Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Pull of your Heart

“A desire is anything but frivolous. It is the interface between you and that which is greater than you. No desire is meaningless or inconsequential. If it pulls you, even a little bit, it will take everyone higher…every desire is of profound importance with huge consequences, and deserves your attention.”
- Mama Gena

Desire gets a bad rap in yoga.  In some yoga schools it is considered to be what draws us away from our spiritual practice, but in Tantric philosophy desire is what can draw you in, because every longing, urge or impulse comes to us from the Divine.  On the the tattva chart, Tantra's "map of creation", willpower or desire is second only to Shiva and Shakti, the masculine and feminine aspects that make up the Absolute at it's absolute highest.  The Divine, Unmanifest's first impulse to bring anything and everything into creation comes from this deep level of being, and so do all our desires and impulses even in the physical realm where we live our day to day lives.  Sadashiva is one of the Absolute tattvas, making up not a place, but, as Christopher Wallace in Tantra Illuminated says: "the Divine Reality that pervades the whole of the manifest universe.... The five absolute tattvas [of which sadashiva, or desire, is the third] are essentially a description of the Divine Source of all Being."  

36 Tattvas of Tantrik Cosmology - from Christoper Wallace's book Tantra Illuminated

So…from this we learn that desire is essential. And all our desires, every one we have, flow from that part of ourselves. If you take the time you can trace every one of them back.  Now, when we trace them back we see that not all of them lead us in the direction that we want to head in in any particular moment.  We acknowledge that at any given time many aspirations may be arising and of course we can't act on all of them.  When we want to live a life of meaning and sustainability we have to be discerning about which passions we choose to pursue, and we have to inquire deeply into what the real impulse is behind what we are going after.

So allow me to share a process I recently went through in trying to decide whether to make a certain purchase. Out shopping one day I happened to see a pair of boots that I immediately decided I really, really wanted. I longed for these boots. Showing some rare self-restraint I didn't buy them on the spot  because of course I most decidedly did NOT need these boots, but I did go home and look them up online, tried to find them cheaper, and kept visiting them on the store's website for a few days. As I agonized as to whether or not to buy them I did a little exercise.  Why were these boots so important to me?

The week before, a friend was wearing a pair just like them at an event we were at together. She looked really good in them, very stylish, and I admired them. At this event were also some other women I happened to not know as well as she did, and she seemed so comfortable and at ease. She fit in so beautifully and I admired her poise and grace.  I was not feeling particularly comfortable or at ease. File it in the mental Rolodex.  When I was out shopping the next week and saw this pair of boots, the file gets activated.  Boots = fitting in, ease, poise, feeling comfortable. On the superficial level what happens is – I have to have the boots!!  But deeper…what did I really want?  Connection.  Yes, again on a superficial level connection with the other women I was with, but intrinsically what I want is to feel connected on an unshakable level, I want to know it as the truth of my being, that I am intimately connected to all of creation by the thread that weaves us all. To feel loved, feel at ease…that’s what I want.  Which of course has nothing to do with a pair of boots.

If you know me, you know I indulge my boot (and clothing, handbag, jewelry...) desires more often than I should.  If I'm being particularly mindful I avoid buying unnecessary items and seek out the deeper connections I am looking for in the form of yoga practice or a walk with a friend or date night with my husband.  But I also recognize that these desires are part of what makes me who I am, which is someone who deeply believes in the joy of self-expression and adornment as a way to connect to and celebrate the beauty of the physical Universe, which is also part of Tantric practice.  As always it’s a delicate balance. 

Yoga gives us the opportunity to tune in to our hearts, to get in touch with our desires and the impulses behind them. When we attune ourselves to our highest we remember that the Universe chose to embody and become each and every one of us to feel Itself through the vehicle of our bodies and spirits. If you deny those impulses, the deepest longings of your heart, you deny the Universe the experience of YOU. You were made manifest to shine the light only you can shine.  Every desire you have fuels that flame and urges you to burn brighter, so indulge them when you can in a meaningful way, choose wisely, and shine on!

Urdhva Dhanurasana with feet on a chair

Off the Mat:
I'll invite you to the following exercise: Close your eyes.  Where is your heart pulling you?  What do you really want right now - it can be anything at all - there is no right or wrong answer to this. Once you're clear on where your heart is pulling you, begin to trace that impulse back to its source.  Why do you want it? What benefit will it bring you?  What is the feeling associated with having whatever it is?  Let this be the intention for your practice this week – to follow the pull of your heart.

Dragon Catching its Tail

On the Mat:
Desire is the pull you feel in your heart towards something.  In Anusara-speak, Shoulder Loop is the physical expression of that pulling.  When we move the tops of the shoulders and head back, and bring the bottom tips of the shoulder blades into the back of the heart, the chest opens and lifts and we feel an openness and liberation.  We literally feel the heart pulling us forward and we just have to follow it.  Work on poses like Ustrasana, Dhanurasana, Purvottanasana, Dragon catching its Tail and Urdhva Dhanurasana.  I worked on UD a lot this week with my feet on a chair to get my upper arms really vertical and my heart way out in front (if the chair feels too high you can do this with feet on 2 blocks at the wall, or feet on a step). 
For the Anusara Junkies:
Open to Grace: Set your hands/feet to reflect your desire to align with your highest intention to connect.
Ground yourself in what you long for.
Line up hands/feet and line up with your yearning for your highest self.

Muscular Energy: Engage your muscles and engage with the part of yourself deep inside from where all yearning flows.
Firm muscles and ignite your craving for _____________ (whatever your desire/intention is)

Shoulder Loop: 
Bring bottom tips of shoulder blades into your back and let your heart be pulled in the direction it wishes to go.
Feel your longing like a tether hooked to the bottom tips of your shoulder blades pulled forward through front of your heart.

Organic Energy: Shine the light of your passion from your deepest, transcendent heart.
Spread the light of devotion from the seat of your desire out to the world.