A yoga instructor and activist, Seane Corn has made it her mission to bring awareness to the HIV/AIDS crisis. She has spent time in India, Asia and Africa teaching yoga, providing support and educating about HIV/AIDS prevention. In the coming weeks, she'll share more of her story with us as she blogs from the Uganda Seva Challenge, a trip that will raise money to fund and build health education programs to improve the quality of life for children in Uganda.
Yoga means to unite. Its translation is "to come together and make whole." It asserts that everything and everyone is connected and that there is no separation between heaven and earth, matter and consciousness, mind and body, male and female or you and I. Yoga recognizes that we are all one, all divine. If it is understood that there is no separation between the mind and body, then everything you think, feel or experience will have an affect on your cellular tissue. Your body remembers everything, and your health is often a reflection of your attitudes and perspectives. Negative or shadow emotions like rage, fear, unresolved grief and jealousy manifest as tension when repressed. Tension, stress and anxiety affect the immune, hormonal and neurological systems and can leave you vulnerable to disease, illness and even depression. When you don't feel well, body or mind, you can more easily withdraw, get reactive and judgmental; all qualities that separate you from yourself and from each other. It is through yoga, spiritual practice and emotional processing skills that you are provided tools to help you understand and embrace your circumstances, emotions and life in a more holistic way.
Understanding your life's journey, its spiritual significance, and shifting your perceptions can move the physical and emotional tension and allow healing, insight and transcendence to occur. Every time you practice yoga, moving your body and synchronizing those movements with your breath, tension releases. Releasing the tension begins the process that allows you to feel and connect to your vulnerability. Vulnerability is what opens you to surrender, and it is only through this level of availability that you can truly know one other and God.
Twenty-four years of practicing yoga has taught me that God is truth and love and exists in every moment, both dark and light. This essence is in each experience and in all beings equally. Yoga has taught me that you are in a conscious body to learn what love is, not romantic love, although that may be part of your learning, but God-love, which is inclusive and infinite. In order to truly understand what this "love" is, part of the challenge of being human is that you will also have to experience and explore its opposite; what love is not. This process could take lifetimes. To truly understand the light, you must also understand the power and mystery of the shadow. It has taught me to embrace the shadow parts of myself—the ugly, shameful, scary and often repressed aspects—because without the wisdom the shadow provides, I cannot truly understand the power of your light, the depths of your beauty, nor your capacity for empathy. I cannot know, love or honor all parts of you unless I know, love and honor all parts of me.
Yoga teaches you that everything that happens to you in this life happens perfectly and synergistically in order for the soul to transform and understand this level of God-love. Everyone has karma to burn, lessons to learn, and each one of you will walk some challenging and funky paths at times, but these moments will also be the divine catalysts providing great insight, healing and wisdom.
It taught me that adopting a spiritual life doesn't mean I will be exempt from pain or loss. You will all get hurt, your hearts will get broken, and people you love will die. That's life. All your experiences can provide invaluable opportunities for growth if you stay open to seeing them from a new perspective. For each of you, there will be certain lessons that must be learned in order to open your heart to love and empathy. Some of the lessons will be elegant; some will bring you to our knees in devastation. They will all be necessary.
The lessons yoga has taught
To learn these lessons and confront the different aspects of who you truly are, unique teachers will show up along the way to hold a mirror up to expose your shadow, or wounds. With them, you will be given the opportunity to witness your limited beliefs and your fears. Through them, you will also being provided the opportunity for empowerment and take responsibility for all the perceptions that keep you from your truest nature...and heal. This healing cannot occur without their inclusion in your life.
They are your angels. They will not look like it, but make no mistake, they are spiritual guides meant to illuminate your disconnection from source and guide your souls on its path toward awakening. You will do the same for them. Not one of us is exempt from the challenges of this life. You will all attempt, persevere, struggle, fail, arise, crawl, doubt and ultimately awaken. You will do the best you can, with what little you know, and work toward wholeness. You are all here to learn what love is. Not often in your time, but certainly in God's, and you will always draw to you what you need that can awaken you to your highest divinity. Through these beings, you will learn patience, acceptance and compassion. You will learn to embrace your disowned selves and reclaim your strength and power. Through these beings, you can remember that everyone is connected, everyone is here to learn about love, and everyone is here to heal. Through them, you will be given the opportunity to forgive and be forgiven. Through them, you can remember that the God that is within, is within all.
One of the most important things I have learned from this practice is that the horrific dysfunction that exists within in our global family today—war, violence, terrorism, poverty, etc.—is happening because there is a perpetuation of this sense of separation on a global level. A sense of "other-ness." An "us" against "them." All of our planetary problems are a manifestation of our individual actions and collective thoughts. Because most beings don't have the proper tools or skills to deal with our shadow self, we often put fear above love and righteousness over understanding. We do this out of habit and familiarity. Then, also out of habit, we repress our feelings. We get addicted to our tension and need for control. We make someone else wrong in order to be right. We assign blame and feel victimized. We shut down and stop caring. All of this leads to apathy. Apathy is the true evil, perpetuating this sense of separation and leaving devastation in its wake, because apathy means we just don't care.
Yoga teaches us that if any one of us buys into the myth of separation or disconnection, then we are part of the problem. If we want to change what is happening within our planet and create an environment for peace, we must first transform ourselves. The first course of true action is to explore where in our own personal lives we are still living in separation. Where do you perceive a "you" and a "them"? Who do you still blame for your hurt? Who are you still holding responsible for your pain 10 years later, 40 years later? Where are you acting as if you are a victim? Where are you still addicted to the "story"? Who are your teachers? How have the events in your life conspired to open your heart to love? What perceptions do you need to transform and heal? If we can have the grace to shift our own limited beliefs and thinking, and if more of us were committed to honoring all aspects of life as unified, perhaps we can begin to transform our relationships, global and individual, from fear and exclusion into love and inclusion. This is how peace can prevail.
So, yoga teaches that we are all one, all connected, all here to guide, teach and support each other in the process of being. We will all have to struggle through the myriad challenges that will occur in the uncovering of our light and this process can take lifetimes. The first step of true healing is to see our lives beyond reason, embrace the mystery, stay present and breathe and have the strength every day in all moments to forgive ourselves and each other for the impossibly vulnerable task of being in these bodies at this time.
Breathe and all will be revealed, love and all will be healed. This is yoga.
Seane Corn is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher known for her impassioned activism, unique self-expression and inspirational style of teaching that incorporates both the physical and mystical aspects of the practice of yoga. For more on Seane Corn, visit SeaneCorn.com .
Printed from Oprah.com on Saturday, March 8, 2014
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