April 17, 2012

Inviting Grace with Elena Brower.

Photo: Cleveland Groove

“The Source of True Love is the Quality of Seeing.”

If we want to see others, we need to see ourselves.

This is not about ego; this is about grace.

Maybe I should back up a bit. I was excited to take Elena Brower’s Inviting Grace class, having heard so many wonderful things, but was feeling a little, well, wobbly for lack of a better word. I got up that morning feeling emotionally wobbly (lack of sleep, busy heart pulled in too many directions), and physically wobbly (lack of sleep, getting over stomach flu). But I didn’t want to miss out, so I rallied and grabbed my mat, my water and notebook and headed to class.

When one of the first invitations from Elena was to think of someone we have trouble extending grace to (and we all have at least one person. You know, the one who popped in your head as soon as you read that), I felt a little ego irritation. Well, no, I don’t want to invite grace for him! I want grace for me! But I stayed with it, continued on and told myself to shhh.

I believe that whatever my practice is on particular day is exactly what it needs to be. It’s true of life in general, but sometimes we fight it. I fight it. So as I listened to Elena, and moved through the sequence, I fought it. Early on she said that the source of love—true love—is the quality of seeing. If we look at ourselves and look at others through our projections and the fairy tales we concoct, there can’t be any true love or grace. How can we extend grace to something imaginary?

So I continued through the sequence. When I felt grounded and solid in a posture, I gave myself a mental attaboy. When I felt shaky and wobbly—inside or out—I yelled at myself.

What’s wrong with you? You do this all the time. Get it together. You are wasting this wonderful class.

That isn’t grace. Neither the yelling nor the “attaboy” is grace. Neither one constitutes seeing myself accurately either.

Then, I remember a moment where Elena said, “This is where you see yourself. This is where grace comes in.” (I’m paraphrasing. It’s hard to take notes while you’re in Vasisthasana). At that point, I let go of my self a little more. I let go of the fight and let in the grace. I thought of the person who I hard-heartedly stonewalled at the idea of extending grace to, and had a small flame of desire to see him, as he is, not as my wounded heart and ego think he is. I looked at myself and felt that everything was exactly as it should be, even the parts that hurt.

There were two moments towards the end before Savasana that stand out to me:

First, when Susanna Harwood Rubin came and gently adjusted my back in child’s pose. I love to rest in Balasana when I feel tired or sad or out of sorts (or all of the above), and that gentle stretch of my back just opened me a little more. That’s the right kind of “attaboy.” We don’t need the ego booster pats on the back when we are excelling. We need the “trust the present moment” pats on the back when we’re not.

Second, when Elena had us place one hand on our heart and the other at the nape of the neck. This is often how I end a massage session. I will hold my client over her heart chakra, and at the still point at the base of her skull. This moment was the culmination of the class for me. For many people in the yoga and bodywork communities, we are used to holding space for others. If we want to deepen our ability to see, to love and to extend grace, it needs to begin with holding that space for ourselves.

We learn to see others when we truly see ourselves. We are able to extend grace to others when we invite and allow it for ourselves. We release those stuck parts—inside and out—through a rich practice of asana and meditation with teachers who are motivated by love. If you can take this class with Elena at a Yoga Journal conference, I highly recommend it

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