This week I am interested in connection: to self and to other.
First, I want to say that I have been so pleased to hear from many of you, through email or in person, about the way these practice emails have been helpful and inspiring. Thank you for letting me know! This feels so good, knowing that my words, my intentions are reaching you and making some small difference in your life.
There was a time when email felt impersonal, when voicemail felt impersonal, even phone calls were not quite the kind of connection I craved. Times have changed! Now I absolutely love getting a short, sweet text in the middle of my day. I feel the love, the intention behind the words I read online. I have come to appreciate the brevity of this kind of connection, in part, because it allows me to return to “my work” or “what’s important”. The quotation marks are meant to show confusion about what is really important to me. While I don’t have a full answer to that question, something I do know is that connection is important to me.
Through various yoga and meditation practices I often feel that I know myself better. My connection to self is essential to my sense of groundedness, or a feeling of clarity about who I believe I am. However, this getting to know myself practice is a moment-to-moment one, as this “self” keeps changing. Yogic teachings say that there is an essential self, an eternal self, maybe something called the soul, that is always present. There are many practices oriented to experiencing this essential self, beyond or underneath all of the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. This is the self we might seek through asana (postures), pranayama (breath-energy practice) or meditation.
Can we then share this essential self with others? Can we connect to that self in another person? I say yes, that when we feel safe and are able to let down the guards and the ego, we can learn to really show up and meet this subtle part in others.
Typically I facilitate this kind of connection every February in a partners yoga workshop. However, because I am co-facilitating a teacher training this year, I won’t have the time. The workshop starts with non-verbal connection, sitting back to back and feeling each other’s breath. Through various yoga postures and breathing practices, we learn to listen and feel, weaving attention between self and other. The practice includes other goodies as participants get more relaxed, like eye gazing and saying simple affirmations to each other. I absolutely love facilitating this work and each year I get to witness couples reconnect before my eyes.
Take some time today to reconnect with yourself. Sit quietly, with your eyes closed, and place one hand on your heart and one on your belly. Feel the way your breath is moving in your body. Follow the breath for 5-10 cycles. Then invite the inhalations to move more into your belly. Do this with curiosity and be gentle – don’t add any strain or stress. Keep your belly soft, imagining it like a balloon and that you’re allowing it to be filled with breath or prana. With the exhalations, let any part of your body relax that is ready to relax. This practice of diaphragmatic breathing can help you feel calmer, less guarded, more able to access subtle parts of yourself. Get curious – who is this self?
You might find someone who wants to do this practice with you. You could even sit back to back. First notice your own breath and then you could pay attention to the other’s breath. Maybe you become so sensitive that you can feel each other’s heart beats. Notice your sense of connection to self, other, and the greater world around you.