing [or loosening] effort and by merging with the infinite.”

Jumping off from last week, this week’s sūtra takes us a little deeper into the practice of āsana. It explains that while we need effort to get into the pose, once we are there, mastery (or perfection) comes from “effortless effort” and the ability to focus the mind on something that does not end – like light. While some translations specifically reference “effortless effort” (that concept that pops up again and again in Taoism and Buddhism), other translations refer to “special stress-free effort.” If you’ve practiced with me, you’ve heard me refer to that “balance between effort and relaxation.” Maybe you’ve thought you need to have as many parts of your body relaxed as you have engaged. Well, yes, and no…. Ultimately, you want everything simultaneously engaged and relaxed. However you describe it, you want to find that state where you are creating inertia.

I know, I know, “creating inertia” sounds a little weird if you take it out of context. But, if you think about it in terms of basic physics and the laws of motion, you are finding Friedrich Nietzsche’s definition of happiness: cultivating a state whereby you continuously stay in motion (and/or stay still) by overcoming resistance.

When you engage your muscles, by contracting (or shortening/tightening) them, there is resistance. When you “stretch” or lengthen the muscles, which is another form of engagement, there will ultimately be resistance – unless you can relax into the pose. Once you can relax in a pose, you eliminate fatigue and “our ability to be happy with what we are and what we have, our ability to embrace all and exclude none, our ability to cultivate and retain a robust and energetic body, and our ability to heal ourselves and each other” rises. Once you can relax into a pose, the only resistance you meet is the ground and gravity – both of which you can use to go deeper. (Which, in this case, is softer.)

“Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And [Arnold Joseph] Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junk heap of destruction.”


– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/17/1957)


“Oh, my friends, it may be that Western civilization will end up destroyed on the highway of history because we failed to dim our lights with the great light of love at the right time.”


– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/10/1957)


Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, November 14th) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0.

You can request an audio recording of Saturday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Today’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “Diwali (Day 3) 2020”]

“There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen Power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses. But it is possible to reason out the existence of God to a limited extent….



And is this Power benevolent or malevolent? I see it as purely benevolent. For I can see, that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good.”


– quoted from Young India issue dated 11-10-1928, by Mahatma Gandhi


### “There will be light.” (B-G 1:3) ###


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