• Nicole

Sunshine On My Shoulders

As 2021 begins, I find myself in a quandary of mixed emotions. In my personal life, I have just completed my worst year on this earth thus far; having watched my mother cross to the other side. Many of my clients have endured a difficult year; managing an international pandemic, riddled with fear and legitimized stress. Some have also lost a loved one, cancelled a wedding, been alone for a holiday, home schooled their children, had a less than stellar college experience, lost a job and faced financial ruin. I am comfortable saying that if given a poll, the majority of this country is happy to put 2020 behind them. However, when I go back to my yogic roots and teachings, I find myself challenged to simply kiss 2020 goodbye.

As I reflect upon 2020, I see that I was not living, I was preparing to die. Had you asked me 25 years ago; all that I wished for was more time to spend with my father who died a tragic suicide, all that I wanted was one more day. Well, 2020 gave me not just one day, it gave me nearly 365 days to be exact, to prepare for death. My opinion—be careful what you wish for because preparing for death is almost worse than death. In hindsight, while 2020 presented me with the most difficult of situations, it also changed my perspective on this one life I was given. My family and I spent every day in 2020 with my mother, truly embracing the moment. We sat outside and watched the birds, we observed as each new season brought different sounds, smells and colors. We paid attention to the smallest of things, like lady bugs, frogs and butterflies. We ate each meal with a new sense of taste. We embraced one another with love, fear and enormous sadness. The rawness of these emotions brought an already close family closer.


I prepared for death because part of me was in fact dying as the person I loved became a glimmer of what she had once been. Through this death experience, my mother smiled. She smiled until the day she decided to cross because in her own way, she was still being Mom and was caring for us as best as she could. The last week of her life, as we held her hand and kissed her goodbye, we played the song “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver repeatedly. I chose this song because I remembered my parents playing it on a road trip when I was younger. It brought back joy and fullness of heart for me and I know, fond memories to my mother. I gazed at my mother’s weak hands as I held them tightly. I fully embraced every moment of this one life she was given and her impact on myself, my brother, my children and nephews.


Through death, I found life; this life for all of its challenges is the one life I will live as far as we all know. Life is not even close to being perfect, even if you live it fully. Life is a challenge each and every day we rise if we are truly experiencing all there is to experience. However, these hurdles, these depressions, these joys, these tears are all meant to be felt fully. As Mark Nepo, a New York Times bestselling author who wrote about his struggles with cancer, explains, when we’re knocked off our horse, we’re brought closer life. In my case, I have been knocked off my horse more times than I care to know. When we are knocked off our horse, we are given a sacred opportunity for a rebirth of sort, whether that be emotionally, spiritually or physically.

As we all enter this new year of 2021, instead of creating goals or aspirations that may or may not come to fruition, I encourage us all to reflect on 2020. Look for the lessons, the messages from source, the smallest of moments with a full heart (even if temporarily broken) and appreciate this one life we are given. If you glance behind you, you will always find sunshine on your shoulders.


Nicole Zornitzer, ERYT 1000, yoga therapist, founder of Niyama Yoga & Wellness Shala, located in Randolph, New Jersey, and Upper Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey.

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