Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Leading With The Heart
I had to make a rather big decision last week. It involved matters of the heart.
As a yoga instructor, the overriding emphasis in a practice is the opening of the heart. Yoga is a heart-centered practice. The symbolic nature of the heart is its generosity of spirit, it's aspect of forgiveness, its ability to understand and create compassion and empathy for the human spirit and its aspect of gratitude and universal love. That is not to say that our heart centered practice concerns romantic love, although one can't have romantic love without an open heart. An open heart implies a more spiritual aspect of love.
If my heart is open and I am conscious of leading my life with heart centered intention and I am mindful (present) about listening to my heart charka, (i.e., the energy in my heart), then I hope that all my decisions that involve the heart are truthful.
I think about the heart every day when I teach yoga. I think about it so much that when some experience in my life actually takes me to my heart, I am often so surprised that I am rendered unconscious.
I was going to visit a new friend, a tango friend, and over the last couple of months a man who has become someone I got to know in a more intimate sense through emails and phone conversations. I had met this man in Los Angeles several days before he was returning to his home city. In the course of our conversations, we both thought it would be fun to meet up in his city, dance tango and explore the beautiful city where he resides. He would be coming to Los Angeles to spend four months during the winter with his family as he does every year and so we would get a head start on knowing each other by spending time together on a couple of occasions before he arrives in southern California.
It all sounded perfectly logical until several weeks ago. I realized that email and phone conversations were the most imperfect way to understand and acknowledge another human being, especially someone of the opposite sex. It began to feel like an artificial situation whereby we both have to always be on our best behavior. I was so busy being accommodating that I was losing track of feelings and emotions. What exactly were my feelings and my emotions in regard to him? I didn't have time to breathe and reflect upon our male/female situation for any length of time. The emails kept coming; the information kept arriving; the time frames of voice conversation was shrinking. Mix messages multiplied. Confusions set in.
In the past, the younger Joan would have said, "screw it, " I'm going anyway. What the hell! It's only a week. But a week in my life at sixty-six is a precious week. Besides, walking into a "maybe" situation is fraught with the possibility of conflict and struggle. We didn't actually know each other for long enough to make a decision about spending a week with each other. But because we were excited about a new friendship, we wanted to spend more time exploring our relationship. So we jumped the gun and pulled the trigger and made reservations.
Were those decisions made from the heart or from the adrenalin of meeting someone new and with potential possibilities? Hormones make us do the darndest things. And most of the time the things we do when we are excited are manifestations of our unconscious nature. We are going into the lizard mind, the limbic system where pain and pleasure receptors reside. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! I want, I need, I desire.
I don't think my situation with the potential male partner was a conscious response to my open heart. But I think my canceling the trip to spend a week with him revealed a conscious intention of listening to my heart. My heart said stop, wait, patience, listen to your breath.
One of my yoga students asked me why I wasn't taking the week off as I had indicated I would to my students - preparing them for a substitute and letting them know I would be away as a point of courtesy. I told her that I was not sure it was the right thing to do because my heart didn't lead me to this man at this time. The yogini smiled at me as we both took in the silence.
"I want to be just like you when I get to your age," she said.
"Why?," I asked her.
"Because you are not afraid of life. You are not afraid to say it was a mistake. And you are now moving on from that decision."
I told her I was able to do that because my heart was open and clear and full of energy in this moment. It's all about taking my yoga practice off the mat and applying what I have learned from my practice to my life. I released the struggle; I released the negativity. And I brought myself back to balance.