Almost a decade ago I found myself embroiled in a marriage breakup, and because there was a child involved the situation rolled into the realm of the New Zealand Family Court system. For me the events that led to this engendered much confusion in my mind, but not long afterwards I realised my transformation was just beginning.
The first meeting with the Court was what’s known as a Mediation Conference. There I was sitting in a court room setting in Alexandra. Lawyers were there, but not allowed to speak. It’s all about a Judge and the parents and any children.
The setting was mightily formal, but yet in these initial stages nothing is binding. It’s a great concept as the atmosphere encourages the idea that it might be a good idea to start thinking about why you’re there, and that if agreement is not reached on effective parenting, that parenting “control” may be lost!
When the elderly Judge walked in complete in his garb of a Court, a little voice in my brain said “Donald, this guy in grey has the look of a very wise and advanced human being – sit up and you may learn much of great value”. In response I uncrossed my legs, one calf having been resting on a shin, and I took my hands clasped resting on my lap, to my sides. The idea was to be “open”.
He immediately looked at my soon-to-be-ex, and said, “K…. I can see you’re very distraught”. His gaze then settled on myself and he said: “Donald I can’t read your demeanour at all”.
I was dumbstruck, and if my brain had been faster I might have replied: “your Honour it maybe because I just became a sponge when you walked in”.
However he quickly returned to K…. and ignored me for ages. I was fine with this as I was witnessing the unfolding of my first real lesson in life about compassion.
And yes I did learn something that changed my life. Being “open” in the mind had a lot to do with it. Interestingly too in this shady room with so many energies you’d not want to dwell on, that the only autumn light coming through a small skylight, beamed on me!
So now lets jump ahead a few years…
Something led me to trying yoga – on reflection I think it was my soul seeking it and what the work could potentially bring…
I justified the choice simply by saying I’m trying this for my body. And on that account I was to experience very early on a tightness in my throat and neck, and realising that this might have something to do, as to why I’d been challenged to speak my truth for lots of my life.
Yoga turned out to be very good for my body and was mostly fun, so I continued, but only to find almost to my consternation that it was a “mind” thing as well – I’d not wanted the incense and eastern music accompaniment, not that I got much of this. It’s just that I’d wanted “mainstream” exercise. Instead in practising it I took the first of many steps in learning to observe myself.
And it did effect changes in my mind! I even had to quit for awhile as somehow I knew I was going to be challenged emotionally, and I was not ready. I was to learn too that from an early age we store emotions we can’t process in our bodies. But yoga “opens” us, and one way or another they release – it makes us let them go. And “letting go” in this sense means letting go of control!
However topics such as control can be a subject of another post another time. I’m writing here about “being open”.
Up until about a year ago I mindlessly increased my going to yoga classes, and I was doing yoga “mindfully”, mostly disciplined 3 classes a week; pushing, pushing, with the mind!
This did get results: I eventually had an emotional release. Fortunately I knew these could happen, but was bereft of knowledge and mentors of how to handle same. Still I muddled through the equivalent of an earthquake that demolished my defences accompanied by many tears, and then aftershocks with amazing memory recall of childhood traumas. All-in-all a gift that took some unwrapping!
Some months afterwards I had the insight that if yoga makes me more open, that there maybe times of high risk of being open to more than may be healthy! For example it can pay to be around people emanating egoless love rather than negativity.
The Triangle pose opens us in many areas. I was taught to imagine I was between two sheets of glass, but although it looks simple there is more to it than that…
When things settled in a “no yoga for Donald” period of time, it seemed my soul went searching again. Nothing mindful for sure and I eventually gravitated to a new teacher Jen, and I did so with an unhurried mind. She knows all about emotional releases and meltdowns, and a lot more besides about how to open up the joints in other ways that take us further, and faster at that. I encountered how to make our hearts open and shine!
Breathing techniques have a lot to do with it [I posted an article here about how it relates to asthma], and I discovered how to open up my heart/chest area by the likes of raising the shoulder blades and dropping them back down my back, and puffing out my kidneys to engage my core in poses. And I touch on just a few of the necessaries here!
Recently in my yoga it all went “clunk” and I discovered a place of peace in poses – the most difficult became effortless, as strength and endurance took on new profound meanings. And what a beautiful feeling it is to let our hearts shine outwards, which it seems they have no trouble doing once they open! Being “open” took on a whole new meaning.
My first real feeling of my heart “shining came in this side plank pose – a quietness came over my mind a bit like the constant flow of thoughts that come unbidden stopped, and to my joy and amazement I realised that in this state I could hold this position for 5 mins. or more, and even totally enjoy it, and it seemed even that indefinitely would be possible…
Back tracking: post separation [a profound word this which I'll come back to below] and then divorce I found myself interested in how others handled it all. It became clear that many turn to religion for the “fix”. This really fascinated me, as my path took me inwards, where the challenge was to not only face the tigers, but to see them in the dark! It seemed a faster road.
The Family Court experience gifted me new friends one being my lovely lawyer, and I asked her one day if looking outwards to God in a wobbly marriage or divorce was as prevalent as I thought, and if so, did her office note at all if it worked. The answers were Yes to the prevalence, and No to it working.
Hmm… I thought: If God is everywhere and omnipresent, why do so many go outwards in their dialogue and vision, when it maybe better to go inwards where the dialogue can be more like “pillow talk” with one’s love?
This maybe one answer:
Much has been written on egos by the likes of Eckhart Tolle, and in his excellent and inspirational writings I’ve noticed he talks of a separateness that comes about from having a dominant ego, and in such cases how the real person is not only hidden from us, but from the host of the ego, which can even take on a karma he calls a pain body.
What spelt the lingering end of religions has been Darwin’s theory of evolution, but inversely it seems to be increasingly opening up the possibilities for redefining God and more embracing of that hard to define state called spirituality [a throughly abused word]. Trouble is, it seems to me, that we now have islands of religious beliefs. OK some are quite large, but as the numbers of believers dwindle it leaves a hard core who try to increasingly cling to beliefs that have become outdated [we are it's thought increasingly evolving faster than ever before], more extreme and less tolerant. In other words living in such insular ways provides fertile ground for more separateness from all of us flowers in the same garden [of humanity].
I think then that looking outwards to God seems to engender that separateness which becomes increasingly ingrained! It wrecks relationships, marriages, families and leads to abuses and wars. But, ahh.. go inwards to the soul and let it shine and it all comes out as compassion and love!
Yoga is after all an ancient system known to work [the word in sanskrit means yoke], of breathing practices, physical exercises and poses that encourage integration of the body, mind, and spirit. But there must be faster ways to get there?
It’s maybe a question of balance and how quickly we can not only realise this, but act it: if we have, as I’ve experienced, stored emotional hurt in our bodies, and then a minority of us learn of this and empty our buckets daily, then maybe in time we’ll have mostly empty buckets, but it’s more likely that some events some days will fill it up again. Actually right now a reason I’m writing this is to counteract my own one filling too much due to recent events unfolding the history of which I tend to dwell on too much!
This balance pose becomes much easier when we quieten the mind, and stability increases if we reach higher [to God or the heaven the sky symbolises?] from the hip bone to the arm pit. Also bringing the raised knee back opens the pelvis nicely, and raises awareness away from the groin area and upwards towards the heart…
Hence life is perceived as being incredibly dynamic, in contrast to those whose buckets overflow eventually leading to disease, depression and negativity. Eventually even to the point where they turn off to God never realising that he/she [being both inwards and outwards] has the answers, but we simply don’t know how to be “open” to them because we’ve been conditioned to look for the body with the mind, rather than opening our hearts to the possibilities of peace, strength and endurance, and/or to the universe that is God, [you may not want to use that word, but that's OK - it's all about gentleness and non violence to self and others].
There is in my mind an infinity that we cannot grasp that has an intent of consciousness.
We often do yoga [or it does us!] with eyes closed or open depending on a number of factors. In this pose near the end of a session, I’m about to open them [until I go to sleep], I’ve found it very insightful to bring what I see inwards, whereas my old tendency was to let them go outwards to gather information. It’s not lost on me that this sort of relates to going outwards to look for the God within…
On closing I have noticed that if we go into yoga poses from a basis of ego and separateness we will not only fail, but we’ll be damaged, literally. Whenever we try with our minds to go beyond “the edge” felt in yoga poses we risk self damage.
Yes, yoga has an ethos of non violence to self, but there is more to it than pulling a muscle, it’s more about “self talk” reinforcing low self esteem. The emotional damage we can do to ourselves can be a habit we don’t even know we have!
With the heart, which does not chatter about the talk of the mind, we can go much deeper to safe empowering places we cannot imagine!
Opening comes from surrender and it does not come from the mind…
We protect our hearts with rounded shoulders and pot tummies, and our throats, our most vulnerable areas, by jutting our heads forwards to the future [thus not being present].
In this pose which opens the pelvis I’ve forgotten to adjust my shoulders…
We become more open when we know death is near, but never forget that satanic forces look for this opportunity, but can gain no traction when “shining” prevails coupled with transparency, or do we call it light [of the soul]!
A great word we don’t hear often is “selflessness”.
My point being if you’re not getting replies form “upstairs” then change the channel! I’ve talked of my way, my journey – there are others.
On ending a yoga session we say Namaste. This is more than thank you – more like my soul honours yours and that they’re one and the same, or acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another.