“Dancing Light” -- The Life Of Tao Porchon-Lynch -- A Thunderous Call To Joy!
By Dana L. Lee
Adoration colors my well-worn copy of 98-year old Tao Porchon-Lynch’s new book, “Dancing Light." A few coffee stains, blue-ink “Wow!” notes scribbled in the margins, rainbow highlights and a couple of black-ink autographs from Rodney Yee and David Swensen, all adorn my beloved copy of Tao's book. “Dancing Light” has been called a “manifesto for a new generation of light seekers," but it is more than that. Her book is an Ippy Award winning treasure about a woman who lived through the horrors of history to inspire the world with her gifts, a thunderous call to joy!
Tao's remarkable life as a World War II French Resistance fighter, competitive ballroom dancer, film producer, model, and Guinness Book of World Records holder for World’s Oldest Yoga Teacher all support her belief that “There is nothing you cannot do." The book was written over four years by the accomplished mother-daughter team of Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy and Janie Sykes-Kennedy. Teresa describes the historically accurate work a “labor of love” between three women and can be found alongside Tao in many of her engagements today. Teresa and Tao will be in San Francisco April 24th – April 25th at the LX Leading Experience Conference, I can’t think of a more inspirational person to address the LX Leading Experience Conference than Tao. She has mentored many of today’s best yoga teachers and thought leaders, such as Deepak Chopra, although she never takes any credit. She reflects humility and grace from her heart like a mirrored pendant. As a true Master Teacher, she credits her students and colleagues for her life's remarkable journey, and yet we can see clearly that Tao was born with a special orientation towards radiant love and optimism which is her only true compass. From the moment of her birth, which resulted in the loss of her mother, Tao has always seen life for what it is: a blessed gift of breath to be treasured. “Dancing Light” reveals the powerful reality of her belief that “what you put in your mind materializes” as she repeatedly chooses the path of light to bring joy alive.
I’m thrilled to have met Tao through the intimacy of her words. If I had enough money, I’d buy a copy of “Dancing Light” for every single person I know. Her story is especially relevant amid the tumultuous affairs of today with a message that speaks across multiple cultures and generations. Her words and life story relay the hope of a deeply meaningful life in any situation. Mere images of Tao impact deeply where words often fail. Photos of Tao in her essence suspend the corruptive notion of age in mind, body, and spirit. She was recently the featured athlete in Athleta's Power of the She Campaign, smiling in every store window. At every angle she encourages us to expand in hope, healing and joy. I was introduced to Tao through only her image before reading her book a few years ago through the photographic art of Robert Sturman. Tao has long been one of Robert’s favorite subjects, and for good reason. He captures her childlike joy like no other. My best friend of 30 years, April Walker, shares the power of Tao's radiant image in her healing room to inspire others in need. April chose one of Robert’s photographs of Tao resplendent in a timeless Peacock Pose (Mayurasana) to grace a prominent space where she regularly services Reiki clients from around the world. This room is the same room where April had cared for her aging 90-year old grandmother, who lived to be a vibrant active centenarian. The matrilineal healing energy in any room is amplified by Tao’s indomitable spirit that sings, “There is nothing you cannot do”.
Tao's life is testament to her words. She was born upon the water on a ship in the English Channel, two months too early on August 13, 1918. Her mother died just as Tao was being born. For most of us, losing our mother at birth would be an indelible mark of lingering sorrow. But for this as yet unnamed infant, it galvanized a sense of optimism as she embodied the yogic idea of opposing forces held in balance from the moment her life blossomed and her mother's receded. When Tao talks about this early time in her existence, she only has deep gratitude. Tao’s ways of thinking encourages us all to turn towards the light in every situation.
“Breath is life, It opens the door to the creation within us. . . We can choose to see the good”
Tao’s chooses to see the good in every situation. Her father, a French-Canadian regiment at the time of her birth, cannot raise her alone on the unforgiving plains of a Saskatchewan horse ranch with no one to feed or take care of her. He is heart-broken at the loss of his beautiful wife and baby daughter, but grateful that Tao’s uncle, Vital Porchon, offers to take her to french Pondicherry, India, and raise her along with his wife. By the age of 22 she has already marched twice alongside the great Mahatma Gandhi. When World War II erupts across the globe, Tao finds herself entertaining in the cabaret amid the blast of falling bombs during the Nazi Blitz in London. She choreographs her own dances, creates costumes from whatever she can scrounge up, and sings her heart out to allay the trauma of others affected by war. She participates in saving hundreds of Jews from death at the hands of the Nazi's, conquering her own fear to reach out with saving hands of love. “I cannot let these people die” is the thought that lifts her courage as she finds herself alongside Marcel Marceau in the prime of his silent vocation. She comes to meet him while he is pantomiming deep within the stench of the underground catacombs where Jews huddle together in choked silence hiding from the Nazi's. Marcel is performing for the children to “keep everyone from going mad”. Together Tao and Marcel bring saving hope to many people out of the rancid belly of fear.
“Look for the good and something beautiful will happen”
Tao's life flows and sparkles like the river she was born upon. She marries a handsome French pilot, becomes a model for Coco Chanel, and eventually an actress and model with MGM in Hollywood, where ironically she feels her loneliest. She becomes a yoga teacher at a time when women weren't looked upon as yoga teachers and persists in her efforts to integrate her wisdom and experience into especially inspiring yoga classes. Tao has studied with an amazing list of luminaries: Sri Aurobindo, The Maharishi, Swami Prabhavananha of the Vendeta Society, Indra Devi, Dr. Roman Ostoja, B.K. S. Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois. She is instrumental in the creation of The Yoga Alliance and is still teaching yoga today. What I wouldn't give to learn yoga from Tao! Each time she is faced with a life decision, no matter how bleak, she chooses the path of love, responding from her essence and believing in her path. She dances across life in high heels to be closer to the stars, for she is made of these, always open and smiling that sparkling smile to the never ending changes that stretch before her. “Dancing Light” is Tao's rich love letter to the world, a thunderous call to joy!
“Tomorrow never comes. One minute after midnight is already today”
“Do it today”