Tag Archives: Community

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Today is my birthday. And so far my best present was an insight.  It felt like when the clouds part on a grey day and you can see that the sun had been shining the whole time.

The backstory:  I fell in love with someone in the last few months.  Falling in love is funny.  One minute you like them, they’re great.  The next minute they are in your heart.  And it’s like: wait I don’t remember opening that door.  How did you get inside?  But there they are.  And suddenly you are vulnerable in a way you never agreed to be.

The second backstory: I ended it.  We were dating and he was travelling and I wanted more contact than he did.  Which was the right move for both of us.  It felt good that we could both own what we wanted and respect the other person.  I felt solid.

The current story:  We still see each other on a regular basis as we are in the same group of friends.  And the thing is: he’s still in here.  WTF.  I thought I asked him to leave.  Apparently, my heart did not get the message from my brain.  Most of the time it is fine, and the love feels like warm friendly tenderness and laughter.  Other times, it feels like sad isolation, a tightness and mopiness for his inability to give me what I want.   Or an anger at myself and my stupid heart for not being able to “let go.”

The insight:  This morning we were at breakfast together with a group of friends, joking about Will Ferrell movies and the paleo diet.  After I blew out the candle on my birthday cupcake, everyone at the table told me an intimate reflection/communication as a way to celebrate me.  And his to me was: “You have this ability to go into these high places, and that’s where I get knocked out.”  And with that short sentence, he let me know that he still feels me, even when he can’t always follow me where I want to go.

And then I saw it.  How we are like two circles in a Venn diagram, overlapping, yet pulling at the edge’s of each other’s comfort zones.

For me, he represents the ability to keep loving even when that love cannot be returned the way I want.  I am exercising my heart to be strong and robust.  One that gives without getting stuck like a sad kitten at his emotional front door, scratching to be let in.  One that stays open even when every bone in my body wants to deny that I feel anything, or make him responsible for “making” me feel this way.  And yes, this means that my tender heart gets to be cracked open in ways that don’t always feel pleasurable.  If you ask me on a bad day, I will most likely chalk this post up to a birthday sugar-overload, and play the role of a sad victim of unavailable men.

And for him, I represent being able to receive a full, open love.  He wants to shut down and close it off and kick me out of his heart.  But I know that I am still in there too.  And little by little, I can feel that he is relaxing into it, letting me love him.  And maybe he’ll never return it in the way I want.  Most likely, I won’t be the one that he throws open the doors for.  But I have my own special place inside that is still growing, and breaking up walls like shoots of grass rising through pavement.  There is a deepening.

Seeing this, I stopped seeing our current situation as a “problem.” Sure, there’s a comfort and energy that happens when two people’s circles overlap more completely.  You can draw a tight circle around yourselves and call it a relationship.  Within that space, you can create things together and maybe even plan for the future.  But there’s also a magic that happens when the circles don’t entirely overlap.  To stay connected while respecting the distance that exists between you challenges you to grow and expand. You get to experience bigger and bigger versions of love.

A Lesson in Unconditional Love

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Transformational Breathwork Workshop

I wrote this post right after the breath work workshop ended last Friday, but I have not had a chance to finish and post until now. Time moves fast on my travels! I am excited to share about the week because I think a lot of people have no idea what happens during a breath work retreat!

The type of breath work we did is called Transformational Breath, developed by Judith Kravitz. Judith is a really sensitive bodyworker, and one of the most eye-opening things about the week was how incredible our bodies are. In one demonstration, she pressed into different points of a woman’s body to determine how she was holding her breath back, and what that resistance meant. As she pressed into the woman’s body, while the woman engaged in deep circular breathing, Judith could feel the energy moving and shifting and releasing. The woman started sobbing during the work, and emerged famished and feeling very light. It is fascinating to see how we can work with our bodies to aid emotional and spiritual growth.

During the week, we experimented with different forms of breath work: gentle sessions, intense ones, sessions focused on specific blocks/obstacles in our lives, sessions outside breathing in nature. Rather than try and recap each session, I’ll review one of my more powerful experiences. This session was the one dedicated to working with a specific block/obstacle. My intention was to let go of control over a situation involving another person, to find freedom and peace with the way things are. My breath starts out as a forced mechanical exercise. Deep breath in, release, over and over. As time passes, my conscious mind settles down and I am fully immersed in the experience. Deep automatic breathing kicks in. I am no longer directing the breath. Instead, it is taking me for a ride. I am both curious and slightly afraid of where it will go. I feel lots of energy that erupts into anger. I let the anger express itself in toned vocalizations (sound is a key way to release energy. Tones are better than yells because they integrate and raise the energy, rather than having it remain a chaotic yell). Behind the anger I find deep sorrow and sadness. This feels new and big. I realize I have been trying to avoid feeling this sadness. The more I relax into it the more vulnerable I feel. I keep on breathing deep, circular breaths, letting these waves of sadness wash over me without tensing against them. Another realization: I am strong enough to feel this sadness. I feel an incredible sense of peace and lightness, truly protected and cared for. When the session ends, and I open my eyes, I can barely talk. I giggle and smile instead, amazed by my sense of well-being. The world feels new. I am overcome with gratitude, and a sense of surrender to the situation with the other person that is deeply physical and rooted—not just a mental concept. If you have ever had insights while in an altered mental state….and catch a glimpse of how beautiful and simple and tender the world is if you just relax into it… it was like that. Over a week later, and I still carry this insight within me, in my body’s code.

Even though breath work is intensely personal, it occurs in the context of a community that is hugely important. For me actually, the community is just as important as the personal work. At the beginning of the week we were 20 strangers, of different ages, races, geographic locations, and genders. At the end of the week, we were joined by the journey we had just taken together. It is such a blessing to be part of the group experience! So many people go through life pretending that they don’t have emotions or numbing them, because there is no space in modern society to dig deep. Sure, you can have conversations with your best friend or partner. But those private conversations can feel like you are sharing a secret, a confidence just between the two of you. When you get together with a group of people and openly bare your joy and pain and love and fears, you that discover that everyone has similar struggles. The love and support you receive melts parts of yourself you did not even realize had been frozen. And you get to give others the same love in return. After having had intense experiences of community like this over the past year, I find myself wanting to carry this love out of these safe spaces and share them with others in my daily life. In other words, I find myself being stronger, more authentic, and more compassionate with others because I see what is possible. Screw it if people think I am sappy. 🙂

One final thing. What I didn’t realize until the end of the week was that Judith’s son, who had suffered a brain injury years before, had passed about ten days before our workshop. At the end, she dedicated the workshop to him and told us how much it meant to her to be doing this work and helping people heal. For me, it brought home how precious it was to be able to spend the week together with everyone, laughing, crying, dancing, playing, and loving. Grateful to be alive.

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A Beautiful Experience of Community

Phew.  A lot has happened since the last time I posted.  Two weekends ago, I went to a Tantra retreat.   When I say Tantra to people, a lot of times I can feel them get weird, like they assume that there is some sort of crazy, wild orgy thing going on.  Tantra is not about sex, although it does not exclude sex.  It is not focused on it, and does not treat it lightly.  If anything, my experience with Tantra is teaching me to have much more respect and awe for sexual energy, and to honor its power.

But really, Tantra is about opening to life.  It is about fully embracing this human experience as a spiritual path.

This weekend, there were about 20 people in a house in Malibu on retreat.  What happens on a Tantra retreat?  There were many levels to the practice.  There was energy work–chakra breathing, chanting, both alone and with a partner.  There were fun, playful, simple practices like: do something nourishing with your partner.  What seems simple can turn into something deeply meaningful, food for the soul.  There  were group practices with the women and men apart.  There was dancing  And, very importantly, there was the circling practice, where we all sit around and talk about whatever–big, small, mundane, profound–we are going through in a safe space.  You can say anything and it is okay.

All of this work happens in an energetic and physical container–a place outside of our normal patterns, with the strength and safety to allow us to explore and grow.  As we did all this work inside this container,  slowly but surely, we all came out of our shells.   We left behind that thick cocoon of ego/fear/habit/striving/craving/posturing/politeness that normally hides us from each other and from life, and stepped naked and vulnerable out into the space of the group.

And in that naked vulnerable space, we were more available to give and receive love than I have. ever. felt.  We cheered for each other.  We cried for each other.  We told each other when we scared each other, or when we made each other mad.  We listened to whatever the other had to say.  We were silly and playful with each other.  And finally, we celebrated each other.

There was so much energy and love going around that I just yelled at the sky, skipped down the road, cried and laughed at the same time.  I feel a very soft and vulnerable side of myself emerge.  It felt safe to be beautiful, and tender, and sweet.  It felt safe, and right, to tell people I loved them.  It felt safe, and right, to be loved.  Everyone just seemed to fragile and sweet, and strong at the same time.  Myself included.

I wish I could pull every person in my life that I care about into that space, so I could directly interact with their heart free of all of the crap that usually keeps us apart.  I feel a deep longing for that sort of deep and authentic connection on a regular basis.  I want to touch the sweet part of everyone that longs for the same thing.  Not to solve or fix anything, but just to see each other as we really are.

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