Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No Feeling is Final

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
 then walks with us silently out of the night.

 These are words we dimly hear:

 You, sent out beyond your recall,
 go to the limits of your longing.
 Embody me.

 Flare up like flame
 and make big shadows I can move in.

 Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
 Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
 Don't let yourself lose me.

 Nearby is the country they call life.
 You will know it by its seriousness.

 Give me your hand.

  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

This poem was given to me by a student & friend when I was going through a particularly challenging time. It is one I come back to over and over again as a source of great comfort.  It is such a relief to be reminded that no matter where we find ourselves, whether it be great joy and abundance, or heartache and sorrow, that it will pass and another feeling will arise to take its place.   And when we examine any feeling that we find ourselves in, no matter how stuck we might feel in it, how insurmountable it might appear, we realize that it is not stagnant.  There are subtle shifts, ebbs and flows within even strong emotions and feelings, and this is a powerful reminder that shift is possible and even inevitable.

The sacred text Yoga Spandakarika says that all of life is spanda (pulsation).  When we engage with this pulsation we step into the flow of consciousness, which is not a fixed state but one in constant flow and flux.   When we study Tantra we come to know that any emotion is simply the gateway to another emotion - sadness is the predecessor to joy, creation and destruction a continuous, infinite cycle of energy.  All our emotions make up the totality of the universe and they all exist simultaneously. We’ve all had glimpses of great joy in our darkest times, and flashes of darkness at our happiest, and we remember that these are just separate points on the same circle.   

This poem also ignited my faith in the divine.  When I read (no matter what happens) “don’t let yourself lose me” I remember I am not in this alone, that the power of grace and my ability to co-create with that power will help to move me from whatever feeling I find myself in to the next one, and that they are all part of where I am meant to go and what I am meant to experience.  Like most things that are worth anything, this can take time.  So I breathe in and out, in and out, feeling one breath merging seamlessly with the next and knowing that that seamless connection will eventually carry me to the next feeling and experience.

I have a bracelet that my mom gave me that says in Hebrew “this too shall pass”.  When she first gave it to me I only wore it on days when I was having a challenging time, but I’ve taken to wearing it on good days too.  It keeps me anchored in the present, reminded that life is one big circular flow and when I can just be there without clinging (which we do when times are good) or resisting (which we do when times are challenging) I soften and open to what is.  Wherever I find myself will only serve to lead me somewhere else if I can just keep going.  

There is no end, until the end that is, and so we step into the flow and ride the current with as much grace as we can muster.  We’ve all had days where we feel like we just can’t go on another minute – but when we see it as part of the bigger cycle of our lives it becomes less scary to be there.  Just get out your surfboard and enjoy the ride.

Off the mat:
Take some time this week to practice what I call a “circular breath”.  Spend a few minutes every day with your eyes closed breathing deeply and letting each breath flow seamlessly into the next one.  Let the breath become so smooth that you can’t tell where one breath ends and the next begins. 
Be aware of your feelings throughout your day.  When a strong emotion arises, notice that that feeling isn’t stagnant, that it pulses as your breath does.  Notice how, when you focus your awareness on the circular breath, that you can let go of clinging to or resisting that feeling a little bit more easily.

On the mat:
We practiced mindfully moving with our breath, and letting all our movements be smooth and flowing and graceful.  We held challenging poses and reminded ourselves that “no feeling is final”, and when we breathe steadily and smoothly through the challenges that we step into the flow of our lives with grace and acceptance.  We practiced with strong “shins in, thighs out” balancing energies to bring us into surya yantrasana (sundial pose) and visvamitrasana (world friend pose) and their preparatory stages.

Open To Grace: Feel how each breath merges effortlessly into the next one.  Allow your feelings to follow your breath.

Muscular Energy/Shins In: Flare each muscle up like flame, enliven the whole body to awaken to the flow of life.
Hug your shins in to every emotion you have – beauty and terror.
Engage your shin strongly to your upper arm (in surya yantrasana and visvamitrasana and prep poses), feeling how every feeling is connected to another in the cycle of your life.
Hug shin into whatever feeling you are having knowing it will soon pass into the next one.
Hold your shin to your upper arm to hold onto your faith.

Inner Spiral/Thighs Out: Expand your inner thighs to “make big shadows (the divine) can move in”
Press inner thighs out to the limits of your longing.
Widen sit bones back and apart to expand beyond your current feeling.

Outer Spiral: Anchor your tailbone into the flow of one emotion to the next as one big cycle.

Organic Energy: Flare up like flame and let your feelings spread from your heart like fire.
Expand out beyond your recall, past this feeling and into the next.
Send whatever feeling you are feeling down into the earth and then up and out in all directions, letting it go.