Reconnecting to Internal Trust: Openness as the Viewpoint of Practice.

After the meditation practice called Tonglen (Giving and Receiving), we were asked to turn to the person next to us and share our experience. The exercise required that one person give the other their full attention, listening without comment, to allow their partner to speak freely without input. Listening fully also meant without judgment, so the other could be honest and vulnerable. My partner spoke first and as she recounted her insight in meditation I found myself wanting to cry out “that’s exactly what I felt! I am going through the same process in life as you!” I wanted to tell her all about my experience. But I waited and listened letting my responses go as they arose in my mind, looking directly into her eyes, and found withholding my comments led her to reveal more as her thoughts were voiced without interruption. I felt grounded after a weekend of practice connecting to the belly center, and from that ground I could open to her in the moment and provide a supportive ear for her unfolding.

The workshop was Insight Yoga with Sarah Powers, an acclaimed teacher who weaves together Buddhist viewpoint, the yogic practices, and Daoism, creating an integrated and insightful perspective. The weekend emphasized cultivating unconditional trust in our inherent value or the perspective that all humans are innately worthy regardless of abilities, successes, or failures.

The physical practices of breathing, asana, and meditation centered in the low belly, an area called the hara in Japanese, Tan Tien in Chinese, or Svadistana Chakra in the yogic view. This area is our intuitive center; what once connected us to the lifeline of our mother.  Anatomically, the area has a concentration of nerves firing comparable to the brain. When we regain the intimate connection we had at birth we can live from this center, guided by a trust in our own self worth and less fettered by the doubts of the conscious mind.

Often when we experience mental suffering like rejection or fear, it manifests as a stream of thoughts, spinning from some small interaction into an overarching feeling of lack of self worth. One suggestion for practice is to drop the story line- the thoughts about the experience and just feel the energy of the emotions in your body. Bring your attention down to your belly, you can even place your hands there, and use your belly center as a resource, a foundation of wellbeing.

Cultivating this center allows us to be open and vulnerable to others. When we trust ourselves the fear of rejection is diminished and we are less caught in our own negative patterns and therefore able to look around and recognize that everyone suffers on some level.  Sarah said the way practice reveals its’ value is the quality of interaction with others. Being open to others is the greatest challenge because where we have been hurt is in our interpersonal interactions, which constructs barriers and fosters deep insecurity. The practices are a way to retrace our steps, to open to our sadness, hurt, or disappointment and to allow them in, and realize that absolutely everyone experiences these same troubles. Essentially we don’t abandon ourselves in practice but stay open to our obstacles.

Connecting to the belly center is the vehicle through which we cultivate internal trust: the foundation from which we turn outward with empathy and openness to those we encounter.