Intimacy as the most vulnerable sort of yoga

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matt
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Intimacy as the most vulnerable sort of yoga

I was thinking about intimacy and intimate relationships and how and why it seems to be such a powerful vehicle for growth, healing, and transformation in our contemporary world. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts with you all about this; would love to hear your feelings about it all...

Can we allow another to deeply matter to us? Are we willing to take the risk to let them all the way inside – to really see, know, and touch our most core vulnerabilities; to open ourselves so profoundly that we’re left utterly naked and fully exposed, knowing that in any moment our hearts could shatter into millions of pieces? Many of our childhood biographies involved a very unstable environment, an uncertain reality where it was not safe to let another become too important, where we spent much of our time and energy learning exactly what we had to say and do in order to receive the love, care, affection, attention, and holding that we so sweetly needed. We can be quick to judge and admonish these early adaptive strategies, seeing them as “unspiritual” or neurotic or crazy, but perhaps they were in actuality the most luminous expressions of a certain kind of intelligence and creativity. Perhaps, upon deeper examination, they might come to be seen as special forms of grace, put in play by the great architect of love to ensure our own survival, as profound gifts sent to ensure the flowering of our precious hearts and nervous systems. As innocent little ones, we very naturally allow others to deeply matter; it is part of who we are. Over time, though, many of us have come to see that this sort of exposure is tremendously risky; it’s just too raw, too open, too scary. But as little ones we can’t really help it; we’re wired to connect.

Often in the challenges inherent in intimate relationship, we become convinced that it is our partner who is causing us to feel so bad. The evidence is so clear… isn’t it? They don’t respect us, they speak unkindly to us, they don’t understand us, they’re never there when we really need them, they just can’t quite connect with who we are at the deepest levels; and the big one – they just don’t meet our needs. We put a lot of pressure on our partners (and on ourselves, for that matter) to “meet our needs.” Before we know it, much of our lives become organized around getting our needs met; and there is something about this that can start to feel a bit off. It can be really helpful to take some time and look at this carefully. Of course there is likely some relative truth in these traits and behaviors in our partners, and they are worth exploring. This is not to say that the other person isn’t actually speaking and acting in unkind, overly defensive, or critical ways, and that this shouldn't be related with. But we might also come to see that just by being in relationship, we will be forced to feel feelings that we really don’t want to feel.

To allow in those intense and challenging emotions and sensations which have previously been lodged in the body can be terrifying. Do we really want to do this? Maybe tomorrow; for now, it’s best to go take a walk, listen to some music, write another rambling facebook post, contemplate how awakened we are, make another cup of tea, or do some meditation. It’s not so much that our partner is doing something *to* us, but rather when we open ourselves to love, there are previously unmet emotions and sensations there, lurking in the unconscious, seeking the light of day. For many, it is in the context of a vulnerable, naked, intimate relationship where that which is still unresolved will most powerfully present itself to be metabolized and healed. If we look closely, perhaps we can see how we organize our lives around not having to feel certain feelings. To see this can be quite illuminating – and often very disturbing. It is easy to then fall into our old habitual patterns of self-aggression or avoidance, to start to become unkind to ourselves, falling into spiritual superegoic judgment, self-hatred, and shame.

Another option is to make the radical commitment to practicing the yoga of love, of holding ourselves in an enormous environment of kindness. We stay unconditionally committed to the truth that whatever arises in our experience - no matter how disturbing, anxiety-provoking, "unspiritual," confusing, painful, or difficult - that it is ultimately workable, that it is a precious part of our own hearts that we wish to know deeper and to integrate into the entirety of what we are. We can be grateful for the gift of clear seeing, even if what we see is disturbing and anxiety provoking, for it is a certain kind of grace which allows us to finally see the ways we organize our experience, and how all of our neurosis and our strategies were our best efforts at the time to take care of ourselves. We are being given a gift, a fierce gift you could say, and an opportunity to let love dismantle those protective strategies that once served us, but no longer are.

Let us all hold those we’re in relationship with, including ourselves, by committing to taking love’s journey with them, knowing nothing about the route or the destination. Let us be kind to ourselves and our partners if we decide to truly take up the most vulnerable yoga of intimacy, knowing that it will take everything we have and are to navigate, as it offers fruits beyond this world.

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Working in with young adults

Working in with young adults in a residential program for teens with mental illness, I see a lot of adaptive behaviors.  At times, it can be very painful for me to realize that a resident I have come to care about is using that connection in a way that is manipulative. I realize though that these young people have needs for love and support that have not been met in their lives, whether due to the loss of a parent, a history of abuse, or by feeling that their family has “sent them away” or does not want them anymore.  When they resort to manipulation of staff, I know that my residents are just trying to fill a need for love, stability or material items that they have come to see as a replacement for those items.  I have to work hard not to take it personally when I realize that I have been played and to forgive them so that I can help them learn to build healthy relationships with the people around them

It’s a lot easier to talk about this behavior in my residents than in myself.  I have only just begun the work of looking at the trends and patterns of action I fall into that formed in my childhood.  Mostly I am dealing with my tendency to isolate myself from others as a response to social anxiety and my tendency to rely on escapism (books, video games, the internet, slipping into daydreams) when I am stressed.  This has at times caused me to neglect the people in my life, and at others times I have simply used it as an excuse to do so.  I’ve had to learn that the devices I use to distance myself from others can keep me from deepening my relationships and make the people I love feel neglected, ignored, and taken for granted.  I am working on becoming more comfortable being truly present with people, and for me it’s been a lot harder than it sounds.

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Healing ourselves and the Earth as One energy

I have believed for some time now that true intimacy with a partner, that of our vulnerability with another human being, is mostly shared around the kitchen table.  What transpires in the bedroom is something else.  I live in a poor province where stories have been legion about incest and sexual abuse is certain areas.  It was only a matter of time before a real example of this placed itself directly under my nose.  Being personally involved has brought a new level of pain to be experienced, adding to my own memories of that personal ‘hurt inner child’.  That’s baggage many carry for too long and refuse to get help for or lay down their suitcase.

Through a great deal of work in The Course in Miracles, which I studied while living on Vancouver Island, I have developed my own philosophy concerning our human condition.  True love comes from a place of loving all people and the environment around us, not just a “special person”, such as our spouse, partner or ‘our children’.  All beings are created by the One.  It was not always like this for me.  True love now is about complete acceptance and respect for the other’s journey into wholeness. Those of us who are aware, becoming actively enlightened, wish to share our experiences in this realm while we are still here. It has been stated by others that we cannot heal ourselves while ignoring the Earth and her present plight entirely caused by human ignorance. 

To live this wisdom requires a goodly amount of being present and not seeking anything for the self.  No easy way.  It will be a trick of alchemy and metaphor to connect all that is needed for as Father Thomas Berry has stated in The Great Work. “I am not myself without everything else.” For this writer, all things are connected.  

These age-old stories of abuse, neglect, reprisal or simple withdrawal, come from many traditions, but mostly from our common patriarchal societies both past and present.  A separation that we and all that surrounds us, is just stuff to be used and not communed with.  I have no ready answers but perhaps this new forum provided by Sounds True will begin a new chapter towards a discussion of genuine merit.  So far what I have read here is welcome.  

I am guided by the truism that no one is ever right or wrong.  We can only choose to agree or disagree.  I'd rather be happy than right!

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casper

It is true that intimacy and love for the fellow being can help us to come over any kind of mental and emotional tension. The article has really inspired me with its great depth of content shared. It can be of great help for all those who like to have a calm body and soul.

 

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