“What’s the darkest day of the year?”. It was question asked by the Rabbi at a Bar Mitzvah I attended last weekend. “December 21st” was the answer called out from the congregation. “That’s true”, the Rabbi went on “December 21st is the first day of the winter, the shortest day of the year.” But, the Rabbi went on to tell a story. One wall of the room that we were seated in is made completely out of glass. And that glass wall happens to be facing the south. So as the Rabbi explained it, in the height of the summer, when the sun was directly overhead, he looked out and saw the congregation covered in shadows, the roof blocking any of the light. But, on a Saturday afternoon, with the winter sun traveling low across the southern sky, the room was awash in bright sunlight. In fact, the lower in the sky that the sun travels, the shorter and darker that the day gets, the brighter the sun shines in to fill this particular room. “Often, you’ll find, it’s the same with life” concluded the Rabbi.
It was a lesson I have had experience with. When sickness struck my family, when the days seemed darkest, suddenly we found ourselves awash in the light and support of a community we didn’t even know existed. Other times it would be simpler things, a phone call from a friend at just the right time. Or that break you get out of the blue, when you truly believed that all your options had run out. The universe does have an uncanny way to provide you with what you need just when you need it most. A week before Thanksgiving, this seemed like a perfect lesson to contemplate on.
And as these thoughts continued to roll around in my head, I thought more and more, that being thankful isn’t enough. Gratitude is a great first step, but it doesn’t have to be the last. So I made a practice this week of setting the intention of not just recognizing the light, but to aspire to be the light. Now as you read this, you might be thinking to yourself, “that’s it, Tim has finally lost it. He’s gone all new-age on me”. But bear with me while I explain.
Breath is central to yoga practice. At a very real and biological level, it is life. This week while I practiced, I was extra conscious of my breath and of the image of life literally flowing in and out of my body. As I continued to breath, I set the intention of not just breathing for my body, but breathing for all of the people in the room with me. Then I made it my intention to breath for all my friends and family. And as I continued to breath, I imagined I was breathing for all the people everywhere. Each breath filling everyone in the world with life and light. Again, the rational minded of you is thinking I’m crazy. And on one hand I agree with you. I admit, I can’t actually breath for anyone else. Maybe there is no mystical life force flowing into my body, just atoms and molecules. On the other hand, I have learned that intentions are important. And as one of my teachers likes to say, “Action Follows Intention”. So, for now I am practicing the intention of being the light for others. And maybe if I practice hard enough, I’ll get the chance to be the light on someone’s darkest day. And that’s an idea I can be truly thankful for.