The Fire of Intimacy
“Intimacy is the result of a choice to let someone see into your heart and live there with you. You can love your neighbor enough to rescue him from a burning building, but that doesn’t mean the two of you will ever have an intimate relationship. To experience genuine intimacy, both people must choose to trust, be vulnerable, and invest in each other all they have.”
-Spiritual Intimacy by Alice Smith
My mom sent me this quote. I had been upset because my neighbor had just lost their home to a fire and I wanted to do more than I could and I felt both heartbroken and guilty about passing the baton to friends of theirs who could be supportive in a way only close relationships can offer. My husband had received them and called the fire department on the night their house caught fire and they fled across the street to our home. It was surreal and tragic and traumatic and also a moment of genuine love of another. Them to each other for being alive. Us to them for being able to shelter them in a time of great need. Them to us for being welcomed into our home. It was overwhelming and beautiful and sad and terrible all at the same time.
It also triggered all the triggers all at the same time.
The rescue trigger.
The self-sacrificing trigger.
The action orientated survivor trigger.
The shut down out of my body trigger.
The need to fix trigger.
The guilt for not being able to save everyone and do everything trigger.
Over the next 48 hours, I watched myself go through my own trauma response habits. I also did the necessary work. I sat with myself. I gave voice to all my feelings. I made requests of what I needed, asked for help, and clarified expectations of what I can and cannot do. I did this without losing my shit on myself, on my kid, or my husband and was able to hold space for having compassion for and loving all of us through it. It was a moment. A moment of witnessing growth. Like trying out some crazy arm balance pose that you thought you never would be able to do and the posture simply unfolds itself in your body. That all that asana actually was changing your body and growing your capacity. This was a moment where all this mindfulness and awareness and teachings and learning was being displayed as having paid off. Of seeing and experiencing the light at the other side of a long tunnel. And in all honesty, it’s its own kind of surreal.
Because one year ago almost to the day, my marriage was the burning house. It was crumbling from the inside and for the first time I couldn’t see how we were going to make it through or even that we should. And every trigger that there is to trigger was all being triggered all the time, all at the same time. And up until that point, although I had been “doing the work” for almost 10 years straight, I still was often at the mercy of my reactions and my marriage got the most unuseful ones.
This past year I got to doing more work. Deeper work. I took most of my prana and focused it into looking at my weaknesses, my pains, my hurts, my anger, my hate, my rage, my sadness, my suffering, my trauma, my victim-ness, my tyrant-ness. I made a choice to choose myself and then my family first. To really choose me. To really choose them. I wanted intimacy and love and realized I had not always been making the choices that made that possible or even probable. Intimacy and love are choices that we have to consciously make. Often we don’t even realize that we are making all kinds of other choices all the time. We are caught up in the busyness of the day, of the kids, of work, of chores, of bills, of ___fill in the blank___, and we don’t see how often we choose to put intimacy on the back burner. We take the one person we love the most in the world, the person we say we would do anything for and we choose to; answer the phone during dinner, check the emails in bed, look at facebook, take that weekend gig, binge watch netflix, go out with friends on a date when we haven’t had a date night with our partner in months. (The same can be said for how we don’t choose ourselves but often put other’s needs above what is true and sustainable for us). If I wanted to choose my husband and make our marriage into what I wanted it to be, I had to do the hard work of looking at how I made our marriage the way it was and what I do to disconnect, what choices I make that lead away from intimacy, and how maybe I might actually not be (- cue ominous music: dun, dun, dun -) perfect; which to me has always been the only way I know how to feel worthy of being loved. And we all know how that one goes don’t we…. a fair amount of time spent in worthless town. I began with reading the book “Getting the Love You Want” on Imago relationship therapy. As I read, I kept thinking that the real title should be “It’s actually Your Fault, Asshole”. But my guess is that doesn’t sell well on the shelves. It was a start to putting things into perspective and the responsibility of my happiness or lack of, where it rightfully belonged; with me. Currently, I’m working my way through “Feeding Your Demons” and “How to be an Adult in Relationships” and many other sweet bedtime stories such as these that are all geared towards redirecting my reactions back on to myself; the only place to do this work. The work of choosing intimacy and love.
But like, for real this time.
Like for real, for real.
By choosing to love myself. All the way. Not just when I feel good and I’m getting what I prefer. But even when I’m the asshole and I can’t stand myself. Loving myself, for real, for real. All in. All the time. This leads me to be able to be loving towards others.
Which leads closer to….
LOVE. ---- The capital ‘L’ kind.
I kept choosing the Death card in my tarot readings and for a while I was convinced it was the death of my relationship. Or my job. Or some other external thing. However, eventually it became clear to me that it was about me. About finally letting go of the stories and habits that keep me locked in separateness. It was asking me to let these stories die. But not in a “letting go” or “non-attachment” or “moving through” kind of a way. In a dig in, get close, and get dirty kind of way. A ‘this is uncomfortable and i’d prefer to just let it go” kind of way. I needed to be there and take the broken parts home, mend them, nourish them, love them, accept them, see them, validate them, give them voice and see their value. In the words of Tsultrim Allione, to let them be “daemons” or guiding spirits vs demons who keep me from loving myself fully.
By choosing to be with all of myself the whole way through, what I’ve come to realize is that when I manage to stay in my body fully and keep my highest/adult self in the driver’s seat, that I can pretty much navigate most anything and keep love as the destination. I’m not successful 100% of the time, but my goal no longer is to be perfect. But to be loving. And by switching routes, I find my way back home much more quickly than I used to. And it feels both like a miracle and completely ordinary every time. During the times when I lose control over the wheel and I find my “baby” self in control or worse “paranoid grandpa” self or “self-degrading” self or “victim” self or “teenage-rager” self, that because I know them and am in relationship with those parts of myself, I’m able to bump them gently off the seat with a little bit of grace in tact and move forward in my relationships through the lens of love. Love for myself and what is truly possible if I’m going to remain my best self. Love for my family and what is truly possible if we are to maintain our connection, intimacy, kindness, and sanity. And love for everyone else as fellow beings of light in struggling human lives just trying to make their way home.
I call on these parts of myself and I spend time with them. I make good, intimate, close friendships with all the parts of myself, the parts that are awesome. And the parts that suck.
The crabby tween self. The overly needy toddler self. The really really mad teen/20s something. The weak one. The scary one. The panicked one. The suspicious one. The one that copes by withdrawing completely. And the one that copes by swearing and storming off. And even the one that copes by binge watching netflix and sustaining herself on candy and coffee. None of these versions practice yoga nor are mindful but all of them have wisdom to offer the version of myself that does. Its me choosing to let these versions of myself into my own heart and to choose to listen to their stories. Their complaints. To let them have a turn at being seen and heard and actually acknowledging not only that they exist but that, hey, they might even have a point. Things do suck sometimes and it makes sense that you’d feel frustrated. It can feel lonely out there and it makes sense that you’d feel alone and need someone. It is so upsetting to be hurt and it makes sense that you’d be mad about being violated. No one can be strong all the time and it makes sense that you can’t do everything. It is a scary world and not everyone or everything is safe all the time and it makes sense that you’d be scared and worried. And relationships are really tough and it makes sense that you’d want to get away from having to deal with them.
But nonetheless, we are heading in the direction of Love. And I’ve got the wheel now. I know the way and I can give you what you’d like. Come closer. You are welcome here within me and you are loved by me. I am willing and able to care for these problems. Thank you for bringing them to my attention. Now snuggle in. You are loved. And you. And you. And even you.
And as I love each part of myself. I am better able to love each part of my partner. And I’m better able to see him and say to him, it makes sense to me that you’d feel that way. You make sense to me. And I love you, all of you.
So regardless of whether you are partnered or not, we are all in relationships with others, with each other, and ultimately as a collective of human beings. So in working with the aspects of ourselves that we most wish would disappear is a way to not only learn to love ourselves but to love others in all the ways relationships show up in our lives. Then we, as a collective might have better chance to continue on the journey towards Love with our whole selves intact.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
May you have peace, peace, peace.
May you have freedom from suffering in the past, the present, and whatever the future may bring.
Try this practice over the next couple weeks to move closer to intimacy with yourself and others.
In a comfortable, quiet place lie on the floor. Make sure you are warm enough and supported, and won’t be disturbed for at least 30 minutes or more.
Start to relax the body and start to listen into the body to see where the most urgent or prominent or current complaint lives. This might be something specific like “where does the anger I feel at so and so live” or more general like “why am i so crabby in the morning, where does that live” You might already know but try listening first.
Once you feel like you’ve located that spot, place a hand on that area if it's comfortable and easy to do so or if not simply hold your attention there and continue to listen, this time focusing on what that feeling/part/complaint looks like inside your body.
Allow it to take form. Is it a person? A color? A shape? An animal? A creature or entity of some kind?
Once it has form, name it. Or find out it’s name. Begin your relationship. Try interacting with it. Ask it a simple question, like “who are you?” “what do you need” “how can I help” “is there anything you’d like me to know” “is there anything you’d like to share”. You can make up your own questions that are more specific to your situation.
Listen. Keep listening. Let it unfold. Allow it to present itself.
If it asks for something, see if you can stay with it and meet its need. Don’t question the information. Trust your intuition. Trust the wisdom of your body. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Follow the path that is being presented. Discover what is there. It can come in the form of a symbol, a feeling, an inkling, a sense, a movement… really anything. Try to let your thinking, analytical, rational mind be quiet and let the subtle intuition side of you lead the way. Trust yourself to know and that whatever is coming up for you, you're doing it right.
Offer this part of yourself love, compassion, affection, nurturing, nourishment. Ask it what it needs, listen, and try to meet its needs. Give it gratitude and help guide it to a new task. Offer it’s unuseful energy back into the Light and invite it’s nourished energy into your heart. This is intimacy with yourself. Be loving, kind, and mother yourself in all the ways you need.
After you are finished. Take time to rest for a little while returning back to the body and the world slowly. Eventually roll to one side, and the come to sit. Take a few moments sitting. When finished, give gratitude to your body, to the Light, and to your higher self.