I Love You, Still
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
"The highest form of Yoga is unconditional love." -Paramananda
Before I get into it, let me take this time to let you guys know, I am one rough around the edges yogini at times and I am not always proud of it. I swear constantly, I sometimes couldn't give less of a shit about anatomy, and I have actually said the exact sentence, "I'm not about the whole 'You're my everything, Kumbaya shit,'" when referring to the very loving yogic community. I know, I know, I sound terrible, but I'm getting better.
Chances are, if you are a part of the yoga world/community, have ever been near a therapist, or any new age person for that matter, you have probably heard the term "holding space."
Hearing people say they were "holding space" used to make me cringe; same thing with hearing people say they just "manifested" anything they desired. It all made me want to respond, "But what are you ACTUALLY doing?" Now, I get it a little bit more, which is why I'm writing this. For those who observe the actions and language of yoga people in real life and on social media platforms and want to ask (or scream) the same questions: this is for you (and me).
It starts with my dear friend Ashley. Ashley teaches and practices Kundalini Yoga, which is a little bit harder to find without driving to Austin, and is a very powerful practice that I deeply enjoy. Brief background info: at first glance, Kundalini looks insane, and once practicing it, you might feel insane - in the good way! What I'm saying is, for some it is easy to get hooked and I am definitely one of those. I will probably write another post about the practice itself and why I love it, but that's for another day. Anyway, my first real interaction with Ashley was after a Sadhana* in San Marcos and went a little bit like this:
Me: "Hey, you know the book Be Here Now? There's this one page in there where he says like, "Once you see, you'll want to run through the streets yelling, down the aisles of churches shouting the good news. "Listen to the words you're singing! They're real!" Don't act psychotic. Watch it. Watch it," and I'm wondering, how do you practice something like this and not act psychotic?"
Ashley: "Oh you don't hear the way I talk to people. I do. And any time you're trying to act a certain way or push something down to not "act psychotic" you're really doing a disservice to yourself and to the people around you by not letting yourself show. My teacher is a Sikh and he goes to HEB wearing all white and his turban and he told me he knows people look at him, but he can't be any other way because that's who he is and it's what he does. So yeah...let your freak flag fly!"
Since then, this has basically been the theme of our friendship. I've never felt scared to tell Ashley something, or embarrassed, and most of the time, anything I express or do as an action is met with understanding and neutrality - as if none of it is a shock, none of it is too big a deal, none of it is anything I shouldn't be doing or feeling.
After Ashley, came my boyfriend, Nick. It's funny how similar the two of them are. Since he's the person I most frequently talk to, at this point he's seen, if not all of it, most of it. Most of me, which is not always pretty. I distinctly remember a time when I was laying in bed, explaining how I felt so tired and terrible all the time and the first thing he responded was, "So what do you wanna do about it?" It wasn't the end of the world. There wasn't anything wrong with me, he talked as if there was gonna be a high point in the future, which I couldn't currently see. It's been that way for most things. Of course there were high points after that. I would be smiling and motivated and moving at light speed - same thing. Understanding, neutrality, support. Not that both of these people don't get excited for me when things are good, but they don't jump overboard to be in the waves with me. Instead, they throw me a life vest. They cheer me on from the boat. They're there if I'm drowning, but mostly their presence reminds me I'm not. It goes both ways, whether it's highs, lows, or middles.
So it hits me - this is it. THIS is my space I have to work with/in. I can be all of these things and still loved. I can be in hell or heaven or anywhere in between - and still loved. THIS is holding space. Giving someone the room to be every part of themselves with no reference to good, bad, beautiful, ugly. THIS is unconditional love.
It's funny, right after I realized all this, Ashley told me a story the same day about her sixth graders she teaches yoga to. She said that they try their hardest to get a rise out of her, whether that be good or bad. They do things they think will upset her, and she tells them she loves them. They do things that might seem "crazy" and she tells them she loves them. And all of the sudden they have all of this room to work with! Nothing they do makes them "good" or "bad" and I believe she refrains from telling them that. This isn't so that the kids take full advantage of her. This is because kids especially, but I strongly believe that all people, are so used to feeling like they're "good" or "bad" or "a success" or "a failure" or "boring," "sad," "happy," whatever it is - we all are hardly ever given the space to just be how we are! That alone ebbs and flows and when we can give this space to people we allow them to find out how that is, or how they want to be, and move into that with clarity because they've had a chance to try everything else.
So how do we do this? How can we hold space for others and ourselves?
I came up with a formula that can also be used as a meditation. We'll do it here, as if you're saying all of this to yourself, but it can easily be used with another person. Here it is:
"I love you, still."
Repeat as needed.
As a meditation:
Imagine yourself happy.
Respond to yourself: I love you, still.
Imagine yourself sad or crying.
I love you, still.
Imagine yourself doing the things you do every single day.
I love you, still.
Substitute whatever you're feeling in the moment. Substitute whatever you feel needs that response. Substitute whatever the person you're with is telling you as you practice this with another person. Say it until you mean it. Say it until it reaches every part of your body - or theirs. Say it like it's going to be gas on your fire - because it will be.
Wanting to change yourself for the better, or wanting the people in your life to better themselves is great, but showing up for yourself or for them with any other attitude than one of unconditional love, is counterproductive.
Always keeping in mind something one of my favorite teachers told me, "Sometimes we make a deposit, other times we make a withdrawal."
Peace out baby,
*Sadhana is Sanskrit meaning directly "a means of accomplishing something," usually used in reference to practice of spiritual exercises. In Kundalini Yoga this refers to a morning practice of about 2.5-3 hours before, during, and after sunrise time.