The Yoga of Relationship

Yesterday, my son made a joke that deeply hurt me.

I was offended.

I felt unappreciated, unloved, and unsupported.

I understood that from his perspective, it was harmless ; a humorous mocking of a current truth, and something I shouldn’t get so upset over.

Yet here, my friends, is our fire. This is the place where we can crumble or we can rumble. (Thank you Brené Brown for defining a Rumble! Please see her definition at the end.)

This is a place that every relationship experiences at some point. This is when differing points of view and expressions rub our raw edges, exposing the places within us that are hurt, perhaps making vulnerable the flesh of our usually armored bodies. Yes, my son’s joke exposed a truth – and I didn’t like it.

How we navigate these moments is where relationships grow closer or dissolve.

Over the years, I’ve certainly had my moments of throwing my hands up in the air, walking away from the flames of conflict and disengaging from communication altogether in frustration and /or exhaustion. I’ve not listened with empathy as others have expressed their truth and have only wanted to be right. I’ve interrupted, spoken rudely, and said mean things that I later regretted.

As a Mother, my relationships with my children are THE most important thing in my Life. I also know that the communication and behavior patterns I model are what my children absorb more than anything I say.

Even so, I don’t always lead by calm, loving example. I lose my temper, I speak sharply and I act out of anger (which I have come to realize is only masking a deeper grief). When this happens, though, I do my best to take a moment (or a few) and consider my personal responsibility, acknowledge my errors, take swift action to say I’m sorry (and mean it), make amends, repair the rifts, and ensure that our relationship is truly loving again.

Learning to not react in this knee-jerk manner when I feel hurt or offended has been the most difficult and significant process in forming good relationships that I’ve ever known. The internal process of choosing not to become defensive and shut down can feel like a major effort, especially at first. Yet this is the yoga of relationship.

This is the practice of becoming sensitive to the full range of our emotional, mental and physical edges. These are the delicate, always moving boundaries of what we are capable of at any given moment. They demand our attention and appreciate our respect. Simultaneously fragile and fearless, these edges expose our truth.

This is why I get on my mat – every, single day – to feel my body, listen to my breath (because it never lies) and participate in the miracle of Life that IS undeniable strength that is also utterly receptive.

My practice is firstly to focus on my experience of body, breath and relationship with everything. The natural result of this is acceptance and surrender to whatever my truth is at that time. Then, unabiding peace flows to and from my heart without the need to change, qualify or mitigate the intensity of feelings I may have. It simply creates space for everything to be felt and loved exactly as it is.

Because of this, I leave my mat more capable of engaging in the activities of my daily life and relationships with empathy and compassion towards myself and others. I’m more grounded with inner stability and more capable of receiving whatever Life presents. These are the energies of yoga in action as Active Listening and Rumbling; where the courage to stand tall in my own experience AND also receive others in all their truth is possible – even if I feel offended by it.

Because when the fire of Life is hot, and I am tempted to run away for fear of being burned, I remember… that is not what I really want. I want to be warmed in relationship; tended, stoked, seen in all my dirty ashes and glowing embers; and I know this is what others desire, too.

When the heat seems unbearable, these are the moments I must make the choice to stay committed to the rumble and not shrink away from all of the feelings that arise. I must choose to stay in the fire’s glow, and allow my full-body experience to be seen AND actively listen to others. I believe this is the greatest gift I can teach my children – autonomy and harmony, dancing in the flames.

In the heat of these moments, when conflict and dis-ease are simmering, we must allow the pain we feel to have its place and not shy away from or suppress it. This is the practice of the yoga of relationship.

As I circle the fire with my teenage children, both sides can feel the desire to dampen the heat. My intention is to practice the lessons from my mat, and communicate authentically, empathetically and with yoga’s wisdom to cultivate deeper, more intimate, loving connection.

Here’s what I ‘m saying:

Yoga IS Relationship.

~ I am strong in my own skin, AND receptive to others. So are you.

~ I am grounded in the truth of my experience, AND know everyone’s experience is also true for them. So are you.

~ I am capable of communicating my heart’s most vulnerable aspects, AND I am safely and lovingly accepted just as I am. So are you.

Yoga is your participation in The Given Reality.

“Given” means “just as you are.”

All of you is perfect. All of your emotions. All of your perceptions. All of your desires. All of your confusion. All of your beliefs. ALL of you is true and perfect just as you are, and you have every right to be here in all of your glorious existence.

Participating in all that we are allows us to feel the fullness of our experience, where nothing is denied or shamed, and the healing function of pain simply serves to identify a desired change.

Pain IS the healing.

Yoga is feeling good , and feeling good.

Feeling good can be defined as becoming sensitive to your body, mind and emotions. It does not imply just feeling the “positive” side of Life; it means sensitizing ourselves to all of what our Life experiences offer us.

The result of yoga is feeling good because we tangibly experience our life as literal strength and release with each exhalation, and soft openness with each inhalation. When these two seemingly opposing forces come together, we feel better because we accept ourselves just as we are, surrender into that which we cannot control, and as a result feel more confident and supported in the Given Reality. True empowerment is the collaboration of these two energies.

Yoga reveals the Hrid.

The Hrid is the Source Heart.

It is the space where Life’s opposites merge / yoke / unify, and each opposite empowers the other. (Read more about the Hrid in Mark Whitwell’s Hridaya Sutra.)

Giving and Receiving. Strength and Softness. Expansion and Contraction. Above and Below. Left and Right. Sun and Moon. Male and Female. Each of these exists BECAUSE of the other. We CANNOT have one without the other. It is an impossibility.

Where the exhale releases, detoxifies and strengthens from the base of the body to the crown, the inhale brings new energy, expansion, and softness from above to below. The Hrid is where these energies merge and reveals the miracle of Life – a miracle that is a greater power than either one can create on their own.

This is the “strong back, soft front, and wild heart” of which Brené Brown speaks. The practice of Yoga give us this experience in our spine and skin.

When we relax into the fire, feel our truth and vulnerably share it, we realize our connectedness – within, with each other, and with everything. Despite any conflicts, we all share the miracle of Life, and in the end, we all want the same things – to feel loved and supported.

I encourage us all to know the Yoga of Relationship not as a forceful attempt to achieve a lofty goal, but as a practice of relaxing into things just as they are. The daily practice of attending to your inhale and exhale as it moves your body is what allows us to develop the courage to rumble when the fire of Life is raging out of control.

From “Dare to Lead” By Brené Brown.

• A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a
commitment to:
◦ lean into vulnerability,
◦ to stay curious and generous,
◦ to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving,
◦ to take a break and circle back when necessary,
◦ to be fearless in owning our parts,
◦ as Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with
which we want to be heard.
• We use the word rumble to say, “Let’s have a real conversation, even if it’s tough.”

  • Photo of Reggie and Sarah Townley – Yogi and Yogini whose relationship is a beautiful example of this power in action!

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