It is my last morning in India. My trusty alarm, the riot of Hindi music blasting across the rice fields and through the coconut groves beckons me out of bed and along the short path to the yoga Shala. There, shrouded in the cool darkness of the amritvela, the hours of the predawn, I quietly take my seat alongside the outlines of kindred spirits. Our custom has been to maintain silence during these morning practices, yet as I settle in, the world around me is anything but quiet.
The muezzin accompanies the blaring Bollywood track calling the faithful of this small Keralan village to worship while a cacophony of birdsong announces the sun’s eminent debut. The local dogs howl mournfully, bidding their dear moon goodbye for now and an old rooster does his best to compete with the din.
Gradually, as my awareness shifts to the hush of my own breath, the morning song recedes into the background. A fresh and floral sweetness enters through my nostrils and as it exits, the silky air tickles my upper lip. Drawn in by the sound of the ocean caught in a shell emanating from my own throat, peace enters my entire being. It is for this moment--in which Awareness and breath dissolve into silence--that I am here: on this mat, in this place, on this planet.
We are four women arranged in a line facing the east where the sun will soon begin the daily miracle of showing its face. For two weeks, we have begun each day in this way with our masterful teacher guiding us, but today we are unaccompanied, each woman attending to her own practice.
Lead by breath and my body’s innate intelligence. Exhaling out resistance until empty of so much effort. Inhaling space and grace until full of the lightness of simply being. Receiving each breath, grateful for the nourishment which unravels, softens, and releases layers of aches, pains, and sorrows accumulated over lifetimes.
For the next hour, we move in this way. Each woman harmonizing her own body with breath as together, we compose a symphony for the dawn. Later, in the sacred silence of savasana, suspended in the void between waking and sleeping, a story our teacher shared yesterday swirls in my mind:
Somewhere in the Amazon amongst a people who live close to the land, young children who are recognized as spiritually ripe are taken to live together with some of the elder shamans in a cave.Sequestered there, they learn the language of the plant world and how to communicate with the spirits. They recite the stories that have sustained their culture for millennia, and though they never see it, they learn of the Sun and its importance to our human existence. After ten or more years of imbibing the mysteries of the natural world, one night they are taken out of the cave and lead to the top of a mountain where, for the first time, they watch the sunrise. As they witness the sun cresting over the horizon, their hearts blow open with the ecstasy of one who has witnessed a miracle, and they are reborn. In their new life, these young adults wander the forests where they are called upon by their people to bless, protect, and heal as keepers of the light.
Lying on my mat in the dim light, I sense how it feels to live surrounded by darkness having knowledge and reverence for, but no real experience of light. And I imagine the sensations of that first contact with light and what it would be like to live perpetually in such a state of grace that, every morning, the sunrise would be a divine revelation.
Breath whispers through the stillness that presides over the threshold between dawn and daylight. As we return to our seats, heads bowed, palms pressing, a tenderness for my companions, for myself, for every being who is right now praying for the light tightens my chest and closes my throat; tears trickle down and drop into my lap. Eventually, we women will return to our homes spread across three continents; but for right now, we share this breath, this moment, this sunrise.
On cue with the emergence of the sun’s fiery crown, the soundscape shifts to the hum of humanity—the chatter of women, footsteps along the dusty path, the clinking of breakfast dishes, a lone rickshaw horn announcing its presence on the adjacent street. A new day begins as I awaken to everything ordinary.