Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Intimacy yoga: the only way out is through...

In my experience, intimate relationship functions as a crucible where our past can become metabolized, where our core vulnerabilities will be sure to come on display in the most vibrant (and often excruciating) ways and, if it is what we really want, provides a vehicle for the most radical sort of transformation and healing. The reality, at least for me, is that the transformative process is not safe, waking up is not safe, and ultimately love itself is not safe; for it provides no solidity, no ground, and no support for egoic process. This is not to say that the experience of a safety is not part of what relationship offers; it often does. But if we choose intimacy as a path of awakening, then we must be willing to meet everything that is unresolved within us. 

It seems there is an idea in our culture that intimacy means the experience of a certain kind of closeness at all times, consistent feelings of flow and connection and harmony and comfort – a secure ground from which we can move about in life, a way to settle in and rest a bit, a respite from challenging life circumstances. Of course these qualities are all part of intimate relationship. But what happens when these things are not present? Where has the relationship gone? Is it still there? What should we do? What is “a relationship” anyway? Is there another one available nearby that we can try out? What about our feelings of dependency? Those aren’t very spiritual, are they? What about our needs? What about the waves of disturbance and irritation that so often surge in the field of lovers? 

We are sure to experience profoundly contradictory feelings in the context of intimate relationship; just one glance from the “other” can release an avalanche of feelings and emotions. Without saying or doing anything, really, just by being in our lives, our partners and other intimate friends will naturally push up against our vulnerabilities, our hopes, our fears, our dreams, and everything that to this point has been less than fully metabolized within. In relationship, everything comes roaring forward, seeking light, seeking awareness, seeking attention, showering us with invitations to come closer. In this way, intimacy has a way of catalyzing a certain kind of sacred claustrophobia, where we can no longer hide out, duck around the corner, or fantasize that we’ve somehow come to some fundamental resolution or resting place with life. We start to see that engaging in intimacy as a yoga will not in fact support our fantasies of a life of invulnerability.

Sure, when we’re alone, it’s not so difficult to set things up to simulate a certain type of control, over our external world and even over our inner world if we become adept at certain spiritual practices. If something disturbing arises, or something which does not confirm our personal sense of identity, when alone, we can dissolve it back into the Absolute, back into God, back into space, give it all to the guru. We’ve gotten pretty good at that. You can hear intimacy chuckling. We come to see that the intimate life is not one that is all that concerned with our strategies of insulating ourselves from life, with the frenetic drive to be in some constructed “high” state of consciousness over some other “lower” one, with our desire to transcend everything that arises that we deem unspiritual or “lower,” and with our habitual movement toward ground and surety. We see that we don’t really get a life without disturbance if we want to wake up, and there’s nothing like intimacy to bring this realization home. When we allow the “other” into our world, we will never be the same. 

In our contemporary culture, an intimate relationship is one of the most profound vehicles we have, in my opinion, for waking up, for growth, for healing – but should we choose to approach it in this way, we must allow ourselves to be re-wired in a certain way, to allow love to disassemble us and put us back together in a new way. We must be willing to get very tantric with it all, really naked; we must come to see neurosis and disturbance as path, and not as something which must be discarded or transcended or even transformed. We must see that intimacy is not designed to make us feel good, to feel better, to produce certain feelings, or to help us come to some fundamental resolution with life. Nor is it designed to provide us with some eternal resting place which is free from disturbance, conflict, the “self,” our core vulnerabilities, or the unyielding realities of the heart. Rather, it has come into our life to show us the creativity of the unknown, to introduce us to all that we are, and to invite us into the totality of being. In this totality, along with the sweetest fruits of the intimate life, we will be sure to also be met with raging disturbance, heart-wrenching vulnerability, and a seemingly unbearable nakedness and exposure. Nowhere to hide. The only way out is through.  

And we will come to see that even disturbance, uncertainty, vulnerability, discomfort, and the scariness that is intimacy and all that it requires (i.e. everything) – that these energies are the path itself, energies of grace, hurled into and through our lives as the movement of the beloved, here to take us home.