Sometimes I teach a class and sometimes that very class teaches me. Well, actually, that’s pretty much always how it rolls. And lately, with my colleagues out of town, I’ve been on a prolonged roll. Holding space over and over, learning so much along the way, cultivating a unifying thread…so satisfying. What began as investigation of deep center hara moving from inside out became an inquiry about connecting warm belly and tender heart. This organically led to how belly and heart inform and are affected by the head. This internal axis—belly, heart, head—became a focal beam last Sunday for generating prayer: for ourselves, for each other, for the world. I am so comfortable traversing this super-tangible inner highway.
So when it came time to guide again last night, I was curious about how to maintain that connected sense of interiority—breath, heartbeat, belly, feet—and simultaneously stay present with you and you and you. I’m wondering, do we fall into two distinct relational camps? Extroverts who can pretty much lose any sense of interior self as soon as they include another. Introverts who are challenged to meet another, their interior sensibility unshakeable. And does that same dynamic hold true in group settings or in how we meet any environment? Losing ourselves or keeping to ourselves as we make our way through life, completing all the mundane and glorious tasks any given day demands.
Teaching is such a perfect occupation to feel into this conundrum we all face. Because staying present with what is arising internally while speaking to a group, operating the computer, witnessing the posse dynamics, participating just enough to feel what’s needed next …well, I’m in that first camp. It’s easy for me to sacrifice the internal in service to the relational. For both camps the intriguing question is the same: how do we stay present with what is arising internally while simultaneously engaging with others and the environment? Can we practice being porous, permeable, available without being consumed?
Feel these good tidbits harvested from class last night right here at your screen, a screen that requires such incredibly strong visual focus. When eyes are screen-riveted we are, by necessity, up in our heads. Processing, thinking, judging, comparing, analyzing. All the incredible skills our minds possess. You may also feel a bit of tension around the eyes, the mouth, the neck. Necessary to maintain focus. Nothing wrong here.
That strong visual focus can become habitual though and is actually not needed for much of our day. Take a moment to soften your gaze by resting the eyeballs back in their sockets. Let your vision include the periphery, fan out your sensibility. With eyes in this subdued state, allow yourself to sense the beat of that tender heart, notice the warmth of your belly and feel the way feet caress the floor. Breathe. And then use that soft gaze to engage with your environment. Maybe rise and get a drink of water, all the while maintaining this soft gaze. Teacher Vinn Marti has shorthand for this state: one eye in, one eye out.
We can close both eyes, two eyes in, as a way to reconnect with feet, belly, heart, breath. Probably a good regular practice for the extroverts. With two eyes open we have a choice between strong focused gaze—two eyes out—and soft gaze—one eye in, one eye out. Soft gaze invites the possibility of maintaining the internal connection as we engage with others and our environment. Give it a look-see today and let me know about your experience.
From my warm belly and tender heart to yours…..bella