Yesterday I shared to Facebook a link to this blog, a place for my art and poetry which explores both the light and dark in the pursuit of living consciously. But, because the subject matter of the specific post was exquisitely dark and apocalyptic, I became self-conscious and removed the link. As a yoga teacher, I feel what is likely a self-imposed pressure to present myself in the way the industry tends to present itself publicly. We are purveyors of love and light, group hugs, cuddle puddles, rainbows and unicorns and sentimental self-help memes. Our asses, abs and smiles are as bright and beautiful as the trite new age aphorisms that grace the pages of our industries leading magazines.
I have great respect and admiration for the field in which I find myself blessed to be working, and the true, deep healing we bring to the lives we come in contact with. I love my teachers, colleagues and students and it is not unreasonable to feel concern for how my artwork and writing is perceived, or mis-perceived in my community. But my over-concern goes back to childhood traumas relating to the way I was perceived and judged by the religious community I was born into, and I need to just let that shit go.
I am PJ, light and dark. My personal practice and teaching is filled with a lot of rainbows and unicorns, love and light, empathy and compassion. And while my artists eye can explore those things as well, it also finds both beauty and truth in the very real darkness in the world, and it is extremely liberating and healing to explore these themes and energies. As an artist, I incorporate imagery from both pop culture and ancient mythology, the edge between science and mysticism, the cyclical nature of history and war, misanthropy and unity, nihilism and hope, the Aescetic and the Dionysian, and find dark comedy in the great horrors of life in the 21st century. I celebrate the individual who stands with middle fingers raised to the nattering banalities of the herd, but is humble enough to recognize his own place in it.
I simultaneously embrace the healing power of an authentic yoga practice and how this can bring us in harmony with our true nature, while rejecting the marketing that would have us believe this path to self is all sunshine and lollipops, that we should use the practices of yoga to sublimate, to sweep things under the rug, to become spiritual by-passers wandering in a balm of prana-infused bliss. That everything is magically going to be ok just because we tell ourselves this is so.
I see little difference between the yogi, mystic, artist and story teller. These are healer roles, and healing is a process that is beautiful, but also a journey inherently filled with pain, suffering and darkness. Ask any cancer survivor. It hurts to heal. But to overly attach to either the light or the darkness is to deny wholeness, and the essential non-duality that is the essence of yoga, to recognize that these are not separate energies, but part of our wholeness.
I am PJ, light and dark, and I am seeking to not be afraid to share the totality of my creative expressions because someone might be offended, disturbed, or not understand.
I do resonate with the yogic notion that “we are all one.” Not as an intellectual abstraction that our species and the entire planet can be conceptualized as a singular, interdependent organism, but as sensation I experience deep in my core. I feel the radiance, consciousness and inner luminosity in the life forms all around me. But being empathic can also mean feeling the sickness that infects our local society and culture, and even the world.
And while it might not be fun to be the doctor that tells the patient “You are going to die very shortly unless you take drastic measures to improve your health”. . . what would you think of a doctor who hid his diagnosis at the bottom of a desk drawer and instead presented you with a snippet of Rumi in Comic Sans Serif, printed over a picture of a colorful butterfly, and sent you on your way with the advice “take two of these and call me in the morning?”
I am PJ, light and dark. I am the Radiant Spleen.