Updated: Dec 9, 2020
If my heart and I had a status it would definitely be 'it's complicated' but in recent times I'm starting to feel that we're actually in a relationship. I'm still playing a bit hard to get but thankfully she's really fucking patient and a bit like a dog. It doesn't matter what I do whenever I come home to her she's all waggy tails and excited to see me.
But it's not always been this way...
I remember the first time I was guided through a metta meditation (loving kindness meditation from the Buddhist tradition). I was asked to bring to mind a person for whom I felt a simple kind of uncomplicated love. I couldn’t.
I was newly sober, highly protected and my body, mind and spirit were in tatters. The only way I could evoke feelings of an uncomplicated love was by thinking of my dogs. It left me feeling broken and for years and I told myself the story that I couldn't love fully so many times that I believed it. I even tried to get Josh to leave me because I thought he deserved to be loved more than I could possibly ever love him.
A little while later I was guided into a meditation to meet my inner wild woman and there she was with wide open arms and a huge heart ready to love me and everyone around me no matter what. Radical acceptance and unconditional love. For a while I remembered her and kept close to her though I wasn’t willing to accept her as my own.
I preferred to stay close to my cold heart story and protect myself from the vulnerability of opening up completely. I always kept a little piece of myself held back. But I enjoyed the experience of having her close by for that time. Living as love reminded me of how beautiful life could be and the world opened up. Meeting people with love allowed us both to drop our guards and what a bloody beautiful thing that is.
But it’s easier to be protected than it is to be rejected and so I soon slipped back into hiding from intimacy and running from challenging emotions. It’s so easy to slip into this way of being because it’s in line with the dominant way of our wider culture. It’s socially acceptable, perhaps even encouraged, to deny, push away, escape and distract from feeling but this way of being leaves me contracted and fearful, confused and disconnected.
The more barriers I create to protect myself, the more I cut myself off from the essence of what it is to be human and the longer I leave those barriers up the harder it is to remember what life was like without them. Behind those walls I lose touch with the permeability that allows life to live through me and start to feel as though life is happening somewhere else.
What began as a way to stay safe soon became my greatest barrier. Closing the door to feeling is a great protection from feeling hurt and pain but it also closes the door to joy, pleasure and the awe and wonder of being. It closes the door to living a life worth living.
I heard this beautiful quote a couple of years ago and sadly I can’t remember who said it but it totally sums up what I’m trying to express here:
'The solution to heartbrokenness in a culture that champions autonomy and competence is less heart and so less brokenness'.
In an effort to limit my emotional language so that my heart would speak only of safety, I had denied myself my emancipation, clipped the wings of my feeling nature so that I would never know the great soaring heights of bliss or joy, relegated to a flat and unchanging landscape of greyness and mist.
When I open my heart to let it all in, it’s painful, it’s hard and some days it feels as though I will never climb from the dark pit into which I have fallen but I always do and when I do, when I make my way up the mountainside to that peak and survey all I have overcome to reach that point, the tears always come. One part grief, one part relief, these tears remind me what it is to live, that to live is to love and to love is to live. There is no all encompassing joy without all encompassing pain.
The heart contains more than 40,000 neurons, a complex network found nowhere else but the brain and the spinal cord. This network is so sophisticated and complex that it has the capacity to process information independently of the brain; it even has the ability to learn, feel, perceive and remember of its own accord. The heart sends more signals to the brain than the brain does to the heart.
Our hearts are communicating with us all of the time through the language of emotion and sensation. Can you imagine what our lives might look and feel like if we harnessed the power of this heart mind to guide and inform us?
For me Yoga Nidra helps me to return home to my heart and helps me to rediscover my wholeness.
Yoga Nidra is an invitation to reverse the contracted states of protection, a reminder of our innate loving and heart centred natures. An invitation to perceive our contracted and limited states as emotional messengers that are here to remind us of their opposites.
We are able to feel spacious, limitless and permeable only because we know what it is to feel contracted, limited and protected. We can feel timeless because we know the stress of feeling time limited. We know courage, wholeness and faith because we have felt afraid, less than and distrustful. It becomes possible to reclaim feelings of connection, hope and unity only by journeying through disconnection, hopelessness and isolation.
It is not possible to experience any single state without the context of its opposite, each one allows the other to come into being. Our grief, our sadness and our pain are our greatest gifts, the pain of these emotions is carving out valleys into which joy, ease and peace might flow. The deeper the suffering the greater our capacity to contain joy.
Yoga Nidra is an invitation to journey into your wild heart and remember how to hear the language of your soul.
Yoga Nidra doesn’t invoke or cultivate experiences but rather strips away whatever is standing in the way of you and your natural state of profound relaxation, connection and effortlessness, it allows you to bathe in states that are your birthright, states that through living in a mind centred world become hard to find.
In the words of Rumi...
‘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.’
Oof... that one always gets me.
Soundtrack: Let it Breathe ~ Water Liars
Image credit: Jerry Zhang