What an incredible opportunity we have with a discipline such as yoga where we can cultivate and experiment with intimacy simply by feeling the beating of our own heart within our body, by getting so quiet that we can sense the texture of the atmosphere on our skin. We can send our listening out to the edges and then locate our self in the room. This is intimacy. This is how we experience it. Presence is just around the corner. Wait, presence is here.
The practice of yoga, in all its forms, taps into the intimate relationship between the thought, the breath, and the action. When those three things are in sync, authenticity and honesty preside. Effort becomes ease as we get more comfortable with nurturing the birth of a thought, raising it into being, and watching it become action. When what we do is linked to what we feel, think, and say, then we meet ourselves.
Each of us is unique and different akin to the individual waves on the surface of the ocean, yet when we recognize our breath we are focusing on the ocean itself and our common essence. The primary force that incarnates us so that we may experience anything is the breath. The breath is distributed throughout the whole body in a physiological way, but we can also distribute the breath as awareness or attention.
In this story of a body, sometimes there are rooms that are closed and the light is off and the door is locked. Could we have a gentle curiosity about those spaces? A soft, kind, and compassionate curiosity? Could we be at ease with not knowing as well as being at ease with knowing while not clinging to that knowledge? All that we know, that makes us feel comfortable and safe, when challenged, might bring about a great amount of insecurity and then we may get defensive and perhaps lash out. What if we were to loosen the tight hold on our beliefs? We would not feel threatened and we could open up to that which we don’t know with an open heart.
What is the sensation of an open heart? We tend to think we need an excuse to have an open heart, some kind of reason, or another person as the focus of that open heart, but like smiling, the physical practice can awaken the state of being. We don’t need a justification or an excuse. Let our default be ease and intimacy with our life. There is no competition. There is nothing we need to do. It is a willingness to accept the potential of who we are.
You are more amazing than you ever could force yourself to be. Your potential already resides within you. It is part of the package at birth. You are already home.
With that consideration, we can honor that further is not necessarily better. Consider something in nature that expresses your movement: ocean waves, a blossoming flower, swaying trees, birds in flight. It does not have to be extreme or dramatic to have powerful meaning. Everything is connected, the grand and the mundane. Take a moment to experience the incredible sensation of being in form:
eyes are soft with single-pointed focus, yet you are receiving everything in the periphery of the gaze. The ears are open and listening. With the tip of the tongue at the front of the palate, the root of the tongue is relaxed. The front of the throat is like a pool of water and your heart is settled into the nest of your ribcage. Place the attention on the beating of your heart, on the rhythm of your breath. The breath is beating the heart is breathing, the waves are ebbing, and the raven’s wings pulse. Feel rather than think. Unravel and remember the nature of your form. Notice how that thought is the striking of a bell. As the waxing and waning of the moon affects the ebb and flow of the tides, all humans, made mostly of water, rely on the intimate relationship and committed devotion that the sun and the moon have with the earth. What is happening to you here and now has to do with everything in the Universe. This is liberating because you are held by all that wisdom.
When stepping into a yoga class, we tend to have the false perception that there is something wrong with us if we are not at peace, but if we were feeling at ease in our life there is a good chance that a yoga class wouldn’t be our destination; we might not be walking in at all. In all actuality, a yoga class is where you know everyone is seeking something: healing, relief, compassion, understanding, awakening, connection. This is the place where we focus on the subtle, which takes us in both directions: cultivating the ability to be attentive to that which is so very close, while simultaneously widening the lens and bringing awareness to our humanity. In class, after I have guided us through an active sequence, sometimes I ask everyone to be still and listen to their hearts beating within their body as well as recognize the possibility that everyone is paying attention to their own heart within their own body. We are unique and individual as well as united. We can be aware of the boundary of our skin, our placement in the room, as well as our collective presence. This individual inquiry becomes supportive and cohesive, the connective tissue of community.
Intimacy between two entities is incredibly powerful. On the most obvious level, we are separate and with that comes a sense of longing, perhaps even loss. When we are willing to get close, there is a synergy that is undeniable; ‘I’ feels inseparable from ‘you’. And it allows for some perspective. Just like understanding patience because we know impatience, losing ourselves in someone can open us up to investigating what it is to feel alone. What is this thing called the body? What is this thing doing? I am not only the body. What are these thoughts? What are they doing? I am not only my thoughts. I am not the mind. The mind is very untrustworthy deciding truths and then betraying them a moment later. Curiosity makes for an open mind. An open mind is peace. A fluctuating mind is drama. What am I? Who am I? And more importantly, what am I for?
There is so much intimacy in solitude, when we close our eyes and feel the breath, when we are so quiet and can feel the edge of the space we hold, and that entrance into the vast space within. The beating of our own heart, the blood pulsing in the veins, the fluttering peak of the inhale, the quiet valley of the exhale—all of this is available for us to touch with our attention.
And what always calls us home? That heartbeat. Not only do we have the magnetic attraction of the heart, there is also a radiant force to the heart and as the observer we have every opportunity to witness these qualities in everything from the way a jellyfish moves in water to the way the Sun feeds the earth and keeps her close. Sometimes we get a little caught up and we don’t take the invitations that are offered to us to learn and grow, but if we slow down, we can cultivate the ability to be present and direct our attention. What we see is who we are. What we see is not the fact. What we don’t give attention to withers and fades from our narrative. The cup is empty from its own side. That's why there can be a thousand people in a room and a thousand stories, too. What we perceive is what we allow ourselves to receive, and inevitably becomes what we can offer. We meet each moment with a sense of equanimity and then that moment dissolves and we begin again. This is intimacy. This is the story.