Thursday, April 30, 2015

Surrendering to Love

I was reading Bambi the other day to my kids and Thumper the bunny was explaining that in springtime (which it finally feels like, halleluia!) all the animals become "twitterpated". So, love is in the air! When I contemplate love many things come to mind but I had a defining experience a few years ago I wanted to share.  

It happened almost 4 years ago, a week after moving to NJ from the Chicago area.  I was miserable, heartbroken over leaving close friends, despairing over renting a house, my beloved grandmother had passed away the week before and I had to miss her funeral because it was the day we moved, my kids were having a hard time - suffice it to say that I was in a very low place.  In search of some healing I went to a yoga class (it wasn't at Shree). The opposite of what I was searching for happened - I hated the class, hated the teacher, hated every word he said, hated every pose we did.  (Of course he was a perfectly fine teacher - it was just my experience.)

At the end of class I felt stripped-down-to-the-bone raw.  As we laid down in savasana the words that came into my head were "I surrender".   What I thought I was surrendering to was grief, fear, and misery, just letting myself plunge down into the black hole I had sunk into in times past and was trying so desperately to avoid. But it didn't happen. What came with the tears in that moment was overwhelming love.  There was a presence with me; surrounding me, holding me, and filling me up, and, although I was crying they were tears of relief, because in that moment I knew everything was ok, and that everything would always be ok.  That this presence was always with me, but I had to open to it.

I had spent weeks fighting what was coming to me and actively resisting everything I felt.  Tell me if this inner dialogue sounds familiar: "I'm a yogi, I practice equanimity and breathing and santosha, I know how to handle things so I don't go down the black hole of despair. I'm fine."   Or "I can't feel all this, my kids need to see strong mommy, not falling apart mommy." That was some of the commentary in my mind all those weeks trying to avoid what hurt.   I put up all these barriers to pain, these walls to keep suffering out, when what I really needed to do was just let myself mourn and be sad and be okay with it. My friend Silvia Mordini says "The Universe is always speaking to you - sometimes she whispers and sometimes she throws a brick at your head." So here came Kali, brick in hand, knocking down every wall I had put up because love comes in many forms and sometimes it hurts.  She knew it but I didn't, and this is how I had to learn it.  Everything shifted from that moment forward because I was willing to let the armor down, to not be fine. And when the armor came down, all that was left was love. What an absolute relief. Learning this truth first hand was a transformational moment for me, nothing was the same afterwards.  

I didn't know Kali so well back then, but I think on some unconscious level I summoned her to be with me.  What I know now is that she is the power of elimination which can be destructive, but ultimately she brings us to love.  Kali energy is a massive love force - she has to be to break through the armor we put up.  Here's the thing though, we have to be willing to participate with her to let her open us up. We have to be willing to let our barriers down, to be vulnerable, to feel even if it hurts.  She comes when we are at our lowest not to break us down, but to force us to break down the barriers that keep us from happiness and love...which might feel like a breaking down but I am here to tell you it isn't. It's like the Leonard Cohen song says "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."  Kali is the hammer wedged into that crack. 

So whatever you might be facing or feeling, invite Kali energy to be with you.  I am reminded again of the Rumi quote we've read so many times: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." Be brave and call on her - she will break you down but I promise you what will come is love, and it will heal you and open you and change your life in any way you allow it to.

Off the Mat:
Be aware this week of the ways that you protect your heart. Boundaries are important and necessary, but often we put them up where they aren't necessarily needed simply because it's become a habit, or because we've needed to do it in the past in some situation or another. It doesn't mean that it always has to happen, and we don't always need the armor up to face the world. Where are the places you can let yours down (safely)?

On the Mat:
I've been seeing a lot of photos of myself lately and I've noticed my shoulders dipping forward, spine slightly rounded.  My posture is reflective of my heart being a little closed down, which is something I've been  working on in my relationships.  Now don't get me wrong, I know plenty of people with bad posture and huge generous hearts so it’s not like we improve our posture and magically become more loving and intimate with those around us.  But many of us do face the world this way - our posture reflecting a kind of protectiveness.  When we can open up the vulnerable parts of our bodies with confidence and grace it becomes easier to receive love, others feel more willing to offer it, and we find it easier to offer it back.  And that does open us up in a way.  

For the Anusara Junkies:
Open to Grace: Open yourself up to the places in yourself capable of great love, and with each breath expand the love you have to offer.
Open yourself up with compassion to the places in you that push love away, and let the breath soften those boundaries.

Muscular Energy: We have to be strong to open ourselves up, it’s not like we just flop ourselves open and say here I am for the taking – we participate with that opening up, like every muscle of the body participates in the pose.
Fire up your muscles with the fierce love you have for those that are most dear to you.
Draw (from periphery to focal point) all the love the Universe (Kali) has to offer to you.

Shoulder Loop: Imagine the bottom tips of the shoulder blades like the two hands of Kali, pressing forward and piercing through the tough armor around your heart and into the love at the center.
Move the bottom tips of the shoulder blades forward, feeling them gently nudge the back of the heart, waking it up to receive the love of the Universe (of Kali).
Move the tops of the shoulders (head of the arm bones) and the throat back, opening up the guarded vulnerable heart to love.

Organic Energy: From the core of your being spread all the love you are capable of.
Let love shine from any crack in the facade of your being.