Dark Guides: Your Greatest Yoga Teachers

Image by © Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis

Do you have someone in your life that can crawl right under your skin?  You know, that co-worker or ex-husband/ boy-friend/business partner/etc. that you ramble on about with friends over wine/beer/ coffee/ tea/food? A person you are convinced needs to change? They likely trigger “The FAT Experience” for you. That icky feeling of heaviness, body discomfort, unsettledness, etc. I know I do! In particular these last few months I’ve been met by with a negative force like no other. A person who’s attacked every aspect of my being from my body, to my cloths, my career, my child, my integrity, my friends, my community, my past and future. They even threatened my life.

Here’s a surprising fact that will blow your mind; THESE ARE YOUR GREATEST TEACHERS. Sure we all love to listen to Oprah and post flowery affirmations on Facebook, but what really sets us free is embodying what doesn’t feel so hot. That being the Fear, Anxiety and Tension which precedes each leap of spiritual growth we take. Every person we meet is a sacred mirror. They’re either reflecting our light (Atman-our True Self: Spark of The Divine) or our darkness (ego). They can awaken what lives deep within us that’s been forgotten or denied in order to fit in, to survive. We are relational animals. Interacting with others helps us become more conscious of ourselves. Take being inspired  for example. Once a client shared she was in my workshop because she loved me, that I was changing her life. That’s nice to hear, but truth is all I’m really doing is illuminating the love of herself she is reconnecting with through our work together. It’s what the word NAMASTE is all about. The Hindu salutation that acknowledges the innate Divinity within ourselves and others. Often translated as, “The light in me, sees (honors) the light in you,” in other words: 

I know I’m awesome. I can see that you are awesome too.

Now bring to mind that “enemy” of yours. What feelings do they illicit? What names do you want to call them and how do you think they should change? Sit with the sensations created when you focus on them.  This is what yoga’s really all about: reality and responsibility. My clients cringe when I say this, but they know it’s true and come to realize the gift of the practice with, well…practice.

Learning to sit (which is what the word asana means) with exactly what is, to be with your full experience is essential to healing and self-empowerment. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Mostly you’ll notice the mind struggling to stay with what you feel, to stay IN your body. It wants to think, problem solve, judge or  play out the story line around it all to distract from what’s being felt. This is called “vritti” mind and is the result of repressing our soul experience.  This is often why we eat and exercise out of alignment.  Both are attempts to stop the flow of emotions through the body by stuffing, starving, or trying to “burn off” FAT.  That’s because our mind is mostly ego, The False Self we create to psychically survive.  This fear-based side of you is trying to avoid pain.  Pain that is simply a natural part of the human experience and it’s mostly caused by Forgetting Atman Temporarily.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.


When I first recieved these vicious attacks my ego came out BIG time! I went from loving kindness to cut a bitch, pardon my french, real quick. I tried to escape the moment by ranting to everyone around me and blaming others for the actions of the perpetrator. Then I tried to talk myself into enlightenment, to rising above it all. HA! I can only giggle now looking back on my reactions. Eventually I realized all I had to do was what I teach, to sit with what I was feeling and release it. In short, I had to ground into the present affirming I was safe, surrender my mind (my ego) and allow what I felt. I had to nurture myself exquisitely.  I had to be alone with it all. Below the anger and agitation was sadness which once released opened my heart to see the situation for what it was and authentically come to compassion. This is what the path of yoga teaches. I sum up this process in my PHAT Practice technique that can be found in my free eCourse.

Hurt people hurt people. Our greatest teachers are often someone struggling to own their pain and therefore unconsciously create more in the world. This is karma and we heal it by tending to our souls fully.  By making ourselves the focus of our awareness. My favorite affirmation for when I find myself “working” on other people in my mind, through gossip, aggressive (or passive aggressive) behavior, or any of the other uniquely human defense tactics is this:

I’m my project.

When we completely embrace our experience we’re practicing self-love at it’s highest level. Immersing in the energy of love reveals our ego, our repressed pain so it can surface and be laid to rest in the light of day and leave you feeling, well…lighter! That’s why it’s so hard to stay present when things are most intense.  This is when we are doing BIG work! I find I get rubbed most when I am daring to allow more love, joy and abundance in my life. These trials remind me I am on the right track and as I stay committed to the path of yoga I just keep rising higher and higher.

This person continues their tirades for a while but as I became affected less and less, they stopped. In fact, they helped me by illuminating deeply rooted samskras (imprints left on the mind) I thought I was over.  HA! I have to laugh at myself here again because as long as we’re alive we will dance between the False and the True Self. We’ll have to live out our darkness and our light, each one just as important as the other.  We can however, learn to suffer less by coming back to Feeling All Truth more quickly. What’s really cool is this process can help the other person out. People can only fight if they have someone to fight with. By standing in your truth you set a beautiful boundary that offers others the chance to become more aware of themselves. Now, what they do with that is their business, not yours. And no taking credit for another’s evolution. Practice “apparigraha,” non-attachement to the outcome to enhance your inner peace. Pause here again and reflect on an enemy. Here’s a poem I wrote in the heat of an attack from this great teacher.  Use it for inspiration to free yourself and others. Be sure to share how this blog resonates with you.

Dark Guide

Hurting One
Crossing my path
Meeting to awaken each other
Much in common
Fearing man
Unsettled with our mothers
Psychic ties
Run deep and strong
In my ear you speak
They very words
Often heard
From my own inner freak
The one who’s scared
To just let go
Trust the Divine in me
Created in pain
To simply sustain
Afraid to live fully
And so you’ve come
To illuminate
What I try to hide
Thank you friend
Through bitter ends
You reveal my strength inside
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  1. This reminds me of our encounter with each other that day in the national forest on retreat. When I read this, my chest gets tight, as it holds so much truth I can hardly breathe. Thank you, JN!

    • That was such a special weekend! I loved getting to connect with you that day. Nothing better than women coming together to support and inspire each other. You’re welcome and thank you!

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