Thursday, August 8, 2019

Entering the Heart Cave

And finally with much consideration and consultation from some of my most revered teachers and friends, I've decided to - at the very least - step away from my weekly public classes, for a sabbatical of sorts. My intention is to zoom out on my life to see the bigger picture; and to get into the heart cave. 

Maybe its a slow unraveling. Or a careful severing of an identity that I have over thirteen years shaped and molded into something I can lean into. (To be clear, the severing is the letting go of any attachment to the identity of me as "yoga teacher", and not a severing of my commitment to show up and teach yoga.)

My yoga life has everything to do with who I am today; and will likely have everything to do with who I am becoming. 

I''m also 42, considerably middle age. It comes as no surprise that I have arrived at crossroads. I feel as if I am at the end of a singular path, and now I'm standing at a juncture where I see a thousand paths to choose from. I've taken to Brene Brown's term a 'the midlife unraveling' over the more notorious phrase "midlife crisis".  A crisis would imply an emergency, instability and an urgency for a decision to be made. Sure, that may also be true for some. When mis-aligned, spirit will continue to speak until heard. It can feel like an emergency. But how I see it is this: it's the need to re-evaluate life. Rather then making hasty decisions that provide only temporary satisfaction and momentary feelings of youthfulness, it is a heart call to deem what is most valuable, most meaningful and to reflect those values upon every facet of life.  It requires serious carving of time and space.
Hence, the heart cave.

For me the "crisis" - if it is one - is coming up against the reality that time is not slowing down. In fact, it seems to be speeding up. It is realizing that there's no more time to waste on living in fear of being honest, of speaking truth (satya), of doing the things that live inside dreams, there is no time to waste on indecision, on confusion and on looking away from the all the disparities; because being disengaged, and numb only perpetuates the suffering.

Entering the heart cave.

Customarily, the cave is a place for solitary meditation and spiritual practices. Going "into the cave" signifies going inward into a place that is dark, damp and of the Earth; like a womb. Intentionally going in, asks that pockets be emptied at the entry, leaving all but the body - the vehicle of the heart and Self. Choosing to go in is equally choosing to let go of attachments that cause confusion of who we truly are. Attachment (aparigraha) is the ego clinging to something - whether it be a material object, a person, or job - that affirms and maintains a sense of identity in relationship to that thing. The thought of not having the thing, is death to the ego, which shows up as fear. Ultimately, rooted in universal fears of abandonment; fear of not belonging; fear of not enough; fear of death itself.

The dark, damp space is also a place where seeds are planted. It is an exceptionally creative space. Seeping with potential. The ego also fears this, because it is unknown territory. As a gardener, it's the dense compost rich with nutrients that is ready for seeds. When the seed is planted it does not question or fear the darkness. It actually needs the dark soil to sprout and the seed simply goes on to be what it is designed to be. This is dharma.

The heart cave is where dharma lives. The heart is where the seed of intention (sankalpa) is planted, and spreads its roots to every cell of the body. This seed is more than intention, it is an undying truth flushed with devotion and love, and is the blueprint of the soul in this life.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Summer Solstice and Ritual

I was reflecting on the rituals that I have practiced in the past on these sacred junctures of time and space; 108 sun salutations, Yoga Trance Dance, mandalas made of fruits and flowers, setting intentions and offering to the fire, meditation at sunrise. This solstice snuck up on me, the last spring equinox came fast and I fell behind, the winter solstice I was quiet and reserved. For the past year or more, these rituals have remained in my heart and my acknowledgment of these points in time are reflected in my day to day living and the energy that is prevalent.  On the solstice I found myself being pushed to the edge of what I can hold as a householder, mom, wife, teacher, friend and mystic. All so equally important to me. 

Summer solstice represents the fullest, the greatest, the peak of light, the most abundant amount of prana all around. Internally and externally. So it is no surprise that the schedule is packed, the weeds in the garden are taking over while most everything is in full bloom. 

The energy leading up to the solstice is very similar to a waxing moon (which was also happening simultaneously); it's like the womb leading up to menstruation; or pressure cooker building heat and pressure. This is prana building, increasing and expanding to its peak capacity. There is no stopping it or slowing it down. How we move and adapt to it is the question and the practice of living yoga. 

The solstice literally means "to stand still" in reference to the sun. But we all know the sun does not stand still, neither does the Earth. Its the point at which we can go no further. Directionally, there's a stopping point. From our perspective, the rising and setting of the sun begins its journey south once again. We change directions. We wane. 

My rituals are much more simple these days. There is beautiful stillness in the early morning hours that is so sweet. I have my coffee, with the back door wide open to cool morning air, I walk around the garden, I watch the bees zooming in and out of their hive, listen to the cooing of the morning doves. And if I see the ants get their wings and fly out from the cracks of the stone pathway, I know it is the solstice. 

What does the solstice mean to you? What rituals -intentional or unintentional- do you recognize?

I love the idea and the practice of sacred rituals not just for the solstice but for many of the junctures that represent a shift or change in direction personally and globally. 

The point of ritual is to provide meaning, from the heart, to something that is often mundane and universal. Perhaps, it is a way honor and recognize the mystery that is at play, to recognize the spiritual heart that each one of our hearts is a part of.