Showing up consistently is key. Come as you are, enter the space, work with what is. When you take off your shoes and enter the room it activates the set of associations you are building for yourself: slowing down your mind, cultivating compassion, paying attention to your body, listening to your heart.
Sacred space is a container in which the community congregates to experience the benefits of the state we enter into together, which in turn allows us to relate more effectively to the changing weather of our emotions, thoughts, sensations and the dominant concerns of our lives on each particular day.
Neuroscience shows that the more consistently we reinforce our habits, the more they become second nature —creating a familiar brain pathway that gets stronger overtime. One well-crafted turn of phrase comes from psychology writer Ken Wilber, “through practice, altered states become permanent traits.”
Yoga, meditation, bodywork, and ecstatic dance are all ways of choosing to shift our internal state, altering our experience in beneficial ways. In this way you could say that we participate in our own evolution, or at the very least our own growth and development. Through revisiting these altered states consistently over time, they become traits that are integrated into who we are.
Everything is a process, in a state of flux. Our brains respond to repeated experience and to the reward system triggers that flood us with what I call the “sacred biochemistry” that we experience as “good energy.”
Embrace the Process
I remember when I started practicing —I evaluated my meditation or yoga sessions based on whether or not I thought I had done a good job of being disciplined and focused, or had improved in my performance of strength and flexibility. I evaluated my ecstatic dance practice based on whether or not I felt I had really got into a deep flow state.
But over the years I started to see that the classes in which I rested more often, gained insight into my mind’s workings by openly observing the chaos or repetitive patterns, found ways to modify around an injury, or allowed myself to be present with difficult feelings about something in my life, often turned out to be more valuable and transformative than the yoga classes in which I felt like a gumbi ninja with iron clad concentration and steam-engine ujjayi breath, or the dance sessions in which I felt absolutely free and wild.
Inner work is not just about the airbrushed image presented in glossy magazines and catalogs, it is a way of going beneath the everyday surface and being with yourself as you are in that moment. The practice space can be a place to set aside our roles and duties and re-connect with the body electric, with our emotional intelligence, and with the mind’s exquisite capacities for compassion, insight, bliss and grace.
This doesn’t happen by striving to appear perfect from the outside, or by buying into someone else’s far-fetched metaphysical belief system. It happens moment-by-moment as we embrace the journey and meet ourselves as we are in the process.
Let it all unfold as you practice the trinity of breath, presence and compassion.
Say “Yes” to Community
Just as we embrace the process and show up consistently to practice, so too the community context of the experience is hugely significant. I often joke that the archetype of the solitary bearded yogi sitting in a loin cloth somewhere in a cave is soooo five-hundred years ago! We are social creatures. In the shared experience of practicing together we motivate one another, support, reflect and honor one other’s process. We take turns over time visiting the different aspects of the human experience: one day grieving, another day celebrating, energized, exhausted, frustrated, blissed-out, inspired, disillusioned, heart-broken, in love —all of this will show up in the sangha —our little village of shared intention.
True resilience, courage, compassion and freedom are born in this shared meditation on our humanity.
Notice your competitiveness, judgments, projections, crushes, annoyances, and the moments of empathy, acceptance, being touched, moved, inspired by your fellow explorers. Sacred space is a little laboratory of life, a microcosm in which we get to bring awareness to ourselves and to our relationships with others.
Say “yes” to community and the fact that we are all on a journey, all works in progress, all struggling with something, all carrying gifts and abilities we may to even know how to acknowledge. Being together over time, talking before or after class, getting to know one another on retreat, can provide extraordinary companionship, support and mirroring.
I hope these suggestions enhance your embodied practice!
See you soon,