With Valentine’s Day coming up this month I’ve been reflecting on the topic of love and relationship. According to psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Sue Johnson, it’s not sex that drives our deepest urges and actions in life. It’s our need for emotional connection and attachment. Human beings are bonding mammals. We need connections with others, not only for our own survival and safety, but for emotional stability.
Then why is bonding, connection, and love so difficult? Among the many possible reasons, fear of pain is the main one.
We fear the very thing we long for – connection.
Falling in love or getting closer to another person brings the risk of rejection and hurt. We can’t live without it. Yet living with it can be challenging.
Pain seems to come with the territory. There’s pain either way. When you shut down, close your heart and isolate to protect yourself from pain, paradoxically there’s pain. Similarly, there’s pain in opening your heart and being vulnerable.
But the pain from closing down is the pain that deepens the pain, while the pain from opening your heart is the pain that heals the pain.
In yoga, we want to choose to open up and be vulnerable. This is the first essential of Ashaya Yoga, Open. Of course, there are times when we feel that we have to close down. There are appropriate times to put up a boundary. Sharing what’s really going on in your heart and being able to listen wholeheartedly with curiosity and interest to the other’s experience is what opens the relationship and creates the bond. When you feel safe to be in your most vulnerable self, healthy attachment forms.
The love attachment bond strengthens us. If the attachment is not made early in life between the child and the caregiver, all sorts of problematic behaviors arise later in relationships. We must strengthen our attachment bonds in order to feel safe enough to share our underlying experience, especially when that experience is about pain, trauma, rejection, or shame.
Remember Your Heart Is Resilient:
The saving grace here is that the human heart is resilient. What follows every contraction is an expansion. This is Spanda, the pulsation of life. The very nature of the heart is to contract and expand. If it only expanded, it would explode! If we never closed our heart and withdrew from love, we would never know the joy of expansion and connection. We need the opposite to know a thing. Without sadness, we can’t know happiness.
As important as it is to form the attachment bond with others, we also need to learn how to connect with ourselves. Yoga gives you permission to love yourself first. It’s not selfish. Then offer love to others from the overflow of self-nurturance. This type of self-connection gives way to self-knowledge which then informs how we respond to others in relationship. I can only love and accept others to the degree I’m able to love and accept myself. But so many people skip the “self” part and give away all of their energy. We give and give and give until we burn out or get sick. Then life forces you to stop, rest, and take care of yourself. Either way there’s learning.
It’s a fine balance for sure. But yoga emphasizes the power of turning within. Through deep yoga and meditation we learn how to steep in the place in the middle, also known as the Visharanti – repose of the heart – the place where we come to rest in the heart. Just dwelling there for a few minutes each day can be enough to replenish your connection with yourself.
Getting wound up in the speed of life today, it’s difficult to know what we’re feeling and it’s easy to skim over the body’s messages. It’s so interesting that the body is constantly communicating to us and sending us warning signals all of the time. But are we listening? We have the power to override these signals and ignore our body to fulfill an expectation or vision generated in the mind. Tantra is about listening to these signals and establishing a strong connection to the self.
Loving yourself is the first step to loving others.
Ashaya Yoga has opened my heart to be able to embrace the full spectrum of life – both pain and joy. Everything in life happens for my awakening. This knowledge makes me feel safe and willing to risk the possibility of rejection in favor of creating a healthy attachment bond. These feelings of confidence and security in an uncertain world are available to you, too.
To deepen your bond with yourself and gather together with other like-minded people, please join me for a weekend workshop in your area soon, or consider signing up for an Ashaya Yoga Deepening (36-Hour Intensive), Awakening (200-Hour Teacher Training) or Mastery (300-Hour teacher Training) course in the coming year.
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