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My Hymn to Surya

The blue light of morning holds a promise. The ancient rishis knew that. But don’t just believe it, investigate for yourself. It is happening for me right now in a most serendipitous way. My effort to protect my garden here in Sardinia from wild pigs has me up each morning well before dawn, inspecting the results of my “vai via cinghiali” strategies. The pigs come out at night to dig up everything, but I am holding my own against them, with chili peppers and an olfactory barrier of pellets carrying the odour of mountain lion urine.

IMG_3586I wake up when it is still dark, grab a torch and head outside in my pyjamas. This morning I watched the Full Moon set into the sea, as Surya was rising over the hills in the east. Last night it was the opposite: the Sun was setting into the sea as the Full Moon rose over the hills in the east.

No matter what, these cycles of time and light form the backdrop of whatever we are doing. They are powerful teachers, powerful spiritual guides. For me, Surya is Guru. He uplifts me each morning with his grace. His light heals me.

“Weeping May Endure for a Night, but Joy Cometh in the Morning.” That haunting passage from the book of Psalms, King James Version of the Bible, popped into my mind one morning during Surya Namaskar, totally out of the blue. It had been dormant in my memory for a long, long time. But certain words have a resonance. And the language of King James has a lyricism so pure. It is a masterpiece of the English language. Any theological inaccuracies are quite beside the point. It is the poetry that pierces the soul.

IMG_3432Sudden tears streamed down my face, bittersweet tears, but also tears of love and devotion . . . devotion and love towards Surya. Sun is King, and there he was, a great ball of yellow fire just peeping over the hills, his light glistening from every dewdrop, every leaf, every blossom turning to bask in his sparkle.

The Surya Namaskar we do every morning is so much more than an exercise to warm up the body. It is a hymn to Surya, a practice to awaken the body of light. Not many of us today practise it in the traditional way–where a Sanskrit mantra to Surya is chanted or recited mentally with each of the twelve vinyasas. For each is truly a salutation, a prayer acclaiming the sacred power of the Sun.

The mantras evoke him as our Great Friend, radiant and luminous, rising now and daily, visible sign of Eternal Return. They call him divine guide, healer of the heart, remover of obstacles. He is the golden womb, matrix of creation, the energy behind all effort and work, our ultimate nourishment. Above all he is the great illuminator, who lifts the veil of illusion shrouding our consciousness, because Surya (as all deities) is ultimately a vehicle towards the One transcendent Absolute, beyond name and form.

But we move and breathe in a world of form, and it is there where Surya greets us, fresh and new each morning. His light is a grace that fortifies our hearts with faith, hope and love—if we let it in.

IMG_3445That is the meaning of morning, my friends—where no matter what—the Sun rises each day, without discrimination, without judgement. Surya shines equally on all. He invigorates all, sustains all, binds all—from the earthworm boring into soil to the eagle soaring skyward. If the essence of love is resonance—two objects merging with a similar harmonic—then sunlight is the one common denominator, because no life, and so no love, can exist without it.

“In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning,”  said F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you have ever suffered the torment of insomnia, you will understand what that implies. But when the birds start chirping and the first light of dawn appears at your window, no matter how desperate you feel, morning time brings promise. It kindles hope. Sunlight beckons, and the life force—no matter how depleted—responds.

According to Jyotish, the Sun is exalted right now, from mid-April until mid-May. An exalted planet expresses itself with full glory, its features magnified by the supportive environment of a congenial constellation. IMG_5401Surya is exalted in Aries, where the fire of springtime energy pulses through the veins of all life forms. Leaf nodes swell, flower buds unfurl, wildflowers spring forth, even through the crevices of pavement. With Surya exalted, Shakti is most vibrant. Now is the growing season, fertile and fecund. Days are lengthening dramatically. Surya reigns. It is the season of light.

Sometimes, however, we get so caught up in the linear movement of things, we forget that time is cyclical. Jyotish, Vedanta, and the Western concept of Eternal Return all concur with that teaching  about time. Day ripens into night, spring contains autumn, life ends in death. But death transforms into life—don’t forget that one. Of these cycles, there is no beginning and no end. Nothing is ever lost, even with death, save for the limitation of our minds to grasp it all.

IMG_3522Spiritual practice is most efficacious at dawn for a good reason. It is a liminal time, but the one that correlates with new beginnings, with spring, with light expanding, and thus with enlightenment. Surya’s return carries all the promise of light. It uplifts the soul with faith and love, ultimately dispelling the illusory boundaries that create the appearance of separation. Dawn and the hours immediately preceding it are called Brahmamuhurta, and muhurta means time. Brahmamuhurta is the time when Brahman is most accessible.

These past couple of weeks, I’ve been awakening earlier and earlier. Surya is healing me. I feel the same call to life that is stirring the trees into leaf. I practise to the early morning sunshine, outside in the warm spring air. I dig in the earth, planting flowers and dreaming of colour. I remember that Roland was supposed to be here in Sardinia with me this spring, but the sadness of that memory finds comfort in planting more flowers. I am filled with the spirit of morning, excited by the promises of dawn, for the many possibilities in linear time that I do not know about yet. I feel young, even though I’m not.

Time has taught me things that I did not know when I was truly young. So much of the world I used to know is gone. I have experienced how all things pass, yet I witness them return in new forms. IMG_3391Over and over this has happened. It has deepened my faith. Faith in what you may ask?  Not faith in any “thing”, just Faith itself, as a kind of orientation towards whatever arises. In sadness, a tiny speck of joy remains. And in the joy, a tiny speck of sadness resides. Like the symbol of yin and yang, everything contains a bit of its opposite, because one flows into the other, the eternal return.

Paradoxically, I think it is precisely that insight which makes me feel young, because joy is always there, even if only a tiny spark. Morning time kindles the spark. Surya pervades everything, with his affirmation of life. As the mantras of Surya Namaskar proclaim, he is the energy behind all movement, the music of the turning spheres. We awaken to the promise of something new happening when Surya rises in the sky. It is the life force saying Yes to life.

IMG_3570And “Yes” is the great affirmation of life. It is the essence of Shakti, as Molly Bloom, that great archetype of Shakti, manifested so famously one fine June day, when like a mountain flower, she lay with her lover Leopold in the sunshine on Howth Head.

the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountains yes so we are flowers all a woman’s body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes…I was a Flower of the mountains yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him and yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.

IMG_3763Indomitable momentum propels the life force, its direction always towards birth, towards growth, towards creation. Even those potatoes sprouting in the sack, distorted as their growth may be, are straining towards the light, are yearning for transformation. Surya sustains life, and all of life is saying “Yes” to him. Listen for it.

It is not just metaphor. Light is the pathway to enlightenment. Sunlight nourishes the subtle body, raising its vibration. Amongst certain yogis in the Himalayas, Surya Namaskar was direct nourishment. Not taking in any food for months on end, they practised Surya Namaskar to transmute the energy of sunlight into food, just as the plants do with their photosynthesis. They were raising the frequency of their vibration, ultimately to realise the transfigured body, the infinte body of light.

IMG_3765Though that level of practice few of us will reach, Surya Namaskar can still serve us as a powerful vehicle for transformation. If practised in the traditional way as devotion to Surya, Surya Namaskar generates faith, hope and love. Make it your prayer to morning. Surrender yourself to it with complete devotion, with stillness and awareness, but most particularly with love. Two minutes of Surya Namaskar practised with total purity is rocket fuel. Surya is not just the great “Yes” to life, but the portal to what lies beyond. He is the great “Yes” to Eternal Life too. Contemplate the full majesty of His Being and let him inspire your vision.

Om shanti

2 thoughts on “My Hymn to Surya”

  1. Marianne, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other and life is keeoing me busy with my 2 3 and 6. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your emails…they are so beautifully written, honest, insighful and inspiring. So thank you…you are still my teacher after all this time 🙂 Sending huge love to you..Ciara

    1. Thank you, Ciara, for your kind words, which have just made me very happy! It is lovely for me to know that you enjoy my blogs. Life takes us in different ways, and now you are very busy with your young family. But the time we spent in the yoga shala is still with us, and can be renewed in this way. With much love to you and your little boys! Marianne xx

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