Once a great master was asked, “How long is the path of healing?” He replied, “About three and a half feet.” This is the distance between the root and the crown chakras.
This past week I had the great honor to teach with some of my personal heroes: Ram Dass, Krishna Das, Sharon Salzberg and Mirabai Bush, on the sacred mother island of Maui. I felt humbled and challenged to share a Hatha yoga offering that would hold the space to support and lift up the greater experience that these teachers were sharing, using a loving presence and awareness as an antidote to the stressful, fast-paced, and fragmented life that many of us lead.
Sharon taught Metta, one of the four Brahma Viharas (The Four Buddhist Virtues). In Metta, Loving Kindness is cultivated and shared through statements like, “May all beings be happy, healthy, safe, and live in peace.” This simple process cultivates feelings of the love, the natural spiritual-emotional state of the heart. For many years, Ram Dass has talked about Loving Awareness as the process of dropping away from the ego and mind, and down into the heart, the soul – to experience being rather than thinking or doing.
Last year, I was on a retreat with Krishna Das in Costa Rica Omega, and he said, “To let go we must first find our seat.” I’ve thought about that statement ever since. In the days leading up to the recent Maui retreat, Mirabai and I spoke about the power of feeling safe, and how safety is the gateway to loving more fully.
I chose to center my Hatha yoga sessions on these ideas – that healing, wholeness and wellness are an expression of taking deep rest into oneself, into loving awareness and presence. To engender the sacred circular energetic of being connected to earth and sky and to each other, of no longer feeling fragmented or separate, but holding it all. The heart has this capacity. The breath, the body, and the mind in the moment is yoga.
From the perspective of energetics, feeling safe (finding your seat) is a wholesome expression of root chakra. Hip opening poses and transformation of body density into spirit lightness helps you to feel grounded and connected into something you can rely on. “May you be safe.” And from safety, the nourishment flows upward through the chakras, and we stoke that fire with kapalabhati pranayam – turning fear into faith and trust. “May you be healthy.” And from this rooting powerful force, the lotus flower of the heart, that holds the shining self within is revealed, the petals flowering open one back bend at a time. “May you be happy.” Slowly but surely your life shifts from being based in the multi-tasking first chakra energy of primitive instincts to the spaciousness and skillful presence of living from the fourth chakra – and radiating feeling tones of generosity, benevolence, and kindness. “May you live in peace.”
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