What is soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it is a force that can light up a room. Ray Charles
We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light. Mary Dunbar
It is inside me now, the image of the Eiffel Tower, blazing and brilliant, all lit up at midnight on the brink of a new year. I brought this image home with me, along with Parisian candies and lavender soaps from the south of France. I brought this sparkling tower of an image over to Joy Center and onto my yoga mat and into the first classes of 2012. It has become a reminder of what is possible, that we, too, when we plug ourselves in, when we feel ourselves aligned with the earth beneath us and the stars above us, when we stretch ourselves out wide in Five-pointed Star or reach up to the sky as Mountain in Tadasana, when we live in this grounded, expansive way, on and off the mat, we remember that we, each one of us, are a blazing brilliant icon of light.
And it’s contagious. When we are plugged in like that, feeling alive and vibrant and full of electric vim, others, in our presence, feel it too. They bask in our brilliance. And it doesn’t matter how old we are or what we look like on the outside. I was reminded of that this past weekend while visiting my mother in Maine. When my older brother hauled out the photos from Mom’s first wedding, formal photographs that we, the other three siblings, had never seen, we gasped. Our mother was a beauty. Five-foot-nine, long-legged and slender, with full-lips and dreamy eyes, our mother was movie star glamorous in these photos taken seventy years ago. It wasn’t the first time that we had grasped this awareness. One evening when we were teenagers, while watching a string of Alfred Hitchcock movies, my sister and I, huddled on the couch in delightful terror, suddenly became distracted. “Who does she remind of?” I asked. “Who does she remind you of?,” my sister asked back. Suddenly, the woman lying on the bed, poisoned and fading and professing her love for Cary Grant, whose handsome face was pressed against hers, was not the Swedish star of Hitchcock’s Notorious. It wasn’t Ingrid Bergman at all; it was our mother.
Our mother wore her beauty lightly. She wasn’t one to fuss with make-up or complicated hair-dos or the latest of fashion trends. And perhaps she didn’t quite believe in it, that she was gorgeous inside and out. Mom’s best buddy, Aunt Barbie, once told me that she was jealous of her tall, lanky friend back when they were teens. And, when I repeated this story to Mom, she seemed surprised, replied, “It’s funny. I never felt pretty. I was shy and awkward and didn’t like to be the center of attention.” In many of the early photos, the ones that show off her long legs and slender waist, Mom’s full lips are pursed in a tight smile. And I’m not my mother and I don’t know what she was feeling when the photographer snapped those photos. And it’s not up me to guess whether she was “plugged in” in those days, whether she was feeling the power of the worlds flowing through her Eiffel Tower of a body. But I do know what it feels like when I am plugged in. When I’m in alignment, I, in my middle-aged body, with my thinner lips and deep-set Haskell eyes, feel beautiful and powerful and happy, as though the whole world is coursing through my veins. When I am plugged in, I feel like skipping and I sometimes do. And when I am plugged in, I can feel it when others are plugged in as well. There is nothing like witnessing a baby laughing or a runner running or someone you might not even know speaking from their heart. It is palpable, this light we give off, when we are in alignment.
And I could feel it, this past weekend, this palpable light, each time I visited my ninety-three year old mother in her hospital room in mid-coastal Maine. Mom, whose hair is now gray and a little wild, whose front tooth fell out a few years ago and tall lanky body has shrunk down petit and frail and broken-hipped, Mom who lay there in bed or was propped up in a chair, not her usual sun-kissed love-the-outdoors self, but pale and tender-skinned – Mom lit up like the brightest of lights when we entered the room. It surprised me, how someone at the end of their body-life, who wants to die, can light up like that, all plugged in like Paris at midnight. But it’s true. My husband, Cam, felt it, too. “She just lights up when she sees you!” he exclaimed. And it’s wonderful to bask in that kind of light. And it’s wonderful to feel alive with that kind of light. And it’s wonderful to know that it is always available, no matter our age or where we find ourselves, that we can blaze as bright and beautiful as the Eiffel Tower until our last breath and beyond.