The Enlightening Mat: Consciously Living a Life of Contrast

Light & Shadow Buddha, Beth Hemmila

For about six months last year I had a hard time doing one of the postures in the Bikram yoga series. The most hysterical part was that secretly I use to call this particular posture my throw away pose -- the one where I was basically slacking off and spinning happy daydreams.

Out of the blue, my right knee started to hurt and pain would radiate up the side of my leg, limiting my ability to complete fixed firm pose -- a position where you are seated on your knees and bending backwards. It's not unusual to see a handful of your classmates struggling with this pose if they have tight thighs, hips, or suffer from knee-related injuries.

Nevertheless, this was my first time sitting upright, watching everyone else going down in the pose. Ho hum... this sucks. I felt like waving to the people on the other side of room sitting upright too and asking if they'd rather go out for a beer instead. Being left behind, being left out was a complete bummer.

The weeks went by and my knee didn't improve, so I settled into a routine of practicing a kind of stoic patience, empathy for my fellow fix firm wannabes, and giving teachers the evil eye if they even tried to offer helpful tidbits of advice. I stopped worrying about my knee getting better and just went with the experience. In fact, I no longer anticipated the day that my pain would end and things would get back to normal. This was my new normal.

Then surprise, one day everything fell back into place, and there I was arching backwards with the rest of the class, feeling like I was back in the saddle. However, there was one major change. Fixed firm is no longer my slacker pose. Actually, it's probably the one I am most aware of now because each time I go into it I feel so much gratitude to have it back in place. The contrast between the absence of something and getting it back was so immense that this posture has new meaning for me.


Creating contrast in your life is important. Light and shadow play off each other and allow you to experience more intense levels of joy then if you had been mucking around in the grey zone. Having an enormously challenging experience only means that you are setting yourself up for an even higher high when the positive arrives. Where I think we might get stuck is that sometimes we are not aware that we are purposefully creating these contrasting moments in our lives for good reason. Instead we get down about the job or relationship that isn't going well and think that's all there is to it -- just the downside.

The key to living a life of contrast with intention is to see that the darker, sadder, angrier, more depressing part of your life is the setup to an amazing positive contrasting experience that is waiting for you down the road. You don't have to get all tied up in a knot about what is pulling you into the shadows. Your positive contrasting experience will come if you stay focused on moving forward, continue to take responsibility for the events happening in your life, and be ready to embrace it with all the enthusiasm your heart can muster when it arrives.

To learn more about taking responsibility for the outcomes in your life as a way to consciously live a life of contrast, check out my new book Lemonade Mantras and use it as a guide for seeing the negative as a setup for the incredible positive experience you are in the midst of creating.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures.   

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