We begin by Opening to Grace.
Allowing our hearts to be seen by others in a world where trust is often earned instead of the starting point of a relationship. This is what we are asked when we open ourselves completely to the flow of life and aim for a focus of joyful wonder.
My personal experience and what I have witnessed in others in this request to open one’s heart, metaphorically and somatically, can cause a feeling of deep vulnerability – the asking spurring a sensation of bearing of one’s soul to the world, even if it is a small group of others (known or unknown).
I planned my first yoga class completely inspired by Anusara principles of alignment this last week. As I thought about what I would request of the students, I remembered myself two weeks prior entering a new kula where I knew I would need to open myself to all possibilities once again with a whole new group of people. I traveled to Boulder to learn more about Anusara so I can use what I learn with my students and clients; but foremost I went to expand my understanding of this amazingly brilliant form of yoga as a vehicle for opening my own heart even more along with the muscles of my body.
During my week there I confronted several poses I have been working hard on in my personal practice – Urdhva Dhanurasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana, and Pincha Mayurasana. Honestly, I am often brought to tears with frustration when I can’t seem to make my body understand how to do these poses. Every time I become frustrated in making these poses a reality in my own body; I try to source the power I know I possess. Twenty-four years ago I first harnessed this ability as I dealt with the realities associated with chemotherapy and radiation to combat the tumor between my heart and lungs and the cancer spread through my upper body. When I feel as if I am falling short in manifesting a pose I pull from my internal resources and won’t let myself quit. I don’t want to give up, so I delve deeper.
Often I also draw inspiration from the young women I work with throughout the year in Los Angeles as part of my work as the Executive Director of Catalyst Youth Leadership Project. Any time I think I can’t open myself any more to what lies ahead of me to experience, no matter how tough…. I think of them. I think of their lives, some akin to that of the young woman in the movie Precious. I remember how they entrust me and my co-leaders to entice, challenge, and guide them in discovering what is possible for them. Life has taught most of them to not trust anyone. So when I witness them open up, struggle to understand, and try to truly trust… my own heart becomes a bursting fireball of love and there is where I draw even more power.
So when I spoke to the newly formed yoga class at 600 a.m. this last Thursday, I shared with the class participants a bit about these extraordinary young women. I asked those present in the morning darkness to set the intention of opening their hearts that morning so they could recognize their connection to the Divine within themselves. On their own mat they explored several asanas (postures) to warm up their bodies – cat to cow and Adho Mukha Savasana before exploring Anjaneyasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Ustrasana and others. At one point I requested they find a partner to create what I call the super heart melt. An assisted Bhujangasana is a partnering exercise giving everyone a taste of their capacity to trust another, relax into the hands of another so their heart can bear itself openly. There is always a really yummy feeling in the room after this exercise.
I ended the class with a reading I found in a Yoga Journal issue back in March of this year, entitled The Divine In You. It speaks to how the final word of each yoga session, Namaste, is about the ultimate heart melt: the one we create to honor ourselves, honor each other, and honor the connection to the universal source within us all.
Namaste means “the divinity within me salutes the divinity within you.” So says Pastor Eddie Smith Sr. of Macedonia Christian Church in Macon, Georgia, who asked his 700-member congregation to learn the Sanskrit term as a framework for respecting one another. Smith first introduced the term 10 years ago in a sermon titled, “Speaking to the Hearts of Black Males,” in the hope that if the young men in his congregation learned to respect themselves and each others as divine, they might treat each other like God, instead of like gangsters, and put an end to senseless violence.
“In every person there is what I call a God compartment, a place where God resides, whether that person believes in God or not,” says Smith.
It is from that place I asked the students to open themselves from as they continued on with their day.
It is from that place I pray each of the young women in Los Angeles I work with come to understand they can find the power to make it in this world.
And it is from that place I know for me I will always have a source of eternal power to make happen all that I set out to do with my life.