by Zefea Samson
‘A sunset will bring you to your knees. The ocean turned purple and the sky splashed with divine hues. I drop a tear every time the sun descends. In the tear is the day released and a cleansing for tomorrow.’
The quote above are the words of my friend and fellow teacher trainer Claudia Debs. It accompanied a picture of a Bali sunset that she took while she is leading an evolation training. It resonated with me. A lot. I have this thing with sunsets. I think many people have it. Maybe you have it too? It always makes me a little bit emotional. A happy and calm kind of emotional. Every time I see the sun descend I feel like something slides off my shoulders. And my heart bursts open.
Watching a sunset, makes me feel connected with the whole world, the whole universe even. And that feeling of connection somehow gives me a sense of calm and peace. It seems to put my daily life and mundane struggles and sorrows in perspective and therefore making them less relevant.
When the low sunrays bathe everything in a layer of gold, it is as if it is wrapping the world in gift paper. It’s hard to not feel tremendous gratitude for the gift that it covers so beautifully. Sunsets can make anything turn from sorrow and despair into magic. I have very vibrant memories of some specific sunsets at different times in my life. I can so clearly recall the shift in thoughts and feelings that they brought to me.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Winters there can be long, wet and gloomy. In my late teens and twenties, I became very sensitive to this weather and struggled with winter depression. This was, obviously, before I started on the yoga path! I remember one day that I felt super lethargic and tired, not up for anything but curling up in bed. As a young person I was struggling to find purpose and sense in my life. That day I somehow forced myself to go outside on a walk. I was heavily making my way down the lanes of the Vondelpark in Amsterdam. When I arrived at the big water fountain in the center of the park, the sparkles of the setting sun on the glistering water caught my attention. I sat down on a bench to take some time to look at it with more attention. Once I did that, I suddenly also spotted how the soft light was enhancing the golden colors of the fall leaves. And after that, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful and calm the people in the park looked. Suddenly I felt overwhelmed with a sense of connection with each of them instead of feeling isolation and separation as I had only a few moments earlier. I admired the beauty I saw in every single person walking or biking by. And the sweetest gift of that experience was that I could carry those sunset-feelings of love and gratitude with me throughout the rest of that winter season.
Years later I spent six months in Israel for my thesis field-research of my social anthropological studies. I lived in the Arab city of Nazareth with the Greek Orthodox church community. I spoke to so many people and made wonderful new friends, hearing their vision on the status of the people in that region. I also spent time with my friends and family in other parts of the country, understanding their -opposite- points of view. At the same time hearing and reading the daily news of what is constantly going on in that part of the world, was often very hard to digest. I felt heartbroken and torn. One evening I sat on a friend’s balcony and looked straight at the gigantic ball of fire hovering above the horizon of the desert-like hills. In this explosive sunset I recognized that it is us, humans, who set the world on fire. I realized that we are all watching the same sunset. Depending on where you are, it might look slightly different, covered by clouds, maybe even barely visible or more like a dramatic oil-painting. But regardless of how we perceive it, it’s still the same sun that will continue to set and rise again, regardless of what we do. It made me feel united with all the people living in that part of the world on fire; with those feeling separate and separated, but trusting that one day they would feel and experience unity too. With that came a deep and knowing trust, that in the end, the world will always take the right course.
And then there are the ocean sunsets. They seem to always have an extra added touch of magic. About 10 years ago, my now husband Mark took me on my very first visit to Hawaii. It was our first trip together too. Needless to say, this was a special time. One evening, when our trip was nearing its end, we sat on one of Oahu’s many beautiful beaches. The waves of the ocean making their calming sounds, the sky showing off its many shades of pink, purple and orange. The light and colors were reflecting in the wet sand. The sun seemed calm and wise, a few long, stretched clouds mixing the colors in a different palette. This time the sunset seemed to reflect the happiness and love I was feeling inside. We were the only ones on that beach and we sat alongside each other in beautiful silence. I was about to return to Amsterdam and I didn’t know when we would see each other again. But while we were breathing in the salty air, and soaking up the purple shades, I felt a deeper knowing. I knew that at that moment everything was falling into place and I was at peace with whatever would come next. A happy tear rolled down my cheek.
Now that I know the healing and cleansing power of sunsets, I actively pursue them. Besides my children, I have not photographed anything more than sunsets. We now live in a place that has some of the most amazing sunsets. Every single day, when I look out of the window, or drive along the coast, or step outside and take a gigantic breath while I watch the setting sun, I feel my heart completely filling up with a sense of abundance and gratitude.
A big change in my life since those experiences I described, is that I now have my yoga practice. This can give me the same reflection and introspection as those sunset moments. Sunsets are not always available but the practice of yoga and meditation is always there.
How perfect it is, that our yoga studio’s best feature is the gigantic window from which we all enjoy a perfect ocean view every single day. Of course, one of my favorite classes to teach is the 4:30 pm time slot in which, at this time of year, each minute gives a different breathtaking picture of the vast sunset sky. This class always has an extra special feel to it. It’s like the sunset is showing the colors of the deep spirituality that goes along with the physical practice of yoga. I can’t think of any better happy place and time to share the practice of Self-Connection and Self-Love!by
Zefea had her first experience with yoga at the age of 4 when her parents practiced with renowned teacher Angela Farmer in the Iyengar tradition. She forgot about yoga during her teens and twenties and trained for boxing and the combat system Krav Maga. Zefea rediscovered the benefits of yoga when she started practicing Bikram Yoga in her home town Amsterdam. From 2006-2008 she represented the Netherlands as the Dutch gold medalist in the International Yoga Championships, finishing in the world's top 10. Zefea experienced new depths of yoga through practicing while pregnant (up till the day of giving birth).