One year ago, I celebrated Diwali at home for the first time. My husband didn’t understand why a Venezuelan girl, married to a Peruvian guy, living in Myanmar, would want to celebrate this Indian festivity. But as yogis we know by experience that we are not defined by all these labels and limitations. Yoga is unity, so we should embody unity and naturally reflect it in every aspect of our lives. According to my husband, celebrating other cultures’ festivities or chanting mantras in a foreign language is somehow a cultural appropriation. This concept didn’t resonate with me at all, so it opened a very interesting and somehow heated conversation.
I wanted to celebrate Diwali to honor the value of light conquering darkness, and for me that’s quite multilayered and inclusive. You don’t have to be from any particular belief system to identify with this.
We have all experienced moments of light, of grace, in our lives and moments of suffering and “life against me.” Moments of unity with the whole and moments of misalignment and struggle. The yogi, even in moments of pain can rise in bliss and equanimity.
As Anand Ji says, darkness only makes light more relevant. For there to be light there should be darkness, and for there to be darkness there must be light.
The task at hand for me as a yogi was to bring the light of unity into the darkness of separation.
Many cultures around the globe celebrate light. They light up candles, paper lanterns, bonfires, and fireworks. They welcome light in their homes and lives. Families and friends gather in joyous ambience, where light sparks up that deep longing for peace and trust in our hearts. All unity values!
I read in the Bhagavad Gita by Yogananda that when God said, “May there be light,” he was referring to us. We are the light. And our focus should be moving from darkness back into light.
If we think about it, whenever we are in conflict with somebody or in any particular situation, we are not experiencing unity. Bringing the light of awareness in these situations is the perfect antidote. As yogis we must always leave the window of unity open. People might not be ready for it in that particular moment, but it will make them think.
Another opportunity of separation-awareness and potential for unity-embrace happened with a friend. I mentioned that I had a good friend called Saraswati. This automatically triggered her. “Is this a white girl and yoga teacher who changed her name?” She asked. “Yes,” I answered. “What’s the problem?” I said. And a whole separatist discourse came out of her mouth. She is really not happy about foreign people charging a lot of money for yoga classes that, according to her, should be “free” for Indian citizens. And not to mention changing their name!
That time I just looked in her eyes allowing the silence of unity to speak up. Sometimes silence is the most powerful lesson. I have experienced it many times at Sattva or with sangha. The moment you say something misaligned, when confronted by silence and compassion it bounces back at you acting like a mirror that reflects your asura nature. It’s amazing! So, in that moment that is what I felt was relevant, pure silence. May the words of separation bounce back and dissolve in the light of awareness.
Coming back to the conversation with my husband, guess what? A few months ago, the same conversation came up. After some “you think you’re always right” and “you think you hold the truth on everything” type of speech that as yogis you might have encountered several times, he finally understood it! He was creating walls of separation.
If celebrating Diwali, changing your name, or chanting mantras out loud makes you happy, then what’s the harm? So, shine people, shine!
This year I’m celebrating Diwali again, and Saraswati is coming for dinner.
Happy Diwali to all of you! May you be that Diwali candle in the darkest of nights bringing light wherever you go.
Love and light, Patricia Corell
Sattva Yoga Master Teacher and writer, Patricia Corell. Website: www.anandamayayoga.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, IG: @patycorellyoga