Heart and hearth

Some time ago my yoga teacher suggested I meditate on the difficulties I’m having physically: on why my physio has identified limited thoracic spine mobility along with grumbling shoulders and neck. What is this really? It’s been weeks since he dropped this idea on me and I have been avoiding it ever since! Bad yoga student! 😉 Sure I’ve thought about it a lot, I’ve speculated on what might be revealed if I did this work, I’ve sometimes been frustrated by the physical discomforts, and I’ve even felt irritated by my teacher’s suggestion. And all the while knowing that I’d come to this meditation one day. I’d stop wriggling out of it and come to face it. Being irritated is just a handy avoidance strategy.

And, of course, one doesn’t always get to choose the moment.

I’m sitting with a group of people for weekly meditation during this month. We gather around a fire from the darkness of an Autumn evening, sharing some gentle explorations, sharing silence too. Both profound experiences. And the group practice is turning into something like my long-avoided meditation: an exploration of the heart that is taking me way beyond my carefully constructed comfort zone, outside of my protective armour, my physical holding patterns and defensive posture. During these meditations I can feel the conflict within: heart yearning to be open to the world in giving and receiving freely while being currently caught tight in habitual fears and small concerns.

Around the times spent sitting, the group shares such beautiful vulnerabilities, personal elegies on what it is to be human with all the richness and painful suffering that entails. Their bravery is quite awesome, their enquiry for something different and their ability to turn into that journey — I feel quite shallow in comparison.

Last night I tried to articulate my experience, offering hesitant words to this group of intimate strangers: pauses as I looked into the firelight, lifted my eyes to the rough ceiling beams, or dropped my gaze to my hands resting in my lap. What is it that I feel? Sometimes meditation brings such a sense of homecoming, a welcome feeling of love and stability where nothing is missing and all is true. It’s a place of rest and deep contentment. Fulfilment that exists without acquisition, gain, or effort …But this feeling can often turn to nostalgia, a pain, an acute sense of having been away, wandered off, got lost… Sometimes this becomes hard recrimination, sometimes a more gentle regret. Tears of sadness or just a sigh. From my humble, stumbling words my teacher elevated me — as good teachers do — likening my confused sentiments to the sense of yearning in Rumi’s poetry. Perhaps he had in mind something like this:

There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.
Invite Him to fill you up,
embrace the fire.
Remind those who tell you otherwise that
comes to you of its own accord,
and the yearning for it
cannot be learned in any school.

In my yoga classes recently I’ve found myself slowing my students down, encouraging them to explore transitions and the experience of moving towards each asana. Why the hurry? What are you rushing towards? So it is for my meditation perhaps: to honour the discomforting beauty of yearning, without such impatience for release. It’s easier here on these evenings with the reassurance of my teacher, the company of kind strangers. But ultimately the journey is mine alone. babycrow, feeling the fledgling, always anticipating stronger wings, more confidence to step out.

One day I’ll realise I’m already flying.

Just not today.

Today is being where I am, full of glorious possibility. Yet already replete. Complete.


One thought on “Heart and hearth

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  1. Beauty. Here. Thank you for your grace-filled sharing of the journey.
    (And – I have also found myself slowing down in class, teaching, and in my practice. This is somewhat new for me, and it feels very right.)

    Liked by 1 person

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