Opening ourselves up to grace can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. In my yoga training, this practice of opening up to grace is the process of setting an intention before an embodied practice. By connecting in with the internal world and assessing what we’re seeking on the mat, we’re able to allow ourselves to connect in with the vastness that is consciousness and welcome in spaciousness for exploration. Sounds divine.
The other day, I was able to sleep with my windows open, allowing the morning sun to dance across my skin and the smell of the earth warming to tickle my nose. Opening my eyes, I saw the bright pink cotton candy like sunrise sweep brush strokes across the early morning sky in a frenzy of uncontrolled beauty as the bird sang the perfect song of creation. Stretching out under the sheets, I thought to myself “It must be spring.” After a moment of recognition that it’s NOT spring, it’s indeed February and this warmth is uncharacteristic for the time and space we occupy, instead of going into mourning for the evident heating of the climate, I relaxed all my muscles, softened my gaze, released my inner ear and opened myself up to the grace of the moment. I offered myself to the abundance and radiance that surrounded me and closing my eyes, set the intention of springing forth from the fertile lands of the unbounded universe that is expressing itself through my physical form. In this moment of ananda (bliss), I saw something so clearly. Myself. As I am – the folding and unfolding of all that is.
These moments, however fleeting, come and go into our consciousness and more often than not, we meet them with resistance and doubt. Afraid of the unbinding of ourselves from the containers of limiting beliefs we’ve developed around the image of who we are, we allow numbness to be mistaken for comfort and rest into our suffering rather than lean sweetly into our unknowing. This moment of unbounded sunshine and rising release made me realize that it takes so much work to open to grace. The challenge of teaching these practices is allowing myself to trust that others will find what they need to open to the vastness that they are. That they will take the risk to turn around and see the endless valley that is the cosmos of their being. And, in turn, trusting myself that I can be a trustworthy guide for others on this path.
I’ve spent the last several weeks exploring my inner world through somatic exploration and mindful meditation (which I’ll talk about later). These practices are bringing me further and further into myself, which is out of the idea of my body and into the wide raging river of ecstatic existence that I am – so far beyond me that I am learning to not experience MY self but THE Self. The folding and unfolding of what is. So with this sunshine and springlike joy we’ve sensed around the bay and channeling in the sensations of springing forth from my own experiences of ananda and allowing myself to open to that grace, I’ve spent past few days cultivating the two elements I associate with Spring; grounding and vulnerability. Just as the springing up of early flowers requires fertile soil to take root and begin drawing up what they need to feel safe to bloom, the flowers on the surface are vulnerable and can quickly die with a fickle wind or a cold snap. That said, with awareness of both, the flowers bloom anyway. (I could go into the chakras, but we’ll save that for another telling.)
This stems from my own closure. I’ve felt, in so many ways, a closing off of my own vulnerability, resulting in heart pain and a dualistic approach to wholeness. The physical closing off of my heart with rounding my shoulders and an overactive psoas is not a symptom of inner turmoil, they are the inner turmoil. Just as heart ache or trauma manifests itself in the mind as thoughts and emotions, it ALSO manifests itself in the body as pain, tension, and stress. This is all the same process without one superseding the other. In this same way, the coldness of my extremities and returned aching in my hips are the manifestation of the turning off of my own grounding and connection to safety and fulfillment of basic needs. Aching in my hips is how I feel unsafe. Following? Luckily, I have tools and tricks and truly – awareness – to recognize these embodied reactions and can start to quickly assess and reopen up my body. I speak of my own experience in this to allow for something concrete for you to hopefully begin to resonate with. Within this resonance is the potential to see a truth or two about yourself and begin to open yourself up to grace. And often that opening starts with recognizing that maybe you aren’t open, and then being curious about it. Once the curiosity takes root, the process of allowing yourself to reopen can begin. But as with anything, you must want it and then, you must do it.
If tapping back into your own limitless grounding and vulnerability sound interesting to you, here are just a couple suggestions to get you started.
In asana, focus on heart openers, back bends, and seated postures.
In meditation, focus mindful attention to changing sensations in the body without labeling, judging, attaching, or avoiding. Allow yourself to simply watch the folding and unfolding of sensation.
In daily life, start to notice where you’re feeling blocked off. Are you having a hard time expressing yourself verbally? Are you unclear with your intentions? Are you colder or warmer than usual? Are aches and pains new? Are you experiencing physical reactions (heart racing, tightness in the chest, clenched jaw) to circumstances you find yourself in? When these changes in your baseline experience fluctuate, can you pause and simply observe the way they’re being expressed?
In relationships, embrace. Receive loving energy exchange by giving hugs. Hug your friends, your co-workers (if appropriate?), your lovers, new acquaintances, your pets, and YOURSELF. Hugging releases oxytocin in the brain – that feel good chemical in the reward center that cultivates bonding and trust – even when you hug yourself. So do it. All day long. Hug it out.
Let it out. This is the year for healing. 2015 is the year of the sheep and a time for recovery, for slowing down and taking care of ourselves so we can become infinitely more ourselves. Find a great therapist, take time to have coffee with friends, tell people how you feel, write poems and love letters. Know you’re not alone and take care.
If you’re willing, the world waits for you. The trick is learning it’s waiting inside, not outside. Facing the fear of turning around and looking inward will undoubtably release you into the brightest beauty you’ve ever known. You.
Mad Love, All.