Monday, June 20, 2016

Two Become One Flesh

"Spirituality is measured relationally"

     I want to begin this post be reminding us all that yoga like relationships is all about balance, but I think that's probably true of all life. So I might as well begin this post by reminding us all that 2 + 2 = 4.  A big part of  yoga teachers job is simply reminding us of what we already know. And if you are interested in applying yoga to relationships you already know that if you put all your time and effort into another person and neglect yourself the relationship is doomed and if you are all about nurturing yourself to the exclusion of seeing the other that's just the opposite side of a doomed coin. Twenty three years ago when we got married the adage "marriage is work" seemed like the pessimistic view of an unromantic past. But it is not just marriage that is work, all relationships require work. Beginning relationships is a challenge, building them takes effort and maintaining them takes a lot of time and energy. Yes, there will be sweet spots where you are so comfortable that the relationships turn into places of rest or places of play. But these states are dynamic and the work of relationship will always be a component. So, I thought it might be helpful to myself and maybe you to explore just what some this work looks like.

     Like everything else the work in relationship is unique for everyone, but one component of it is that we must go "in" and do our own inner work. We must see and acknowledge that when our partners trigger us to elevated emotion that there is some hurt or fear in us calling for attention. If we allow ourselves to sink into blaming our partner or feeling victimized then we might lose our opportunity to grow. A starting point to grow from a partner trigger is to let go of the story "they said....they did ..." and simply sink into the raw sensation of the moment. When my partner for the billionth time tried to micromanage my driving and for the billionth time it triggered me I finally did some work around it. I let go of my story "he thinks he knows which way is the right way to go, so he must think I'm stupid" and instead I noticed that without the story what actually happened was that my right jaw and shoulder clenched up. It wasn't an instant process but allowing the physical to relax definitely reduced the amount of emotional heat and before long we were both laughing at ourselves. His micromanagement of me driving is him trying to stay safe in an ineffective way because an agitated driver is less safe for sure. But if I'm honest what he triggered in me is a tremendous amount of immature pride. (stomps feet and whines "anything you can do I can do better") This speck of growth would not have happened had I held on to the mental story of what he was doing because that traps us in blame mode which always stifles personal growth.

     We also must go "out" and truly see our partners. To do this I find the Buddhist practice of "and this too" to be very helpful. We must see all the aspects of our partner that we can. When they do something fabulous we must remember that "this too" is a part of them. Because if we romanticize them when they please us then we are not seeing all of them and we are paving a path for future disappointment. And when they act in a manner that we dislike we must remember "and this too is a part of them" but its just a part they are also good. They are not bad because they did a bad thing they are not good because they did a good thing, but like all humans they are a wonderfully complex mix of wisdom and neurosis. As Richard Rohr puts it "we are all mixed blessings" ANd we must allow our partners to be their own beautifully complex selves.

     So, we must go "in" and "out" to be in a thriving relationship. But this is just the beginning. We also must go "here" and "there". Let me explain: long term romantic relationships require two opposing states to continue to grow. They require the state of love which takes familiarity and lots of time together "here" and they require desire which by definition requires distance "there". To desire something it must be away from us, if we have it we don't desire it because we have it. Silly humans, huh? But only being distant and away does not allow for intimacy to grow. So while it is super important to make lots and lots of memories together with your partner it is also important to get away. After a recent girls weekend away I found my partner particularly handsome on my return and his affection indicated some time away was good medicine for us both. But we also must be "here" really be with them and see them for who they are not who we want them to be. Put in good quality time with them.

     I don't see a clear end to this blog, because I want to write about balancing being strong and being vulnerable, being helpful and stepping back for them to figure their own stuff out, being productive together and being lazy together, the work of relationship is endless and wonderful. So, before I turn this blog into a novel I will stop. But before I leave you I just wanna share a teaching moment with my partner about a decade ago. I was being a little cranky maybe :)  and he just kinda forcefully said "why don't you just go get on your (yoga) mat!!!!" He was right! Take to the mat and it will bleed into your relationships in a beautiful way. Namaste yogis and happy growing

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Calm in the Storm

    Stormy seas make strong sailors

     I remember about a decade ago overwhelmed and questioning God "when will life slow down?, I whined" At this point we lived on the Gulf Coast and hurricanes were a familiar fact of life. When the powerful spirals approached the winds would whip the waters into froth and cause the trees to dance madly. The closer the eye of the storm the louder nature howled all around us. But then came the calm. If you have ever been in the eye of a hurricane you know it is one of the quietest places on earth. There are no winds, no birds, the trees stand perfectly still at attention. In the midst of this raging howling force lies calm and quiet. The answer to my prayer for a slower life came almost immediately. Life would never slow down, my spirit whispered, there would always be a hurricane of activity and stimulation, but in the middle of it all the eye of the storm was there quietly waiting for me to pay attention. Stillness is always available even as we race screaming through our days.
The storm seems so loud these days with fear and violence erupting in our culture. It is a challenge to find the quiet eye, but not impossible.
     Quiet is a state of mind and our minds are malleable. It is the mind dropped down into the heart.  We are not at the mercy of our thoughts and we are not the victims of our circumstances. Rather when we train to be present with whatever is happening our capacity to enter quiet slowly strengthens. This training is not quick or easy, but it is super simple. Do not resist the events of any given moment. If we are suffering and we try to push away the suffering then the suffering grows stronger. But if we notice our suffering and do not abandon the sensations, we tell our suffering "I am here for you" we hold our suffering like were comforting a crying baby then the suffering quiets. When we are joyful and we abandon the moment of joy thinking ahead we lose our joy. Have you ever found yourself super happy then had the thought "this will be over soon" and your joy is gone? But simply being present noting "this is a joyful moment" this increases our capacity for inner quiet. It is natural to want to move away from pain and hold onto joy. But the thing is,  life really is just an ever flowing river of sensations and when we sit quietly and observe this flow we enter the river. When we avoid our present moments we dam up the flow.

     I actually started this blog about a month ago after two consecutive days when  my inner life caught my attention. The first day was a day off with absolutely no commitments, luxurious, right? Well I spent a great deal of time that day whipping up a storm of doubts and "what ifs" and " you shoulds" in my mind. While outwardly I intentionally only did activities that seemed  restful, fun even,  inwardly my unchecked thoughts created a very unrestful situation. I lost my inner quiet. But the next day I was super busy at work and despite my morning doubts of having the stamina for it all it was an amazingly restful day. On day two I did not resist what was happening, I did not allow my mind to run amuck and I did not look for an escape. I stayed present.It really caught my attention that my Sabbath day was so stressful and my workday was so lovely. On the Sabbath day I abandoned the eye of the storm and indulged my ego mind and this always causes some level of anxiety. But despite a light physical fatigue on day two I felt calm and grounded almost as if I had been in a spa for the day. The only difference was that on day two I continually came back to "what is happening right now" I didn't allow memories or predictions to stay in my mind, but over and over I took notice of "exactly this moment"  when the moment was pleasant I took a second to appreciate it and when the moment was challenging I took a second to "hold myself softly"
I totally get that with the current situation in our politics and culture the desire to check out is strong. And, maybe for a little while that's what's needed. Take an hour or two to abandon yourself in some entertainment. But in the long run if we are to find this quiet eye of the storm we must allow the wind and rain. We must not abandon our present moments, but we must lovingly be there for ourselves and then we sink into the quiet we all have inside of us. I get that you're afraid, I am too. But in the darkness of denial,  fear grows and in the light of loving presence fear transforms.