Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Covered in colorful Mexican blankets I use in yoga classes, I keep an old couch in our dining room. When we moved into this house fifteen years ago, Don's friend and co-worker donated the couch to us. She'd had it for some years, and since then, we, our kids and the cats have sat on it regularly. One evening Don gave it a good once-over and suggested it was long past due a cleaning.
"We can't do that!" I exclaimed. "It's the dirt that's holding it together!"
Sometimes I feel that way about my life. It's the dirt and gunk of my tensions holding me together. If I were to let them go, I would disintegrate. Who and where would I be without my anxieties, opinions and controversies?
The yoga center where I learn yoga and how to teach it offers a technique called tension release Swami Rudrananda developed. It's very simple, like most of the teachings, and very effective when done regularly and sincerely. Sit down on a meditation cushion or a chair. Close your eyes and release your fingertips to or toward the floor. Inhale, drawing air in through the nose around your heart. As you exhale, release the breath through your nose and say to yourself, "I consciously wish to release all negative psychic tension." As you say this, you may feel your fingertips tingle. Imagine that you're draining away your accumulated tensions through your fingertips. For more on the subtleties of tension release practice, I recommend "Sacred Journey: A Guide to Meditation in the Shambhava School of Yoga," by Swami Kripananda.
I have been doing this exercise regularly for the past four years, and I'm happy to report that not only have I not disintegrated, I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. Many of the tensions I'd been carrying around are released or releasing. The anxiety that I'm not good enough. The resentment about sharing life and the world with a bunch of assholes. Vague and specific fear. I can simply sit down and let my breath and intention remove them through my fingers. Or if not remove them all at once, begin to move them.
Being freer from the inside has a positive effect on the externals of my life. Strangers smile at me. I don't waste energy I don't have chasing after those things I can't control. The people in my life are nearly always happy to see me, because they sense my happiness.
Jesus asked the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, "Do you want to be healed?" That's as pertinent a question as it was when he asked it 2,000 years ago. Making ourselves whole is within our power. Healing does not mean that all wounds are healed or all missing parts restored. One image of wholeness is the china plate that split into several pieces and is lovingly put back together. It may be missing a few slivers of porcelain, with clearly visible fracture lines. But it is whole enough to serve your dinner on it.