Hey yoga lovers, In light of the more ‘amorous’ month of February, (albeit somewhat of a modern commercialization of a much-muddled history), this month we’ll dive in and thoroughly explore the theme of relationship. We won’t just explore the ‘romantic’ side of interconnectedness and entanglements though, this will be a much bigger exploration – reaching far beyond the notion of Love. I’m going to get meta on this one, leaping into the macro and needling into the micro. The February blog post touches in on everything from racism to cosmic dust, binary code to our Earth. I hope to stretch your imagination and perception as we get curious about all things relationship.
Ponder with me, right at this moment you’re in relationship with a vast interconnected experience, and most likely you’re consciously aware of less than 2-3% of it. Whether you’re sitting in a chair, or standing, you’re in relationship to the ground below you, to Earth. This beautiful blue dot is hurtling through the cosmos at about 68,000 mph and YOU are in relationship to all of that. You’re in relationship to the stardust composing our atmosphere as you breathe in about sextillion particles of air with each and every single inhale. This is the same air our ancestors have breathed in, so you’re intimately in relationship to your history, to your lineage, and… to all of humanity through it.
And that, just barely scratches the surface...
As you read this, you and I are in relationship. We’re connected via the 0’s and 1’s that transferred the information and formed the words on the screen that came from synapses in my brain. Regardless of when I wrote this, you’re now experiencing my emotions and thoughts through this exchange that are conjuring up your own experience and conclusions. You’re connected to the books I’ve read, the teachers I’ve studied with and the journey I’ve taken. Time is elusive and non-existent.
You’re in relationship to EVERYTHING.
Are thoughts starting to percolate? Good. Now, consider this, you’re in relationship to each and every thought that arises. Yes, YOU get to decide how you relate to them. (Read a more in depth exploration of our thoughts as companions in another blog I posted here.) And, this body of yours is a finely tuned sensory processing computer, taking in such an incredible array and quantity of input from the external world that gets formed into the thoughts that you are in relationship with. So here you are, a nucleus of interconnection relating to everything around you – layered with your own preferences, emotions and ways of experiencing it.
Now, let’s take ‘you’ as the tapestry of your relationship with all of Life, and let’s collide that with another being’s same complex, collective experiential relationship. Now we have taken the idea of relationship to a whole new level! The magnificence of two beings relating is nothing short of a miracle. The fact that we can (attempt to) form our conceptual thought abstractions into words that can relate an idea for another to (maybe) understand is simply mind blowing. And that we relate far beyond words with gestures, touch, subtle energies, pheromones and other modes is fascinating.
While writing this, I start asking the question, “What ISN'T a relationship?”
Every bit of our life and experience, every single moment, is in relationship. How we are relating to ourselves and the world at large, how we relate to Truth, how we relate to suffering, how we relate to one another. Whether we love something, hate it or are ambivalent, we are in relationship to it all. Whether we want it or don’t, it is an undeniable fact that we are all interwoven. Some relations may be harmonious, and some disorderly or chaotic. But all of that is relationship. So, it makes sense to look at how we engage and navigate our relationships.
Perhaps starting with the most important one first: relating to Self.
My dear teacher, Rusty Wells, would always remind us (in his charismatic way) to walk by a mirror from time to time, take a look at ourselves and simply say, ‘Perfect.’ Can you imagine? So many of us constantly exist in a strained relationship with Self. Imagine the energy freed if we just let ourselves be adorably human. This doesn’t need to be narcissistic, and nor does it need to be feigned. We all come with our own journeys of evolving and transforming, but a life of constant self sabotage and berating is in service to no one. So we start the idea of relating here: Self love. Become your own best friend in this relationship and take Self care to the next level. It’s only from this place that we can show up as our most authentic selves in our external relationships. When we can truly orient from the place of Self love then we can stop looking for it elsewhere, entangling others on the way.
For those of us who haven’t gone to a cave yet to meditate our days away, we’ll have many external human relationships throughout our lives. Some for a moment, some for a month, others for a season and some for life. We’ll relate with strangers, family or chosen family, lovers, friends, teachers and more. Some will seem like friends and some like foes, some we’ll cling to and some we’ll repel. Some we’ll use, some we’ll serve. Some will simply be. Every one of these relationships will teach us something, or mirror back something we’ve forgotten – each one becomes an opportunity for awakening when we approach it with our beginner’s mind.
A beginner’s mind helps us see our connection to a deeper reality.
And let us keep our minds open, because right now in our nation we have a big reconciliation to face. As we move into Black History Month*, we are all asked to look at the relationship to our history – specifically our relation to racism and the systemic oppression of people. It is no longer ok to avert our eyes to injustice. What is your relationship to our collective history of racism? How do you see it now? And, what steps are you taking to mend it? If you’re feeling immune, numb or confused, then start right there. That is your current way of relating to it. But do know that we are all intertwined and the work at hand is to land us in a place of undeniable equality – to shift a relationship’s power dynamic towards a harmonious balance where all are equal.
*Related: While researching this I came across a listing of Black History Month themes since 1928. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History week in 1926 and realized the importance of providing a theme to focus the attention of the public.
On the human journey we’ll have relationships with authority, social structures, religion or non-religion, politics, God or not and finally – death. Yes, I said it. This is the big one. The ultimate truth that we all must face. Sorry. Some of us are ready to embrace that relationship and make peace with it. Some of us are not. This is one of my favorite discussions, how we cling on to life and approach the notion of death. If you’re in fear and denial, that’s ok. That is your relationship to it, and the beauty I’ve come to find is that relationships evolve, constantly. They are an ever flowing exchange between two or more people, concepts or objects that can shift at the drop of hat.
So, make it an inquiry: how do you relate with it all? This is seemingly our ultimate question as yogis, how we come to understand and engage with Life and Self. And how do we become more intimate with it all. I’m looking forward to exploring this more with you throughout the month; in classes, the Yoga of Relationship discussion series, posts and more.
As always, thank you for your curiosity and connection. May you all know peace.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
*If these blog posts inspire you, please share them in your networks!
Recommended read for February: "The Yoga of Spiritual Devotion: A modern translation of the Narada Bhakti Sutras" by Prem Prakash. Here is a link to purchase that directly supports the publisher. It was daunting to choose one book recommendation for this month because all yoga books ultimately point back to the fact that yoga IS relationship. However, I'm sharing this read that has touched my soul in profound ways and helped me explore my relationship to Self, others and ultimately the Divine. I hope you love it as much as I do.