Own Your Torch, Share the Light.
Updated: May 26, 2019
Here's my take on a dear friend's quandary about cultivating and protecting our inner light. In her submission to Ask An Aspiring Yogini, my friend used the metaphor of the torch (see below). This led me to the mythology behind this ancient symbol. She's also requested daily practice, which inspired and motivated me to create a free weekly series on our new youtube channel, Sacred Seeds Yoga School Online.
A Wonderment from my Dear Friend
What one thing can I do everyday to challenge my fears in an effort to better direct my path, where I raise my own torch instead of the torch of others?
Thank you for your great question! So many of us wonder how to challenge and conquer our fears so that we can know and live more authentically ourselves. Whether at our work place or in our personal realms, many of us feel as if our lives are driven by the desire and greed of others that seem more powerful, often at the expense of feeding and directing our own lives.
Your question has so many fascinating layers. First, as usual, I am drawn to the elemental quality of your question. You evoke the torch -- FIRE! Being pitta constitution in the Ayurveda medical system, I'm in love with fire. (Pitta basically means my make-up is dominated by fire and water).
And while you meant the torch metaphorically, I believe there is much to unravel here. So, if you'll indulge me, I'll dive deeper into this icon.
The Mythology of Torches
When we use the symbol of the torch my minds goes to one of the most famous -- The Olympic Torch.
Being a writer and a mystic, I've always been drawn to mythology. According to creation theory in Greek mythology, Prometheus and Epimetheus created humans out of clay -- the earth. Prometheus loved his creation so much he honored human life with the unique gift of fire.
Zeus, being a tyrant, decided fire was too powerful a gift and took it away from the humans. A thwarted lover, scientist and artist, Prometheus secretly returned his gift of fire by lighting a torch from the Sun God, Apollo, and taking it back to man and woman, one by one.
The torch relay was not always apart of the Olympic games, but lighting torches in front of the Greek temples always has been. Ironically enough the games were to honor the tyrant, Zeus, whom took the light away.
Since the 1930's the Olympic Games included the famous torch relay as part of the starting ceremony. The very first ceremony was done by women. They called on the Sun God, Apollo as they lit the first torch. Then they passed, torch by torch, the fire from Olympia to Berlin, the host city of the Olympics that year. This united the ancient and modern, the Great Spirits with humans. Again, ironically, the final city receiving that symbol of unity was governed by the tyrant, Adolf Hitler.
In both of these stories, humanities inner flame is stolen by a dictator. I say this to let you know you are not alone. Dictators stealing woman's light is an age-old story. A pointed question we all have to ask is: whom and what dictates your inner light?
Despite these stories, the ritual is powerful and we still do it today. It always starts with a ceremony that unites these games with spirituality, represented by fire. The torch is then carried by runners, ships, and aircrafts to the host city. Not one person carries it, many do.
With this tradition, I believe there is a remembrance of Prometheus' love for us. This love is a recognition that we are all fueled to shine forth our individual talents, which connects us to the gifts and magnificence of all human kind.
When a torch is lit by another it doesn't lose its flame. The fire's simply grown.
Indian Mythology meets Medicine
Let's tie this symbol to Indian Mythology. In Hinduism, Agni is the mythical god of fire. He is said to be the god with the closest relationship to humans and the arbitrator between god and man. In this tradition, the symbol for Atman -- our soul -- is the sun, Agni's spiritual form.
There's something true with the feeling of a fire inside as a symbol of a spirit deeper within us. We say, "she has a spark," "her light is bright," and "he shines." As science progresses, we are also convinced that we are all made up of stars, just like the sun. Undeniably, there is individual and spiritual significance to fire in our culture.
Ayurveda, the Indian health system, uses the term agni for our inner digestive "fire" or, in western terms, for our metabolism. If our agni is strong we are healthy in our gut and therefore our minds. If we are able to digest foods easily and freely, then we can digest ideas, events and relationships easily and freely.
Basically, the connection to our selves is healthy and clear if we have a strong inner fire. If our agni is weak then our guts are stagnant. We are more likely to get sick, which clouds our minds. We have less clarity and connection to ourselves, therefore, the world around us.
According to this theory, agni, or fire, is directly related to our functioning in the world. If we add the mythology to this system of medicine then fire is also key to us functioning spiritually.
Focus on Boundaries then Tend to Your Fire!
Let's get back to your personal desire, most likely birthed from your inner sun :)
I hear in your question a burning need to connect with your own inner agni -- Goddess of Light! You point to two different issues.
1. Needing to Challenge Fear
2. Carrying the torch of others;
tending to their agni rather than your own.
I would suggest before we go directly to tending your fire, let's go to the foundation of the fire -- the structure. This leads us to the element of earth. According to my understanding of the yogic teachings, the earth element addresses these two issues -- fear and boundaries.
After addressing fears and establishing boundaries, we can turn to that innate inner flame. We will ask it questions and build its strength. This will inevitable light the way along your path :)
Ask and you shall receive two fold!
You requested for one daily thing to do. Given the layers we've discussed so far, I can't clearly see how one practice will help such a complex idea and spiritual need. So, I have come up with a very short daily practice that will change every week for two months.
You decide whether to commit to it. If you do, I believe you will receive insight and access to what you are wanting and needing.
Here's a break down of the two months...
Month One: Earth
Fear is a poison of the mind. It can be a useful construct at times but it can also be very limiting and harmful, as we all know. So before we challenge those fears, I would ask that you get more aware of what they are. Get past the point of analyzing with your rational mind and feel them intimately within your body, gut and heart-mind. Earth practices lean toward deep awareness.
Then, we'll focus on boundaries. I always come to earth practice when working with yoga therpay students. If you don't know your physical boundaries then it is very easy to give away your energy or light to others and let other people come in and steal your energy or light.
We'll do some static holds in warriors and practice standing your ground. This shouldn't be too difficult for you because you are a strong, beautiful cyclist.
Month Two: Fire
We'll want to build a strong connection to this inner agni, inner passion and spirit! There are many yoga practices dedicated to this. They will help you connect, strengthen and shine your inner self to others while having the foundation of earth to protect it!
5 minute Daily Practices
for the next 60 days
I strongly suggest doing them 6-7 days a week. It's only 5 minutes and for 2 months. You can read this overview but focus the first lesson and video below. I will add a new video every week :)
Earth Month: Week One
Awareness mediation -- first be aware of the physical sensations, then take that awareness to your fears. The first video is up.
The practice is only 5 minutes (1:50 - 6:50). Start when you're ready!
Earth Month: Week Two
Belly Breath Meditation -- simply breath into your belly and notice the physical boundary of your core.
Earth Month: Week Three
Warrior I or II -- root down, find your ground. Be aware and set your boundaries!
Earth Month: Week Four
Chair -- a squat flow connects us deep to our roots while drawing some of that energy upward. Nothing has helped me understand my physical boundaries more than this posture.
Fire Month: Week 1
Flame Meditation -- focusing on an external flame will remind you of the flame within and to focus on yourself.
Fire Month: Week 2
Victorious Breath Meditation -- simple breath that creates heat in the body and therefore brings awareness to your inner fire and connects the moment to your victorious soul.
Fire Month: Week 3
Warrior III -- a stronger warrior that gives direction for your inner light.
Fire Month 2: Week 4
Skull Shining Breath Meditation -- a fire-building breath connecting your gut and your mind in light. Then we'll take that light and expand it to the world.
During these two months you will notice small shifts throughout your day. These are big victories! You might also find new challenges. These are big victories! I encourage you to journal about your experience of these themes and acknowledge your victories like an Olympian goddess!
After the two months are done you will have established access points to your awareness, boundaries and your own torch (some days you'll feel them stronger than others).
Share your light!
You want the connection to light so that you can shine, so you can feel fueled and seen. Also so you may see the way, know your path. I hope this post feeds your light. I hope these practices build it brighter. But, the torch is yours lift.
When you lift it I also shine.
Thank you for your bravery and your vulnerability by sharing your desires, letting us see your light :)
The Yoga Lobbyist