Sianna Sherman, one of Anusara Yoga's best-known and most-beloved teachers, once used a lovely metaphor, which I will relate from memory as best I can. She said indigenous cultures often describe the place where the moon hits the water as a portal to an alternate, possibly deeper experience of reality. She encouraged us to turn the light of our awareness onto the flow of our breath, and move through that portal into a fuller experience of our divinity. The concept of a portal, or a threshold into a new reality, is deeply important to yogis. One word that comes up again and again in Tantric study is madhya, or seam.
A seam is where two things come together. The body is full of seams; in one theory of acupuncture, those seams are what create acupuncture channels. A seam is a place where divisions are blurry, where something can be one thing and another at the same time. Shiva, the great Hindu deity who dances the Universe into Being, hangs out in places of transition: the forest (transition from civilization to wilderness), the mountaintop (place of transition between two kingdoms or landscapes), and cremation grounds (place of transition between life and death). Shiva hangs out in those places because they are potent, these limbo spaces, these grey areas.
It can be hard to hang out in the seam of neither-here-nor-there. The Swiss doctor who helped my stepmother recover from breast cancer, Dr. Thomas Rau, says that the hardest thing for people healing from cancer is learning to live with the ambiguity of disease. Our model in this country is to CUT OUT the tumor, to radiate the hell out of the cells, and thereby "heal" ourselves. In fact, for Dr. Rau, you can cut out a tumor, but if you haven't changed the milieu of your tissues, it'll come back. Changing the milieu of your tissues is something that happens over time with diet, exercise, and importantly, spiritual practice of one sort or another. Changing the milieu is a slower, more nebulous kind of treatment, and it drives people crazy that this model isn't a dichotomy between sick/well. It's a spectrum of health. You can't cut your way to good health, but if you're strong enough to envision your health as being on a spectrum, you can eat/feel/pray/laugh yourself closer to the well end.
A seam can be a place that seems broken. We all have scars. Have you heard of this book, Kitchen Table Wisdom? It's written by Dr. Naomi Remen about life lessons she learned through her medical practice. She tells the story of a young athlete struggling to come to terms with the amputation of his leg. In the early days of his recovery, the young man was consumed with anger and bitterness at the medical staff, his parents, the world. Invited to draw a picture of himself, he drew a vase and covered it with a wide black crack, drawing so heavily that he ripped the paper with the crayon. After many months of rage, the young man began to bring Dr. Remen newspaper clippings about others who had suffered similar turns of fate. He spoke angrily at first, then passionately, of how others couldn't understand how it felt to experience that kind of trauma. Eventually he began a ministry of sorts to other amputees in the hospital. In his final meeting with Dr. Remen, she took out his vase drawing and showed it to him. He looked at it, tapped the black crack, and said, "the cracks are where the light shines through."
A seam can be a portal, a threshold to other experience. A seam can be enlarged, expanded. In hatha yoga practice, we come to the midline for power. Then we seek to open the midline up. We're not trying to cross the midline, or erase it--we want to GET INTO IT. We want to get into it and EXPAND IT MORE. We hug it more, then we expand it more. We actually WANT more grey area--we want to live in that place where pulling in becomes shining out, where life is both fragile and tenacious, where reality is terrible and beautiful, where giving is receiving, where fear is grace, where the mundane is divine is mundane is divine for all eternity but just for this one moment.
Because the cracks are where the light shines through. And your scars are the clearest manifestation of Life's healing power.