This past week was tough. It wasn’t the 2 weeks of quarantine, (I am used to solitude). It wasn’t my experiments with external and internal disciplines around food, alcohol, sleep, sensory intake or meditation routine. It was an intentional desire to go deeper into what feels like is the perpetual lesson of my life on replay for the last 30 years. For those who know me well, or for those brave enough to have shared in partnership with me, you know this has been my Achilles heel. From the perspective of my life philosophy; I believe that I choose the circumstances, parents, place, lessons and relationships that I need to come into this temporary experiment in human form to learn, grow and evolve from where I left off in the last go round. All the desires and attachments from the last life determined how I showed up in this one. I came here to learn and grow towards being fully integrated, happy and free. This is the meaning of becoming Yoga. One could say Yoga means Connection; both to ourselves and others in relationship. And relationships are our greatest teachers. Other people are simply the mirrors that reflect back to us where the work is to be done on ourselves. Someone triggers you? Annoys you? Drives you crazy? Consider it a post-it note for a good place to start digging.
Hint: It’s not about them.
I’ve mentioned before that on the last day of every month I take time with my morning coffee to review how I spent my time and what I learned from that month. April always seems like the process is a little more special because it’s my birthday month. Especially this year, on a global scale, we as humanity have received the not-so-subtle invitation to take time to “stay home”. Whether it be in the physical aspect of having to stay in the same space, or the willingness to explore more subtle layers of mind, emotions and habits. We are all experiencing this event as a global collective. Some will continue to resist the invitation to look at what is and isn’t working. In addition to presenting each of us the opportunity to choose what we allow back in and what we prioritize, we will also have the choice to let go of what has become clear isn’t working. Though fear of the unknown can be a powerful reason not to make changes. Attachment and staying stuck in old patterns and habits can be a case of “the devil you know”. This internal landscape stuff is not work for the faint of heart. Whether you think of it as isolation or solitude depends on your attitude and intention. You are the architect of your life. It’s uncomfortable, scary and uncertain. Stepping through the fear curtain is never easy. But Freedom is on the other side.
I am a fan of self-discipline and self-responsibility. I enjoy challenging myself to grow in will power and am conscious about the difference between enjoying something; (object, experience, or possession), & letting it go, versus getting attached. Partnership however has been a different story. In the last year being on my own, I have struggled to see the truth of why this is such a tough spot for me.
I always say, “Careful what you wish for”. Getting back home from Mexico I made the intention to be open to digging into the “why” behind all this. At the same time I am also wrapping up a year of reading through all the written teachings of yoga philosophy by my favorite teacher, Swami Rama. I read, highlight and make notes on the words that resonate with me and try to put it into language that fits my experience and understanding. All this has been in search of more and more freedom. I want to be happy. I want to feel mentally clear and calm. I want to feel connected. I want to know myself…all the layers, including the parts that I might typically hide from others. Including why there is such a tug of war of extremes between independence and attachment in partnership.
Clarity came this week…
There are two polarities of energy: Attachment or Connection. Contraction or Expansion. Grasping or Openness. Two very different vibrations that I can send out into the world. Two opposite energies that I can approach relationship with. Each has its own outcome.
In its lowest form the energy is Attachment. Holding onto a self-created ideal born out of expectation. The imagery of grasping onto a rope or hanging on tight to an object I don’t want to fall from my grip is fitting. Feel the energetics of that. It requires muscle contraction. Tightness. An expenditure of energy. When I am holding something tightly, I am not able to receive anything else but that which is already in hand. And if what I am holding is something that isn’t real, (expectation), or not aligned with what I want to create in my life, then I will never be able to welcome or create anything else if I continue hanging on. Attachment is the source of all our suffering and pain in life. It can show up in our clinging to possessions, jobs, titles, homes and habits. For me it challenges most in partnership. That’s not to say I am looking; the work I want to do requires a lot of time spent alone in practice and with that I have made the conscious choice to be alone right now. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to experience partnership again at some point but that’s not the motivation for my inquiry. I want to know myself on all layers and after reading so much over the last year, two of the biggest requirements of knowing myself are Discipline and Non-Attachment. Freedom comes from gaining mastery over the mind, and for that I need to understand the reasons why I do things. That’s the difference between Western and Eastern psychology. The Western psychologist’s analysis involves knowing through the intellect, logic and external observation. Yoga psychology has differentiated various functions of the mind with the help of discipline and the introspective method of internal practice. This method is based on direct inward experience, whereas modern psychology relies on the collection of data from external observation. Through the principles of Yoga Therapy and Yoga Psychology, western health care is beginning to realize the importance of cultivating the body-breath-mind-environment connection to grow the ability to become resilient through self-regulation for both mental and physical health.
Back to the energy spectrum: On the other hand, at its highest form the energy is Connection. Connection to self, to knowing myself, and connecting to others from a place of fullness. In most relationships in my life this seems effortless. I can show up without expectation, with the ability to respect and honor the choices of others without needing to fix or save. Partnership and all relationship connection is mutually beneficial when two people connect from the fullness of themselves in shared experience versus seeking connection as an external means to fill a perceived lack. The lack can be either from dependence, (void in myself) or from wanting to fix or save, (void in other). Connection from fullness and without expectation has a sense of openness and freedom. Being non-attached is Love. Love is Expansion. Love is giving without expectation or reward. When I show up in this energy everything flows. I am not standing in the way of attracting and creating the life I want. I am open to Life. It is the feeling of fullness; like the inhale that brings fresh air to the system. It brings energy. It renews. It is the opposite of attachment. It is still relationship. Both scenarios involve 2 connected individuals. Whether its expression and effect is positive or negative depends the intention of the energy I chose to apply. Life from a place of expansion or contraction? The choice is mine. Choice requires awareness of option. Yoga is learning to grow my awareness. To be present with every experience, paying attention to myself and how I am relating with the moment. What are my motivations, desires, emotions, thoughts & habits? It is a lifelong work in progress and in regards to healthy relationships, both individuals need a willingness to do the work, examine fears, know what is needed in the way of intimacy, and have the ability to communicate those needs to the other person. With the intention to understand not necessarily to agree. Relationships are challenging at the best of times. If we don’t have the awareness or willingness to look internally, to be self-responsible, and communicate with vulnerability, relationships will always be much harder than they need to be.
I came into this world the warrior type; fighter, defender & protector. I very much bought into the either/or of Viking versus Victim mentality (see Brene Brown’s work). I’ve spent my life thinking I could fix and save, ride in on a white horse or put on my cape. I loved to think I was in control. Made it deceivingly easy to think I was whole and didn’t need anything. Truth is, like all of us, I am all hardwired to want intimate connection; to feel that I am needed, that I belong somewhere, that I have purpose. I crave being seen, heard and understood for who I really am, faults and all. Being that seen by someone takes a huge amount of vulnerability and risk. But without taking the risk of putting myself out there for someone, I will never have that need met. Turns out I have to meet that need for myself before I can genuinely connect with others. If I don’t know myself or understand why I act, think and feel the way I do, how could it ever be possible to communicate what I need to another person, never mind try to understand someone else’s perspective? It’s a matter of self-worth and self-love. Vulnerability is NOT weakness. Instead of being brave, I spent so much time hiding behind the armor I was taught I needed to be socially acceptable, (my Fortress of Solitude). Vulnerability is in fact the exact opposite. To really let myself be seen by another person being vulnerable takes THE most courage. Ask Brene Brown. Courage and Vulnerability is her wheelhouse.
An even more powerful than the need to connect is the drive for Self-preservation. It is the most powerful motivator of humans and animals alike. The most powerful attachment we have is to this body and to our life. It is the strongest of the 4 primal motivators for food, sleep, sex (intimacy & connection) and fear of death. We are all born to die; there is nothing in this world that is permanent and not subject to death or change. Death is the alarm that makes every human being realize that attachment to possessions, position and people is painful. Right now global humanity is being forced to face this deeply engrained fear as a collective. It is a time of great discomfort for most given that very few choose to consciously do this work at the best of times. Most spend their lives avoiding, repressing, supressing and/or numbing out from the invitation to go inward. Survival mode. Lives are spent looking for happiness in the external world, knowing and training only the conscious mind in the waking state. Loneliness; the need for Connection, is the greatest diseaseand has no true cure except from that which comes from the silence found going within and getting to know yourself. It is the most important relationship to foster if you want to be happy and relate well with others.
- The purpose of Life is to find Freedom
- Freedom through Connection: Relation to Self & Other
- This experience (Freedom) is realized through meditation (Connection) internally.
- The goal of yoga practice is to prepare the body & mind for meditation.
- Meditation requires preparation through External & Internal Disciplines & Non-Attachment.
- Meditation requires concentration and daily practice.
- Meditation is an inward journey.
For this a systematized and organized method of internal connection is required where preparation is more important than the method used. Time daily in silent stillness, focusing the mind on one thing.
- Time: The hours before sunrise and after sunset are best. At other times one can practice yoga exercises. Poses and breath practices should be included. Without health in the body and control of the breath, meditation will be difficult.
- Location: Prepare a clean, quiet, place for regular practice.
- Position: Establish a comfortable seat. Head, neck & trunk in alignment.
- Withdrawal of the Senses: Gently close the eyes and focus on the breath at the space between the 2 nostrils, just above the upper lip.
- Concentration: Focus the mind on the breath for awareness of breathing patterns. Eliminating jerky, noisy, shallow breathing and/or any pause between inhale and the exhale. Maintain focus on the breath at the nostrils. Notice the temperature change: cool air inhaling, warm air exhaling. Breath slow and deep into the lower belly.
- Duration: 5-15 minutes a day. Everyday. Meditation is like deep sleep. It is integration time for life experience. Your system needs this reset. Daily.
***For guided practices you can find free recordings on my podcast***
I have realized something else about myself over the last month that has been a bonus. I laugh because I am regularly asked how I am doing out here on my own and how I occupy my time. Clearly I have a lot to work on. 2 decades worth of armor to take off gives me plenty to do. All this digging into life has made me realize that my passion is not teaching group movement classes. Especially now, with public interaction limited, it is the perfect time to start doing what I really love. That is connecting to people who want to go deeper. People who want more freedom, who want to get to know themselves and who want to do the work. The difference now is that I know I can’t fix or save anyone else. The sole duty of a teacher is to simply make the tools accessible and help others realize that they have all the capacities to use them already. One only needs a guide; someone to hold the light while they do the work. Not everyone wants to. Not everyone is ready. However, working with those who are is totally my jam! Whether it’s mentoring future yoga therapists or teaching first responders tools for self-regulation and resiliency; working with people 1:1 lights me up. If you want to work together this month, don’t hesitate to reach out. I am offering free sessions. It’s win-win. Times are tight for everyone and I need practice hours before graduation this fall. I would however, greatly appreciate testimonials from anyone who finds value in their session work. If you are ready, just send me a message.
Free Private Online Yoga Therapy Sessions
Tuesday to Friday at 1000, 1115 & 1230
1 hour Session per person
Stress Resiliency Training & Mentoring
Yoga Philosophy, Psychology & Somatics
Online Zoom Classes
Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday nights from 7-8pm
Classes combine slow and gentle floor/chair based movements, breath work and body awareness practices followed by guided relaxation for ANY body & ANY ability.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the link
All recorded practices will be uploaded to my iTunes Podcast: Freedom through Self Care