Exploring an Inner Radiance

Bare tree

Earlier this week, before the weather turned chilly, I took a rest from cleaning up weeds and detritus around the two crepe myrtle by our driveway. Their fushia flowers had brought us great pleasure during the summer, but what remained now, in November, was just browning and falling leaves.

Leaning my arms on the trunk of the car, I looked toward the creek, to the old sycamore whose boney branches rose above the rooftops, glowing in a slant of sunlight. But my gaze was stolen from the tree by the motion of hawks. Two hawks circled in similar flight paths, at different heights, riding the thermals as they flapped and coasted, flapped and coasted. Banking to maintain their circle the angle of their bodies shifted, and sunlight flashed across their creamy white bellies.

Sycamores, hawks, light.

“Light originates in the center of the heart,” explains Bernard Bouanchaud in his commentary on yoga sutra I.36. Meditating on that light, which is believed to be the source of the divine within, brings a sense of serenity.

This concept is very precious to me, personally. At a time when I was struggling with a lack of confidence and a feeling of distress, my yoga teacher said to me, “Your light is so bright. You just cannot see it.” Her words were a gift, something I return to for solace and stability.

We all experience times when we feel as if we are in a dark space. That is why I offer this image of the light in the heart to my students as focus in class from time to time. When we are caught in a dark space in our thinking, we can visualize the image of the light within. As flicking a switch in a dark room dissipates the darkness that had been there, linking to the image of a light in the heart can help dissipate the darkness of our thoughts.

The ancient Vedas offer a beautiful image that can help us explore this mystery of the light in the heart.

In the body is the heart,
In the heart is a lotus,
In the lotus is a light,
This light is the source of inner peace…”

According to Bouanchaud’s commentary, meditating on the luminous quality of the heart offers us the possibility of more than a sense of peace and stability, as wonderful as that is. This serenity can open a door connecting us to “the life that animates all beings and everything in nature” and encouraging “a deep relationship with it.”

As I watched the light flash on the bellies of the circling hawks and gleam on the white skin of the sycamore, I was reminded of the light living not only within me, but within all people, all beings. The promise of peace and connection is there for all of us, if only we notice.