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Sacred Space: Opening

April 22, 2015

My yoga teacher had us fold ourselves into pigeon pose at the end of class.  While we were forehead-to-mat, she said something like this:

“Breathe into your hip and create space.  The space is an opening:  an opening to your most authentic self, and an opening to connect with the human experience.”


Meanwhile, I was thinking, “My hip is really s t r e t c h e d.  Yow.  How much longer with the yog-ese till I can get up?”

As usual, though, she’s right.

I experienced the opening in each hip as discomfort: tendons and muscles stretching beyond their normal range of motion.  I tried to breathe space into the tightness, and relax.  To stop fighting.

I tried the same thing last week.  It was a hard week.  Heartbreaking.  Exhausting.

And I was reminded of a prayer:  “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.”

Openness requires stretching beyond normal limits.  Maybe not so much breaking as softening.  Trusting.  Allowing the joy and the suffering and the light and the darkness together, as fully as possible.

This is also what it means to hold space, for ourselves and for others.  The sacred space, the space between.

In college, I took a class on chaos theory, which explores the realm between order and disorder.  The space between one equilibrium and a new equilibrium.

Where we want to be is on one side or another.  Where it’s comfortable and safe and known.

Where we live and grow is in between.  In the chaos.

So this is my prayer:  Open my heart.  Soften me so that I may connect more fully with others in our peace and in our pain.

Mary Oliver

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 23, 2015 3:54 pm

    My YouTube yoga instructor tells me all the time (as I’m sure all yoga instructors do) to breathe into it. Find your breath. Breathe into the pain. And that goes against everything we are as humans – breathe into the pain? No thanks I’ll just move so I’m not in pain anymore. But I like this – we live and grow in the chaos. We grow and change as we breathe through the pain. When I’m getting tattooed or stretching out my hip I focus on my breath and I remind myself that it’s okay to sit in pain. I am going to survive and be changed because of it. It’s a hard and valuable lesson to learn.

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