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Sacred Relationship

During asana practice my yoga teacher, Sofia Diaz, has often said: “Use your awareness to find equal length between your inhale and your exhale. If one is longer than the other, find out why.” For years, my inhale was longer than my exhale; it took time, willingness, and surrender to locate equilibrium in my breath. While living with a friend in Southeast Asia for six months and negotiating the dance of writing, teaching, and practicing together in a new country, I learned that this same principle could be applied to relationships.

During an asana practice early on in our sojourn, I discovered the possibility of treating my friend as a sacred object. Even when I was feeling vulnerable or unheard, I asked myself to consider her, and to inquire, “Is this how you would treat something sacred?” Whatever upsets I felt were likely matched by hers. Living in a country foreign to us both, without separate daily lives or friends, we truly had to depend on each other. If I treated her as foe, I freed her to do the same. Perhaps, treating her as sacred would generate the same freedom for her.

Our new environment carried unique stressors, and at times, I felt uncertain of where to stand my ground and where to release hold on my view in favor of the relationship we shared. We remained seriously limited by our subjectivity, making our attempts to negotiate conscious relationship in Sri Aurobindo’s words in Social and Political Thought, “a great adventure full of perils and uncertainties [that] may wander long before it finds itself.” When I didn’t know how to proceed, I breathed. On the inhale, I had to receive my beautiful friend. When she shared a divergent opinion about the gauge on our gas can (and the right time to refill it) or felt I could drive our motor scooter through rutted out rice patty paths when I preferred to doubt, I had to be willing to hear her out. She is vastly intelligent, my friend; I had so much to learn from her. Yet if I was only inhaling and receiving, I could not show up. If I was so nervous about driving the scooter through wet mud that I put us at risk, I had to be willing to exhale, to speak, to not force us beyond a safe edge.

Negotiating the receive-release of our friendship with care was a challenge and a source of joy. On Fridays, we helped children make shadow puppets for their school performance of the Ramayana. One rainy day, my friend needed to work on our puppet lessons at lunch, and thus brought a two-foot square, homemade cardstock envelope protecting orange monkey puppets on our scooter. Through her impressive capacity for balance, we nearly made it to a cafe in a torrent of strong wind and hailing rain. When we hit heavy traffic, I became skittish about the green cardstock obstructing my view of the mirrors, and pulled over. With our helmets, puppets, and backpacks tied in red plastic to keep our things dry, we arrived at the café by taxi. Getting out, she took one look at my wet, smashed down hair, and I, at her dripping blue poncho pulled like a tent to protect the puppets, and we burst into raucous laughter. Friendly negotiation was not always easy, but it could be fun.

With beauty I think, we negotiated the curvy terrain of our temporary dependence, careful to reestablish integrity when we veered off track. Though we squabbled and occasionally cringed at the snap of one another’s bite, we ultimately shared the pace of our breath. In honoring my own inhale and exhale in asana practice and in relationship, I have become more able to honor the give and take of people close to me. As ever, I offer gratitude for wandering into yoga and finding my devotion.

*Originally posted here.

What’s Hot for Nicole Right Now…


Currently Reading: One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman

Practice Focus: Softening.

Currently Watching: Together a film directed by Chen Kaige

Currently Listening To: The leaving whisper of autumn leaves.

Shadow Element or Emotion Discovered While Writing This: The Dark Voice of Judgment.

Link of the Week: The Yoga Loft – Free Classes All Weekend!

Nicole Dunas is an Integral Chicks contributor. She has been practicing yoga and meditation since 1994, and has been a devoted student of Sofia Diaz since 2003. She is also a student of Zen, in the tradition of Zentatsu Baker Roshi. Nicole has taught yoga in Colorado and Indonesia, worked as a Yoga Journal Conference Work Exchange Coordinator, and tutors college students for Pearson Education. She’s written essays and articles for several online publications, and recently published the essay, “The Feeling of Beauty – A Yoga Project,” in the book, Yoga – Philosophy For Everyone. She’s the creator of The Real Beauty Yoga Project, and she received her M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Currently, she writes, practices, tutors and teaches in Colorado.

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