Heart Opening Moments

BLOG of a Spiritual Stripper

Contemplating Marriage

Sitting across from the dinner table, Liz looks up at me casually and says, “I don’t know if it is my path to be married but if I’m getting married I want Sadhguru to pick my husband.”

She takes another bite of her sweet and sour mock chicken and starts to explain that her guru would pick the perfect partner for her spiritual growth and she doesn’t necessarily know who that would be. “Sadhguru won’t pick someone easy for me but someone who is challenging,” she smiles effortlessly and goes on to pick up another piece of passion red mock chicken with her white chopsticks, “when he marries two people they are bound for life no matter what happens, neither one of them can escape!”

I cannot help myself and let out a burst of laughter while trying so hard to keep my mango milk tapioca not turning into an out of control sprinkler in my mouth.


Is Marriage Based Merely on Love? Can Marriage Become a Path to Our Spiritual Enlightenment?

Ack! Marriage. What a dinner table conversation killer! Next to the list of things NOT TO TALK ABOUT such as religion and politics. Nevertheless I feel fearful yet intrigued. Underneath all that naive pureness of a sweet young lady is an intelligent thoughtful woman.  How refreshing it is to hear a 23-year-old young lady speaking her truth so clearly! Liz understands that most people get married for the wrong reasons. Reasons such as societal structure, economic and social convenience, family pressure in the Eastern culture. Whereas lust, power, romantic addiction occur in the Western culture. The Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.” So what is the point?

Not often people use this partnership as a tool for self-transformation. According to Liz, her guru speaks of difference types of people. He preached that marriage is not for everyone. For example, some people, their spiritual path might lie within their creation such as Albert Einstein. Some might find their spiritual path by serving others such as Benjamin Franklin. Others might find their path by sitting underneath a bodhi tree to meditate like the Buddha. While there are distinctive individuals feel an inner pull for marriage at an early age for their spiritual growth. Liz tells me that she is not sure what type of person she is yet. It is difficult to form a partnership with anything or anyone when one does not know oneself fully. Once she can discover herself more deeply then she will know which path to take.

“Don’t pretend you don’t need marriage when your spirit tells you that you do,” sipping on her mango milk tapioca, she looks up at me from the corner of her eyes, “you must follow your inner guidance toward that you fear.”

Fear. That is the big cha-ching! I’m the someone who pretends that I don’t need marriage because I fear it. I fear it more than death itself. I fear that I will fail miserably. I fear that I am not good enough. I fear that I will loss myself. I fear my husband will see my faults. I fear… I want a blueprint for the perfect relationship before I will even consider walking into the marriage dojo. I want to know that I can do it perfectly before I will even allow myself to begin…

Liz somehow is bringing up these fears within me I must face just by her authentic conversation. Listening to her reminds me of interviews of Joseph Campbell. Professor Campbell spoke of A Hero’s Journey as an individual’s growth to self-realization and self-actualization. It is a difficult journey yet it brings such triumph once we take on the challenge and take one step after another. “When people get married because they think it’s a long-time love affair, they’ll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment. But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity,” said Joseph Campbell. Professor Campbell believed that marriage in an ordeal, an ordeal so intense that it possesses the power to transform both individuals at a profound level. It is a tool for individual transformation.

To me, marriage is shugyo. It is a process of purification of the self toward true expression of the spirit. It takes tremendous courage to walk this path. Author and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry fondly put it, “love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself.”

“You are right Liz, it doesn’t help to pretend. Lao Tzu said ‘marriage is three parts love and seven parts forgiveness,'” as I gaze down into the last grain of rice on my plate, I let out a burst of laughter, “and I’m going to need a lot of forgiveness upfront!”

September 7, 2011 Posted by | Choices, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Together We Are Stronger

Aikido Wrist lock

Does your partnership make you stronger?

Lately I can’t help to notice the subtle dynamics in various relationships. Sometimes being with another person adds to our energy and enthusiasm and other times being with another takes away our mojo. Do you have someone in your life that contributes to your wellbeing and another drains the life energy out of you? Have you ever wondered why that is?

This is something I’ve been dealing with for a while now. I didn’t fully grok the impact until a recent aikido class.

My partner and I were working together on a movement that could become completely powerful without a single ounce of aggression. His body was stiff and not easy to connect with. His stiffness felt like an energetic wall that blocked me from harmonizing with his energy. I quickly took offense to that and wanted to put up a fight. I noticed the momentary aggression in my body and decided to act differently. Instead of fighting against him, I worked with the direction of his energy along his stiffness. Within a split second, I took his centerline by softening up my touch and he was down on the ground in no time. What happened was that I decided to let go my ego’s instinct of wanting to put up a fight. I had to see him in a whole new light – he is my brother and not a threat to me. His stiffness comes from years of fear stored within the body. His inability to relax is no fault of his own but a trained habit. In order for me to connect with him, I cannot judge him for his stiffness nor fault him for it. I must accept where he is, maintain my center, and melt myself around it in order to redirect it. The surprising part was he and I both felt connected and we laughed how powerful the move was. There was no resentment. He did not feel as if I did something to his body. Instead, he felt as if we harmonized to work together and achieved a mutually desired outcome.

Another partner behaved differently. Her grip was soft and barely there. I became frustrated by her unwillingness to assert herself. I couldn’t feel her so how would I be able to work with her? So I adjusted myself to be even softer and that back fired. This reminded me of being in a relationship with a man who always catered to me and my needs. He came over whenever I called. He canceled appointments just so he can be with me. He even came over and washed my dirty dishes. Soon enough I no longer felt the same way about him because he was no longer who he is. He became whatever he thinks I need him to be.  In turn I felt guilty how nice he was to me and I adjusted myself to cater to him. I cooked the food he likes. I put on a few pounds to add the the curves he desires. I helped him with his work and stopped working on my projects. I attempted to even out the relationship and all I felt was resentment. He adjusted for me and I adjusted for him. Both of us lost our own centers in the name of our relationship. I no longer felt our partnership strengthened the both of us, instead our combined energy was less than we were on our own.

What’s different between the two cases? In the first case, I had to accept where my partner is, let go my ego, and work with his energy. I must be softer than stiffness to harmonize. In the second case, I became even softer but gave up my own integrity. Being too soft made me lose myself in that relationship. I’ve noticed that I adjust myself in my relationships quite a bit. Often times I don’t tell the truth because I am scared of hurting someone else’s feelings. Other times I back away from my truth in order to give someone else more space. I find whenever I become too passive and not asserting my truth, I become weaker in the process. Any relationship that is build on mutual sacrifice does not work in the long run. A healthy relationship is supposed to make us stronger and not weaker. Only by asserting ourselves we then find the mutual balance point where both of our strengths meet. That is the point of power – where one plus one equals infinity.

Ask yourselves is your relationship making you stronger as a person? Is your relationship adding more grace to your life? If not, it is time to self-exam to see if you are sacrificing too much of who you are. It is never too late to make adjustments and gain back your center. Only from a centered and self-empowered place we can then chose wisely going forward. It’s time to allow our partnerships to make us stronger!

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom | , , , , | 8 Comments

Pole Dancing and Aikido

Melt into harmony - when a partnership is created between your body and the pole.

After thinking about pole dancing for several years now, I finally took the plunge. My girl friend and I started going to Pole Sinsation the beginning of this year. Initially this new form of physical training seemed awkward and we both felt extremely spastic. For starter, I was too scared to wear the 6-inch heels, so instead I went bare foot. As I pivoted on the ball of my foot while maintaining the strength from my core, my body remembered a similar sensation from Aikido. There was something my body wanted to communicate. I allowed. It went quite for several days.

On Saturday Aikido was tough. There was one move in particular that I still couldn’t do after more than a year of intense training. My initial reaction was to blame my partner. It was the stiffness in his body that made my technique impossible. It was his height that made me overextend myself. It was his unwillingness to connect that made our relationship unnatural… I’ve been walking the spiritual path long enough now to know that I must take responsibilities, yet I couldn’t bring myself to admit my own contribution to the difficulties I’ve experienced on the mats.

On Sunday, Pole Dancing was even tougher. I was surprised how well I was doing last week but Sunday turned out to be a lot worse than I have expected. The pole was so cold and metallic it gave me blisters on my pinkie.  The skin on my thigh was getting stuck because the static friction was too great to complete my turns. The surface of the pole was too slippery on top because nobody bothered to climb up and give it a good cleaning. Finally I noticed how my repulsive thoughts have lead to my dreadful emotions; I began to resent being there and I disliked my body.  So I decided to just give it up. Not giving up dancing, but instead giving up the need to blame.

I know how much I love dancing. I took ballet, jazz, Tang Dynasty dancing, Swing, and sometimes ballroom. I’m definitely not a professional but I’ve always enjoyed dancing on my own because I love the freedom of self-expression. AND because I enjoyed feeling the strength of my own core. But whenever I danced with a partner, I would have to adjust to his style of movement. Being the control freak that I am, I secretly resented how I was not leading and I could do a better job if I was the lead. I told myself that some leads are so not coordinated that I end up losing my own center and stumble over my own feet. Only the days I salsa danced with Andre Paradis, I give up control completely. Those days I felt grounded in my heels and the strength from my center when he executed his famous triple underarm turns. He knew what he was doing as he worked around his own center while staying completely engaged. He choreographed for and danced with Michael Jackson for God sakes! Whenever we disconnected, he apologized for not making adjustments for my body since he was the lead. He graciously took responsibilities.

So how does core strength, making adjustments, taking responsibilities relate to aikido and pole dancing? Well, in both pole dancing and aikido, I have to work with a partner. In pole dancing my partner is the pole that I’m engaged in a physical relationship with while in aikido my partner is the other person I’m engaged in a physical relationship with. In pole dancing, I can see myself more clearly. It would be silly to blame an inanimate object for my failures. In order to move forward, I have to stay grounded and adjust myself.  How is my posture? Am I using my core strength or momentum? Do I clench on too tightly? Is there enough space between my body and the pole? Where do I carry the unnecessary tension? Am I out of my head and totally devoted to my body? How smooth are my transitions when I switch directions? So when I fail, I can blame the pole for not adjusting to my needs or I can take responsibilities and examine myself. All these questions will take me out of my need to blame and bring me back to taking responsibilities again. And in Aikido, being shite, I am responsible to execute the techniques by being grounded, harnessing the power from my own core, and adjusting to the unique composition of my partner. I have to first find where I am, the connection I’ve made with the mats, my body’s centerline, only from there, I can then interact with a partner by moving with his body’s natural centerline. I must ask myself probing questions: Am I grounded? How is my posture? Are the movements executed from my core or from the momentum created by my arms? Do I clench too tightly? Is there enough space between my partner and I? Do I allow myself to melt into him without all the unnecessary tension? Am I maintaining the smoothness of transition by keeping a full connection when I’m heading into a new direction?

Do you notice the similarities? In both cases, your power comes from your core when you engage in any relationship!

So by taking responsibilities, we are staying true to our core, being who we are, making adjustments to the person we are engaged in a relationship with – WITHOUT LOSING OUR OWN CORE! Being in a relationship is not about losing oneself but exerting oneself to blend with another. I’ve seen a lot of difficulties occuring in many relationships wherein one person is making too much sacrifice and thus losing oneself. That is not healthy in friendships or relationships. We will just end up losing our centerline and become resentful. By noticing how I interact with an inanimate partner I can find my own behavior patterns that stands in the way of creating a healthy relationship.

there’s more coming up next time…

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Choices, Self Realization | , , , , , | Leave a comment