Lately, I’m really into joy.
That probably makes me sound like a jerk. I don’t mean the kind of joy that comes with huge life-changing events like winning the lottery or making a baby, or insisting on smiling through everything until my teeth start to chip. Life is hard, we all know that story, but when we can find little tiny joys in the midst of everything, life becomes fun again for these little tiny reasons.
Because the other day, I was bopping down the street, and I couldn’t help smilling for two reasons: 1. I was listening to some really awesome music on my iPod and 2: I was full of high-quality coffee.
And this just got me on this sweet track, swaying my hips a little, noticing pretty things in the windows, and eventually buying a really sexy painting for my some-day house that I don’t have yet. And in the process of buying this painting, I learned that it came from a school in Ecuador based on the work of an artist who worked with the poet Pablo Neruda and tried to create in images what Neruda was trying to create in art. And that’s awesome.
Here’s a poem I think it could be painted with:
by Pablo Neruda
Your whole body is
A glass of wine
Or sweetness destined for me.
When I raise my hand,
I find in every place a dove
Seeking for me,
As if, my love,
You were made of clay
For my very hands of a potter.
Your knees, your breasts,
Disappear in me like in a hollow
Of a thirsting earth
Where they lose
We become like a single river,
Like a single grain of sand.
We have this oft-maligned area in our bodies which is called, according to yoga philosophy, Svadisthana Chakra. It’s our center of desire, pleasure, sensuality, taste, touch, and yes, makin’ babies. It may not be as lofty or morally upright as your center of connection with God or anything (sahasrara) but there it is, one of the seven, just as important as every other.
And if we don’t feed this little spot, located just below the belly button around the level of the sacrum, if we don’t give it food and juice and wine and cuddles and love-making, we get blocked up and sick and unhappy just the same as if we do that in any other area of our lives.
As a yoga teacher, I generally have to keep things pretty PG. There are lots of (very good) reasons I don’t go into sexy town that often when I’m instructing downward facing dog, but it’s important to sometimes step out of the focus-on-alignment-do-it-for-tradition-lie-back-and-think-of-England yoga box and breathe from a different place altogether. The belly, of course.
And this is really simple. When I ask myself the question, “Why am I doing this?” in my yoga practice, I have lots of answers, like: Because it feels good. Because I’m in love with it. Because I get to know my body better. Because it gets me moving and grooving and forgetting everything except being locked in the lover’s dance of me and my breath. The answer is never because I have to.
And what this comes down to is one little word, that is as useful and magical in yoga as it is in making love: receive.
We work so hard in this society. We are very yang-oriented people, and men and women both work with a very masculine energy: get this done, plan that, fix this, change that. We are constantly moving, pushing ourselves forward. Yoga, at its best, offers us a dose of the feminine yin principle. It reminds us that when we relax a little, we go deeper, we get stronger, we learn more and become better people. When we practice receiving on our mats, we can do that in life, too, and when we are as willing to take in love and pleasure as we are to give it, our lovers become a part of it, and intimacy can grow between you and belly, you and breath, you and lover, you and your self.
I’ll leave my last words here to Hafiz, one of my favorite poets, who always just really gets it.
A STILL CUP
to make love
for the divine alchemy to work
the Pitcher needs a still cup.
Why ask Hafiz
about your most