by Sarah Norris

The summer solstice is the day of the year when the sun shines on us longer than any other. It’s the ripest time to come together and celebrate our lives and honor our intentions with 108 sun salutations. The number 108 has so much significance, and here are a few reasons why:

108 connects the sun, moon and earth as the average distance of the sun and moon to earth is 108 times their respective diameters.

108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.

108 is the number of beads on a Tibetan mala (prayer beads, analogous to a rosary).
108 is twice the number 54, which is the number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, one set masculine (shiva) and one set feminine (shakti).

108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of movements linked to breath in a sun salutation.

Last June during the solstice, I was away in Virginia for a month of tantric yoga training, living in a house of eight women. We did a ton of work on ourselves in order to get clear about what we really want. The most surprising part of this was seeing that, mostly, what happens when we’re asked about what we want most of all in the world, is we get really…angry. People get defensive and upset when asked about their dreams. That sounds crazy, right? But doesn’t that make total sense? That question brings us right up against all the things we’re doing INSTEAD of manifesting our dreams, or, what we do that are exactly counter to that fulfillment.

So, for this month of training last summer, the eight of us lived in a pressure cooker in which we got clarity about what we want, our heart’s desire.

We were forced to look at the ways in which we weren’t supporting that, often by telling ourselves we don’t have time. To that end, we had to list ways we waste time:

Complaining

Gossip

Social media

Talking about the past

Worrying about the future

Then we had to choose one thing on our list that we were really and truly ready to give up in order to make room and have energy to invest in what we most want, so that it could become like a happy, chubby, juicy baby. In this way we would have to stop telling ourselves the story that we don’t have time for what’s most important to us. Because we would carving out the space now, deliberately. We did this, ultimately, with an incredible fire ceremony. One by one, we had to throw into the fire what we were giving up.

Into this fire, I threw “talking about my past relationships.” With love, with compassion, with gratitude, I set free the men I had loved or was hung up on in some way. It was a moment of reckoning for me. I was sabotaging the fulfillment of my dreams by focusing on relationships that no longer existed. My teacher and I talked about it, and she warned me, “Once you give them up and give up the energy you give them still, they will come into your life full force. Be prepared to hear from your past loves, names on this list and then the men who you’re not even aware now that you’re still carrying around with you in some way. They won’t know why they find themselves suddenly wanting to reach out to you. It will be because you’ve cut the cords and set them free. And this liberation has to come form a pure, pure place within you. You cannot do this if what you actually want is to be together with one of them and are hoping in some way that by going through the motions of setting them free, they’ll come back to you.”

We talked especially that last part, about how if, for some reason, I were to end up in love and together with someone from my past, it could only happen after I did this clearing out and my intentions were clean and open. I was fresh out of a three-year relationship, and this untangling was taking up a lot of my heart and my life. Setting us free from each other, I knew, was a necessary thing. Letting go of trying to protect him from himself, letting go of feeling his feelings, of taking his issues on as my own because I’d felt I needed to. Letting him go in order to save myself and live in the present. I prayed over this list, I meditated on it, I danced with these ghosts — literally danced, like a wild woman — and I laughed and cried and wrote in my journal and felt all of the feelings: joy, love, private moments shared between two people that I was leaving behind.

When I’d looked at first at my list of time vampires, this was the one I felt the most resistance about. It played itself out as an internal conversation: “Sarah, are you willing to give up complaining in order to live the life of your dreams?” And the answer, immediately: Yes, yes, of course. That’s how I felt about the others on my list, mostly, except for this one. “Sarah, are you willing to give up your past loves in order to make space for what you most want in your life now?” The answer, more slowly: “Ehhhh do I have to?” I didn’t want to, not really at all, at first. But the more I considered it, the more obvious it became that I had to. So I said goodbye to these men, from my heart. I prayed for the men I had loved and, one by one, I let go of residual attachment I had to living in the past. To living in the past, period, and to talking about it.

My teacher said, “Sarah, get ready. Now they come.” As if these exes would pop up be like a game of Whack-a-Mole, to test my resolve. I thought she was out of her mind, saying this because why would guys I’d not talked to in years — years — get in touch now? You can guess what happened, right? That very afternoon, I got an email from the boy I dated my junior year of high school. And the next day I heard from my an ex in Connecticut, with whom I’d not talked in more than three years. And it was like this for a few months. Or, rather, I should say it’s been like this for a year. I’ve been doing nothing differently and I can’t think of any other explanation but I’ve been hearing from my past.

For the most part, I have stayed the course. The test has been not to go searching for my future by digging through my past and recycling. The result of consciously liberating something that’s taking me away from my dreams is space and energy and time to invest in my own well-being and spirits. It’s alchemy: turning one thing into another. The tradition of practicing 108 sun salutations together is so powerful in this capacity because we connect to our respective purposes and close the distance between where we are and what we want. The extent to which we feel and believe our dreams are coming true IS the extent to which they are coming true. That’s what this practice is about. An invocation of honest mindful living. Embodied joy and space making.