Meditating In the Morning Sun
A woman is sitting in a comfortable chair, in a corner of her living room. Morning sun streams through the window. Her feet rest on the carpet. Her eyes are closed, a hint of a smile on her face. Her chest rises and falls gently, evenly. She is in her own personal meditation.
What is she thinking? What is she feeling? Let’s ask her, and listen to her response:
"I am meditating on my heart. My breath is flowing lightly, so subtle and delicious…caressing my throat, filling my chest. As the air flows out it washes away my tensions, releases me a little more with every breath. I feel as if I am bathing in the elixir of life.
I am so relaxed I can hardly move. My body almost melting into the chair. It is as if gravity is coming up from the ground, hugging me, attracting me in toward the Earth’s center. I feel grounded.
I think of my husband, the way he looked when I awoke and watched him sleep. I wonder if I am pregnant yet.
Oh, how I long for a vacation. It is cold outside; I would like to be someplace warm. Then I realize I am warm now, and my heart is warm, flooded with warmth for the people I love.
I start thinking about the office, frustrated with my boss. Maybe I’ll lose my job. I let my body shake with anxiety, breathing through it. After a few tough minutes that seem like days, I realize I can handle whatever comes.
Somehow underneath it all, I have a sense of peace and vastness, of life itself supporting me. I feel the Earth underneath me. My breath is encouraging me, infusing me with energy for the day, restoring me. I inhale the air and it nourishes me. Massages me. I exhale into spaciousness.
My body fills with light. A complex harmony vibrates in my heart. The moment is ... timeless.
The whirling movement of life swirls around me. Layers and layers of relatedness, yet I am poised at the center…
I am at home with myself, my world, and my challenges. With everything that is me."
The song in this woman’s heart is about falling in love with life. She is on a date with herself, spending time with the many tones of intimacy in her inner world. All the dynamics of relationship are present, all the challenges and joys. Yet she is resting in herself, held by the benevolent movement of life. As she meditates, this woman is connecting to the fullness of loving and living, surrendering more and more with every breath.
You see, we are always in relationship – with ourselves, with each other, and with the life-giving forces of nature. Aware of it or not, we are always immersed in a rich field of connectedness. Awakening to this universal reality is the practice of meditation – an endlessly engaging, utterly simple process, continually rending our hearts.
The Love That is Already There
This approach to meditation is about opening to the energies of love that are already at play inside of you, in every level of your being. It is about receiving the myriad gifts that life presents each of us, moment to moment, hidden in the simple details of everyday experience.
We want to tell you the biggest secret right out front: Meditation and love are made for each other. In fact, we might define meditation as a technique of resting in what you love and letting it transform you.
The wondrous, simple yet radical truth is that meditation and engagement with life serve one another, allowing you to go further in both inner and outer worlds. Meditation is intimacy with yourself, which in turn opens you up to greater honesty and intimacy with others. And the opposite is true as well: the more fully you engage with others, the more vital and meaningful your inner resources become.
Meditation is a love affair with life that prepares you for relationship in all its forms. It is about the courage to live with a wide-open heart, to love again despite your disappointments and loss, to expand your capacity to be intimate not only with others but with the world. It is about feeling the movement of Soul within all of your activities and embracing life with more passion and joy.
The twelve meditation secrets are doorways to experiencing deeper connectedness. The passageways are particular to each individual; there is no one pat way that works for everyone. Each of us has to discover his or her sensory clues along the trail, creating a meditation practice according to our needs, our loves, our longings and dreams. The explorations we offer here are designed to spark your own natural and pleasurable meditations on love, handing you back the keys to more intimacy with life. Consider meditation as both preparation and resource for love. If you are alone and longing for intimacy, let that longing take you right into the heart of creation. If you are in a relationship, kindle your inner fires and take your love to another level.
Each of the meditation secrets is a tool for remembering and expanding upon your capacity for love. All of us have ways that we are intimate with life, a native capacity to connect with the forces of love. We each know many forms of affection – for family, friends, pets, lovers, mates, nature, music, the Earth and cosmos. We are all both masters and students of love. These abilities are often kept secret, sometimes even from ourselves, somehow obscured, forgotten, or devalued.
Through each secret you will access a different resource for body and soul. The explorations in this book can be done alone, with your lover, or in a group. In addition, each secret guides you through the inevitable obstacles to intimacy you will likely encounter, with special attention to the dynamics between couples. You will learn the skill of transforming all of your emotions, those you deem good or problematic, into powerful energy and creativity. You will also discover how every vulnerable feeling, every imperfection, every seeming failure, can ultimately take you into an even closer connection with others and yourself.
Love beckons us into the adventure of living with a wild spirit and a tender heart. Any adventure involves a mix of thrill and trepidation, trial and fulfillment. Understanding yourself, knowing the lay of the land, and having a few options along the way can be a big help. We offer this book to you as sustenance for this courageous, challenging, and infinitely rewarding journey.
The Instinct to Love
“It is in love that we are born, and in love we disappear…” – Leonard Cohen
Everybody craves love. Love and intimacy are among the great things in life, and in order to be truly alive, we need to have an adequate supply. Why? Because it is the very nature of the universe. Like water or food, every aspect of your body and soul requires the substance of love, and without it you cannot thrive. Think of the longing for love as an instinct, a need that all human beings are inexorably drawn to fulfill.
Throughout history, throughout the world, tales of love and longing abound. Myths, legends, fairy tales, and anecdotes of every time and place demonstrate love’s pervasive power, teaching us of this force that drives creation. Shiva and Shakti in their eternal embrace, Krishna and the Gopis in secret rapture, Isis and Osiris, Adam and Eve, the many Greek gods and goddesses in all their amorous mischief ¬– these archetypes live on in the human heart.
Today, in any moment, love songs permeate our atmosphere, vibrating around the globe from heart to heart, from the slinky sorrow of the Blues to the red heat of torch songs, from operatic laments to the bumped-up beat of hip hop. Our bodies are continually penetrated by faint radio signals carrying the songs of love. There are hymns of adulation, songs to the Beloved, prayers to God, to the Earth, to the world, as people celebrate the mystery of life. Something within us yearns for the ecstasy of union, because human beings are designed for love.
The hunger for the substance of love is profound and evolutionary; it is the movement of the soul to meet itself in matter. When we feel love, we are related to something beyond ourselves, connected to a larger field of life. Whether we can define love or not, this instinct propels our every action, our every emotion and thought.
What we are calling love is:
• Connectedness between ourselves and the world
• Exchange – giving and receiving something essential
• Flow of life energy through the body
• Magnetism and electricity
• Pulsation, throbbing, vibration, gushing, quiet flow, rhythmic tide
• The ocean in which we are swimming
The experience of love is like a symphony of ever-changing tones. When people say they crave love, they mean some combination of touch, companionship, sex, excitement, communication, play, security, comfort, and belonging. They long for someone to create with, to be at home with, to share the joy and sorrow of living with. People want to give and receive, to be seen and appreciated, to have their inner music heard and understood. They desire to flow into the other, to be physically intimate. It’s a total, full-body, full-heart, full-soul energetic involvement that gives meaning and magic to life.
Where there is a craving, there is the possibility of fulfillment. The longing for love has within it the desire for intimacy with the self. The movement toward union is an impulse to merge with the Self as well as with the beloved. This impulse leads us inward on journeys to self-knowledge as well as outward into exploring and knowing the world.
Love is a force of nature. Like a river streaming toward the sea, love sweeps us up, inexorably carrying us home. Nature is not something outside of ourselves; we are nature, inextricably part of the magnificent movement of life. Deep within the body and psyche we know this, and crave to return to that awareness.
Messengers and teachers for thousands of years have said that human beings are like fish in water: We are already breathing the substance of love but are not aware of it. The purpose of meditation is to awaken us to what is already there. We are all always there at the meeting ground of body and soul, but are just not paying attention. Meditation is the practice of attention that takes us into direct perception of this reality.
INTIMACY CHALLENGES USLove both strengthens and dissolves us. It gives us the sensation of coming home but also feels like entering uncharted terrain, a challenging venture requiring much preparation. Although we never feel more at home in the world than when we are in loving relationship, the fullness of love available to us is so vast it can bring us to our knees.
To be intimate we must tolerate being revealed, honest with ourselves and others, seen completely. Sooner or later, the movement of love strips away our pretense and posturing and we become emotionally laid bare. So within love and intimacy is an essential nakedness. We offer ourselves to be seen, heard, felt, touched, smelled, tasted, understood. Intimacy is a place of closeness where we are safe to relax and be ourselves. We can relate to others with our full being, warts and all. We are able to “go for it,” to risk, to feel and express our desires. To the extent that we are hiding or rejecting parts of ourselves, we are not available for relationship.
Meditation is a way of giving in to the longing for love, and all the aches and joys that go with it. A classical meditation technique is to pay attention to an ache or longing in your heart and simply breathe with it. Think of someone or something you love: a friend, a spouse, a lover, an animal, a child. Corresponding to that thought is a feeling, an emotion, which when focused on will change and become a current pulling you into yourself. This is how native, and close-at-hand, meditation techniques are. You pay attention to the very stuff out of which life experience is made.
In this book you will learn to take the aspects of being in love with someone or something else, detail by detail, and in meditation, practice them with yourself. You will make love with your breath, cuddle with it. Cherish it as the most precious thing you have ever received, and then let go of it. Inhale again, and revere the scent in the air. Exhale and give yourself away into space the way you might in orgasm.
When you meditate, you enter a state of restfulness much deeper than the deepest sleep. When you relax this deeply into yourself, you sink into a level of being that is just like love – you feel cared for, supported, nurtured. Your heart opens and you feel connected to the generosity of life. Your senses dilate, and life energy gushes through you.
By meditating you can fill our own cup of love, so that when you go out into the world, you have more to give. That way you can meet others with less desperation, with more of a sense of abundance, because your body is already filled with love. This happens through contact with nature – and nature is always close at hand, because our bodies, our cells are part of nature. It also happens through recognizing your essential nature – the movement of love that is present in every act you make.
Love has a body. Love is in the body and your body is in love. This body of love infuses us with every breath we take. When you are in the presence of love, you can feel it, if you are willing and open. There is a suffusion, a flow of energy, a fullness of breath, sensations in the heart, belly, and everywhere. There is movement, electricity, a fragrance, a music, a softness and juiciness – something you instinctively recognize as love. This is a total bodily feeling, not just located in the heart chakra. All your senses lead you into this perception.
Think of one time that you’ve sensed the presence of love. Maybe it was welling up from inside you in response to someone you care about. Maybe it was in feeling someone else’s love radiating out and touching you in some way. What was your experience? What did you feel in your body? As you pay attention to these impressions, you realize how immediate and tangible love really is.
When you go in through the doorway of love in meditation, you are in a relationship of attention and your cells. When we enter the inner body, the world of subtle sensations and movement, there is no limitation. We become aware of boundless space, scintillating pulses of electricity, luscious sensuous rapture. When we meditate on gravity, gravity seems like an immense, warm, loving embrace. We feel love. We merge with something larger, the cosmic body that gives birth to all of creation. All dualism melts away. We realize that we are not separate from this universal substance, and we know that the nature of this substance is love.
You can develop this sensitivity, the subtle sensing. Moments of deep relaxation give us hints of this state – after the release of good sex, a cleansing cry, or soothing bath. Everyone has these experiences of peace and surrender; they are not weird, esoteric, or inaccessible. Letting go in such moments teaches us about our sensory pathways, the personal doorways that lead us into meditation, and into love. Through learning to follow these clues through meditation and other practices, we cultivate an ongoing awareness of this profound connection.
These sensations and feelings are doorways into your personal body of love. This body is comprised of everything you have experienced of love so far, everyone you have ever cared about and everyone who has ever cared about you – your family, friends, pets, ex-lovers, wives or husbands. Like an artist’s body of work, your body of love consists of all of your longings, dreams and inspirations, all your tenderness, fury, and pain. These secret movements of the soul pulse inside you, calling you into the substance of love that is your essence and your source.
Finding our way in to this larger body satisfies the primordial longing for love, and leads us into intimate relatedness with all of life. Sustaining such embodied awareness comes from developing an appreciation of the gifts that life is always presenting, in the simplest of experiences. When you consciously move and breathe in this loving atmosphere, you find that every aspect of daily life is enriched.
Learn to experience yourself as energy and all separation dissolves. This revelation is a spiritual awakening. Cultivate this awareness so that when you are in trying circumstances, you have a container, a sense of inner resources. You can trust yourself to come up with whatever is needed to engage creatively with the world.
TERROR AND ECSTASY
Being wide-open to life, in the flow of giving and receiving, is ecstatic and terrifying. Love is always a paradox, a coincidence of these opposites. Even the smallest love takes us into life’s terror and mystery. Anytime we love something, we are related to the cosmos in all its vastness and terror. Something flows between us and the universe.
Whenever we love someone or something, we are being called into an intimate relationship with the vast and mysterious forces of life. We find ourselves in a dance of interconnectedness, where our illusions of separateness and impermeability dissolve and melt away. We are being affected by the presence of another. And in turn, we want to give something of ourselves to them. This longing to be in the flow of love, to give and receive something essential is one of the basic movements of the human heart. To give over to this movement is both joyful and scary. We need to draw upon all the resources we can muster in order to be able to take it.
Intimacy changes us, in ways we welcome and in ways we cannot possibly know in advance. To fall in love, to get married, to give birth or become a father – these are all deaths as well as births into a new life. We die to our previous status. A woman who has given birth can never go back to never having been a mother. A man who has inseminated a woman can never go back to the status of never having been a father.
We can love animals, our work, nature, beauty, children, and mates. The instinct for love connects us; the longing leads us out into the larger world. Love involves us, all the while challenging us to let go of control. When our hearts are open we are vulnerable. This vulnerability can be hard to take, yet only in letting go can we experience the intimacy we crave.
To really open to love feels revolutionary, even though it is our nature, the underlying nature of the universe. When we let go into the flow of eros, we are permeable, penetrated by forces beyond ourselves, transformed by the creative energies of life. To be conscious of the primordial force of life moving through us is awesome and terrifying. Nature becomes naked to us. We realize that “Nature” is not something out there; we are nature, inseparable from the cosmos itself. Things are unconcealed and the inner radiance of all forms becomes apparent. This is a terrifying and ecstatic state.
So we are all in a predicament: We’re compelled to love, even engineered to love. But it’s a lot of trouble, a huge disturbance, making us reevaluate everything we think, who we are, and what we are doing. We are terrified of love because we know that surrendering requires nothing less than the total, radical, reorganization of our being.
That is why we need a practice, so that our bodies, hearts, and minds can get in shape for intimacy. Just letting love energy flow through our bodies can be intense. Getting used to the full range of emotion stretches every fiber of our being. We need to build up our energy bodies, get used to these powerful currents of life force and gradually open to accept the greater intensity. And then let our self-description be revamped as our hearts spread out toward infinity...well, that’s no small change.
Through meditation we practice giving in to the power of love, let it flow everywhere in our bodies and souls. The skills of meditation make our psychic and emotional muscles stronger and suppler, so we can dance with the mighty forces of life. Within the privacy of our being we can feel all of our energies and emotions, allow our hearts to expand as much as they want.
DYING INTO LOVE
Meditation and love are partners because meditating, in essence, is relaxing into terror. In the safety of meditation we can let go, die ahead of time and get that near-death and vast perspective in which everything is infinitely precious, so that we can tolerate how incredibly valuable each mundane moment is. When we learn to experience what breath is, exhaling feels like dying, and to breathe in again is to be reborn. Thus meditation is a situation in which we can get practice at dying into love, letting ourselves be slain and reborn, breath after breath. We practice melting in the fire of love and then being reincarnated, remolded into a shape that is closer to the heart’s desire.
There is so much heartache in the act of living. To love is to take an incredible risk. The more we love, the more vulnerable we are, because life isn’t secure. Everything changes. People might die or go away. We can be shattered; there is no doubt that our hearts will be broken. Inevitably, our hearts will ache with the intensity of giving, receiving, and losing. The ache itself is a doorway into meditation that sustains you within all the pain. This is a natural meditation that comes about as a form of self-preservation.
The sanctuary of meditation provides a space and time for repairing the broken places in us. Life wants us to heal so that we are ready to love again, able to love with our whole body and heart and soul.
Each time we open our heart we risk being devastated, but only in being broken open is the mystery of the heart revealed. We begin to suspect our utter interdependence with all of life. We take our place in the universe, in profound appreciation and gratitude.
Andy is a live wire, with half a dozen major people inside him. He’s a lover, a [former] martial artist, a photographer. He’s a rap poet in the ideal job; instead of being a professor he’s an advertising guy. He’s an Aussie, an immigrant adapting with that 150% immigrant energy. He tells us what he had to go through before he could say yes to marriage.
“Theresa very much wanted to marry me. She was pretty thrilled with what I brought to the table. I was the reluctant one. I just could not commit. We hit some major stumbling points, mainly involving:
(1) My inability to express what I wanted and needed from her and the relationship;
(2) My inability to give and accept criticism;
(3) My inability to relax and nourish myself;
(4) My reluctance to be a step-father;
(5) A sense that my life was unfulfilled and out of balance.
“Then I started meditating, and all of a sudden there were some major changes. There was an opening up, and at the same time a cutting-away. The overall result was a major enhancement in our level of intimacy.
“You don’t change your fundamental self. But you do change that which is inauthentic, unnecessary, outmoded, whatever is not working. Meditation is a movement to your core. Certain behaviors and attitudes have to be stripped away. Meditation is a place of safety and serenity where you can see where you have to go and what you have to do to get there. With me it was more a case of having the girl but not having the level of intimacy required to enjoy the girl and myself and deepen the relationship. Finally, the shell I no longer needed dropped away.”
The human instinct to love informs every aspect of our lives. The rub is, we can only take a small portion of love at a time. Intimacy is the most natural thing in the world, and we crave it. But in practice, it’s a lot of hard work. In order to have fulfillment we must stretch beyond our habits and fears. On the journey we inevitably encounter these defensive patterns, barriers to intimacy with ourselves and others. Many people turn back in disappointment and despair.
Within every human body and psyche are myriad gateways to the flow of life energy. Our nervous system, brain, muscles, and deep tissue are patterned by every experience we have ever had. Every fulfilled as well as every frustrated desire has its impact on body and soul. Our fears, hurts, and disappointments make us tighten inside, a kind of trauma or wound. Pain causes people to want to dissociate from their bodies and emotions, detach from life and relationship. We begin to wall ourselves off to prevent more hurt, cutting off some measure of circulation with the world. We all have these patterns, and it takes tremendous awareness to heal them. Only in so doing can we re-establish a clear connection to the stream of love that is our birthright and deepest desire.
Our entire being is configured to thrive in the movement of love; the body is built for it. When our energies are circulating smoothly, we call it health: the well being of body and heart. But in human beings, thriving requires conscious surrender to this flow. We can choose to let ourselves be shaped by love and by the soul. Or we can make decisions that inhibit our full circulation with life.
There are many forces acting on us at all times – natural forces, genetic, social, cultural and familial forces. Meditation is a situation in which we give in to the shaping of all these dynamics. Every moment that we face squarely is a fresh negotiation with the forces of life.
The fact of consciousness, the capacity for self-reflection, is a great and wondrous mystery. We can think about ourselves, form opinions and beliefs about our relationship to life. We can be aware of love at work within us, and this very capacity gives us choice. In this respect, consciousness is a mixed blessing; we can choose to love, or not to love. We can partake of the wonder, be ravished by the forces of life in gratitude and awe – the ecstasy of intimacy. Or we can hold back in pain and fear.
We all need support in facing our pain and moving through it. This book is a series of suggestions of how to open to more intimacy through meditation and life practices. But along with that, we present ways to tend the wounds so that they can be cleansed and begin to heal.
So the paradox is that in order to love freely, we must commit to love, consciously say yes. Opening to intimacy is saying, “Okay life, take me. Ravish me. Do with me what you will.” We are uniting with the Self, the Universe, God, the Tao. Meditation is the act of saying yes, of letting go into the flow of life energies. We release control and plunge into love with trust. We willingly cooperate with the benevolent forces of life, and allow them to make us whole. And when we say yes, providence provides.