I grew up in a small welsh mining town called Maesteg. The town, like many in South Wales, was a busy little hub until the mines were shut down. We lived in a council house in a small cul de sac, 6 houses and flats for elderly people. My parents were hard working people, Mam was a nurse before retiring and my Father has worked both down the mines and above ground later with engineering. He has also played in the Colliery band associated with the mine. A lot of my childhood was involved going to weekends with the brass bands. My Dad is now 80 years old and still plays in a brass band. It has been a great source of joy for him throughout his life since he started playing with the local salvation army band at the age of 7 years old! Both Dad and my Grandfather were also part of mine rescue teams, both prepared to return underground to help their fellow men. The conditions that the men and children were required to work in were harsh to say the least, being underground for most of the day, sometimes not seeing daylight. With each shift they started, they faced the possibility of not ever seeing daylight again, yet still they continued on. Both through necessity and yet I feel there was an underlying resource they were tapping into also, a very beautiful inner resource. I was speaking with a fellow dog walker yesterday who used to walk to work via Bedford Parc and Parc Slip to a Colliery further up the valleys. He was expressing that twice he was buried underground as a result of part of the mine caving in. His friends/fellow men were able to dig him out to tell the tale, then he said to me “I would still do it now if I could”. The strength, love and support that was part of their work place was what allowed them to face such adversity. They had complete trust in the men they worked with and they all supported each other in the face of death. I also had the sense from this lovely Gentleman that there was a deep trust within him, he did not fear death.
For some time now I have been musing on this incredible paradox of life, strength through adversity, not from hiding away from the many ways that our divine Goddess of consciousness appears in the world. Sometimes loving, gentle, blissful, joyful and then also in the depths of grief, darkness and despair. There appears to be a rise of the feminine in such harsh conditions, people find a way to still be able to come together – to commune. In the mining communities from the darkness came the sound of the brass bands, the raising of the voices of the heart from the male voice choirs. The singing and the music helping to raise the spirits out of the darkness, the community coming together to honour lives that have passed and at the same time celebrating the continuation of life now, giving thanks to the source of all life. When I hear the shared voices of the male voice choir or the brass bands playing, I am reminded of the origins of how they arose, what conditions allowed them to be birthed into the world and I am touched to my core. I teach classes at Parc Slip. The site is now a beautiful nature reserve but was until 1904 a working colliery, a colliery where in 1892 112 men & boys lost their lives due to an explosion. I am very aware of the land that we are part of as I am sharing yoga at the centre. It is welcoming the transformation from the attention of it’s new care takers as the Nature reserve matures, the land is going through a process of transfiguration. This transfiguration resonates with our yoga practice. I have felt the depths of my roots in this land, the shared history of my ancestors and have pondered over how yoga weaves it’s way through life so far away from it’s own origins. The answer I feel lies in ‘Hanfod’ – Essence, that invisible force that is within all of creation, without which none of the diversity of oneness could exist. It is the essence that has brought music and powerful voices to rise out of the darkness all around the world, it is the force that honours yet sees beyond the reflections of difference, inviting unity and connection to be known. It is that essence that you become very aware of when all else around you falls away.
My way of life is very different to my forefathers in many ways, I do not work in the harsh conditions that they did but life still unfolds in it’s many different expressions. Sometimes the unfolding has been fierce, very harsh terrain, other times it is full of a love I had no idea existed, yet it was revealed from ‘within’. It is this love that has made it’s presence known even in the eye of the storm, I am not separate from it yet it is not personal to just me! We have the possibility of travelling into our own depths through our yoga practice, we are invited to descend into the unknown. We are invited to discover this inner resource that is always supporting us whether we realise it or not. We are ‘going underground’ so to speak to slowly chip away at the layers of illusion and conditioning, we gradually find a willingness to face ourselves in all our expressions to discover the truth within. Through this process we are supported by our fellow ‘miners’, empathy and tenderness birthed for each other from a shared understanding of our humanity. Those who have travelled the depths before us lighting the way, reminding us that it is the light that allows the darkness to be seen. The darkness is merely waiting for the light, wishing to be melted into wholeness once more. We discover the ‘inner’ treasure that allows us to meet the challenges that life will bring, that will allow each challenge to be fed into the fire of transformation, the integration of another veil of the great illusion. We have the powerful symbol of the Dragon on our Welsh flag, Y Ddraig Goch. The symbol is believed to be derived from The Great Red Serpent which represented the Welsh God Dewi, it is a symbol of Power & Wisdom, Shakti & Siva, Infinite Self. The dragon is a symbol of change, transformation, longevity, movement through space and the shedding of the skin – Transfiguration, inviting us to rise out of our shared slumber! This is a beautiful depiction of the alchemical process of Yoga, we gradually shed our layers that stop us from shining the fullness of what we are into the world, the dance of maya finally being seen. In the yogic tradition we see the similarity of the symbolic depiction of Ida & Pingala, two serpents entwined in their rise to open into their vastness beyond form, kundalini rising bringing shakti into embodiment to play her part in the great dance. As these layers drop into the great ocean of consciousness there may be a realisation of the oneness the ‘hanfod’, the essence that is allowing all of creation to be. There is oneness flowing through all the diverse expressions of life. It is this oneness in diversity that we, as a world wide community, are being invited to become aware of once more. As each one of us goes underground, travelling with the light of consciousness as our guide, mining out the gifts that are there waiting to be discovered, we can then resurface and shine those gifts into our communities, radiating the change we wish to see in the world.