Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
Full moon in each eye that is always saying,
With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in
This world is dying to hear?
What you desire most for yourself, why not provide it for others first? Life offers us infinite opportunities to see ourselves in others. When we look into the eyes of another, see our reflection and ask of that other to “love me,” we have ventured into the realm of Self. To get a secure footing into that, one must leave their selfishness and self-loathing behind. Love is not something you can do or something you can give; it is all-inclusive. You cannot love anyone or anything—Love is too big to be controlled like that by “you.” Love has nobody, nobody has love. You can only be Love itself.
When you take the time to sit with someone quietly, both of you being still and close enough so that you can see into the eyes of the other person, you will see yourself reflected. We mirror one another. It takes a certain amount of daring to do such a thing—it is so intimate. Even with someone you know and consider a friend, for most of us it is awkward to get that close. Of course there are times and occasions when this type of intimacy is accepted. It most often happens with mothers and their babies, and lovers when they are first getting to know each other often spend long periods of time in this type of reflective moon glow. But it certainly isn’t a common daily practice among most of us. We are either too busy to be bothered with looking that closely at the others in our lives, or afraid of the potential consequences, and instead seek ways to avoid interaction with most people we encounter during our day, our week or our lives. Has it always been like this? Is this a natural way to live?
Some people say that there are only two kinds of beings in the world, the predator and the prey. They will draw parallels with wild animals and point out that carnivores never look directly into the eyes of anyone unless it is to challenge them to a fight, or hypnotize and frighten another animal that they intend to eat. Vegetarian animals on the other hand tend to have large eyes and are constantly on the lookout for enemies. Many human beings identify themselves as predators, because they insist it is the better option. Of course I don’t agree with that, but I will say if we acknowledge it as a fact for some people it may help us begin to understand the fear and paranoia that permeate our social interactions with others. Cultural conditioning can lie deep, but the good news is that it is learned and so it can be unlearned.
Philosopher Ken Wilber says that generally speaking, men and women are biologically under the influence of two very different chemicals and that over many thousands of years, our patriarchal-meat eating-military-power based culture has utilized this for its advancement in areas of exploitation. Testosterone basically, at its worst, expresses itself as sexual aggression, manipulation and violence. The corresponding influence is oxytocin, a hormone that induces strong feelings of attachment, nurturing, holding and touching. Most of us (at least those of us who are reading this essay) don’t live in a world where we are constantly being chased by an aggressor and have to run for our lives or turn and engage in combat. But still many men and women behave as if this were the case. But as spiritual practitioners, looking to evolve, we investigate other modes of relating to one another and in doing so we uncover more possibilities within ourselves. Perhaps yoga allows a man to become more of a shaman, tuning into his feminine side and thereby discovering less competitive, aggressive ways to relate to others. Perhaps for women, yoga can help to develop more fearlessness and confidence without having to compromise nurturing. Yoga can help us all feel more relaxed and at ease with ourselves and others.
A spiritual seeker is someone who is looking to find themselves. If we want to embark on the spiritual adventure of daring to look into the eyes of another and feel comfortable about it without any ulterior motive other than pure perception of being, we could start by practicing with kindred spirits—other yoga practitioners—in the safe and sanctified space of the yoga classroom, a place put aside for the investigation of such matters. The quest is this: To see yourself in others—to look so deeply that otherness disappears—leaving only the Self, Love itSelf.
Yoga philosophy states that the world is a projection coming from our own mind—for better or for worse. If you have negative thoughts in your mind, you see negativity in others. We could remember that harboring negative thoughts in our minds is optional, and choose instead to embrace positive thoughts, and then these positive thoughts would radiate from us into the world and affect all the other beings that we “see.” Eventually through this practice we will realize that there are no others—and it is at this point that Self-realization arises.
We all want to be loved, we want people to like us, we want to be acknowledged, and we don’t want to be ignored or made to feel insignificant. A yogi knows this truth, that all beings matter, and when you dare to care, dare to reach out towards another for the sake of pure love, with that sweet moon language, it transforms yourself and the other.
Here are some key thematic points, which may provide a direction for your teaching this month. In most cases focusing on just one of these points would be enough material for a class session. Some of the points have very practical physical application while others are presented in a more conceptual approach. I hope you will be able to find at least one thing here that speaks to you and that these suggestions will act as promptings, little nudges to get you going into the endless and exciting adventure of looking deeper into something. Then I wish you well in your ability to articulate to the students who come to you, the insights you have uncovered from your contemplation and research. –with love and blessings, Sharon
Basically it is Love. Love. We all want Love. We want to love. We all want to be loved. Real Love. Unconditional Love. Transcendental Love. Cosmic Love. All we need is Love. God is Love. Love will set us free. Through Love you find yourself—the Self.
Hafiz was a prolific writer and has been translated into many languages. Teachers may want to get a book of Hafiz poems and be inspired by them as I have been. The Hafiz poem in this Focus of the Month essay is taken from a book titled, Love Poems from God, twelve sacred voices from the East and West. It includes poetry by the Sufi poet Hafiz along with eleven others all translated by Daniel Ladinsky. Here is an excerpt from the short biography that Ladinsky includes with the chapter on Hafiz: “Shams-ud-Muhammad Hafiz (c.1320-1389) is the most beloved poet of Persians and is considered to be one of history’s greatest lyrical geniuses. Though he is little known in the western world, many notables including Emerson, Goethe, Garcia Lorca, the composer Brahms and even Nietzsche were deeply affected by him. Hafiz was born Shams-ud-Muhammad but later chose the pen name Hafiz, which means memorizer and denotes a person who knows the entire Quran by heart. Hafiz’s poems contain and reveal all the stages of divine vision, experience, and love. He cloaked these truths in vernacular garb, as was the tradition in Sufi schools at that time since secrecy was often essential in the climate of life-threatening fundamentalism.”
As with each Focus of the Month, this essay allows us to expand and venture into areas that we might not normally go, but by going we learn ways to connect the practices of yoga to more and more aspects of our own life (both personal and political). An intelligent person is someone who can make connections. So we increase our intelligence as we stretch our minds each month to incorporate the monthly focus. Hopefully through this process insights will arise as new connections are made in the mind and heart and the expanding of consciousness results. As Hafiz says in the poem, “think about this—this great pull in us to connect.”
Love me are the key words in the Poem. “Love me” is what Hafiz says are the words that everyone wants to say. To understand the meaning of those two words we have to look deeply into those two words. What does “love” mean? What does “me” mean? What is love and who is me?
The teacher may want to focus attention on the moon, in Sanskrit called chandra, and use the FOM to explore various hatha yoga exercises which bring balance to the channels of the HA (sun) and Tha (moon). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika could be a valuable resource here. Ida nadi is the Moon channel—some of the attributes are: feminine, night, yin, mental, cold, intuition, desire, subconscious, internal, passive, parasympathetic nervous system—attributes taken from page 285 of The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Sw. Muktibodhanada of the Bihar School.
Focusing on the Moon, the teacher could venture into the metaphysical question, what is the language of the moon? What does the moon talk about and to whom? In the poem, Hafiz talks about a person whose eyes are like two full moons that speak sweet moon language.
Hafiz speaks in the poem of the full Moon or purnima in Sanskrit. When something is full it is complete, and in need of nothing.
Using the Moon as your theme could lead you to explore asanas and/or asana sequences associated with the moon. Some individual asanas which you may choose to focus on could be: ardha chandrasana (half moon), parivritta ardha chandrasana (rotated half-moon), chakorasana (moonbird), Bhairavasana and Natarajasana (both forms of Shiva, who is a Moon deity). Or another example would be to teach one of the sequences: Moon Rise or Moon Dance both found in the Jivamukti Yoga Book. If you choose to focus in your class on a moon-themed asana or sequence it would be best, if you do choose to go this route, not to simply call out the name of the asana within a vinyasa, but instead to really teach the asana or these sequences: going into detail, preparing the student with warm up asanas and then breaking certain aspects down slowly, investigating alignment, utilizing props or the wall to help get a deeper experience. Then putting it all together again. Don’t be afraid to do a sequence more than once. Taking time to focus thoroughly on one asana or one sequence can allow students to experience a breakthrough, which may not be possible for them if the asana is done quickly without detailed instruction. I would suggest that if you are going to focus on the exploration of an asana that you don’t spend a lot of class time in mentally contemplating theory or philosophy but that you set aside ample time for the actual physical exploration of the asana. In other words get right to it, no need for a long dharma talk at the beginning of class.
The word shaman is made up of two parts: sha=she + man=mind. Many shaman were medicine men, healers who could walk between worlds and shapeshift. In order for a man to be able to assume the position of a shaman he had to expand his gender role away from the testosterone powered normal man and instead incorporate a feminine way of thinking and being, thus his mind became a she-mind or a shaman, enabling him to perceive the world more feelingly and so relate more sensitively. A shaman could be seen as a yogi—one who has joined (yoked) their male and female aspects into one central unified whole.
I do mention Ken Wilber in the Focus of the Month essay. In many of his books he talks about the biological influence of hormones on our behavior and on our relationships with others. He cites testosterone as a potent chemical: “ I don’t mean to be crude, but it appears that testoserone basically has two and only two major drives: fuck it or kill it. And males are saddled with this biological nightmare almost from day one, a nightmare women can barely imagine. Worse, men sometimes fuse and confuse these two drives, with fuck it and kill it dangerously merging, which rarely has happy consequences, as women are more than willing to point out.”—page 4, A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber
Exercise #1 (sitting): Teachers may want to lead an exercise with partners, sitting close but across from each other, looking into each others’ eyes. Instructing the students to practice seeing through the veils of otherness to a level of intimacy and revelation not often available to most of us in our daily lives. Teachers please keep in mind that some students may feel intensely uncomfortable with this exercise. They may express it with nervous laughter, or even with downright inability to maintain a steady commitment to the focus of the exercise. It may also play itself out for some students as a staring contest. The pairing should be as random as possible. Best to leave it to chance. Strangers may be paired together, as well as people who already know each other. It doesn’t really matter. There is an ancient Buddhist saying that goes something like: Everyone you meet has been your mother/lover at some point in another lifetime (if not this one). In truth we are not strangers. The ultimate truth is we are not separate, we are one. But how to get to that evolved level of realization if we first can’t just sit comfortably with one another and connect through, as Hafiz would say, “moon language.”
But what does it mean to connect? What connects us? So the ability to connect is really the practice with the partner exercise. How to do that? It may start with seeing that this other person is also uncomfortable with the exercise. When you see that, you may feel less inclined to be so self-conscience and instead communicate “silent” reassurances to your partner. You begin to see that your partner wants the same things that you do. They don’t want to be judged by you (or anyone); they want you to like them. They want to be acknowledged, not ignored. They don’t want you to feel bored while in their company. Another way to begin to understand connection might start with actually seeing your own face reflected in the pupils of the other, and silently say, as Hafiz instructs, “Love me.” Or you could fall into a contemplation and silently repeat a mantra as if you were speaking to God.
Exercise #2 (asana): Have one partner gaze at the other while the other is involved in an asana like a headstand, visualizing that the person they are gazing at is doing the perfect asana, in other words see the partner as the perfect yogi.
Teachers may want to arrange the class so that students are facing each other as they practice asana (if space and room configuration allows).
The teacher may suggest to the students to think of a person in their own lives and dedicate the class to them. You could take it a step further and use the words “Love me” or “I love you” like a mantra, coordinating the mantra with the breath practice, surya namaskar or any other part of the class.
As the moon reflects the sun, we all reflect each other, the whole world is a mirror. As mirrors that can be set up in such a way that they reflect each other providing a visual experience of endlessness, the seemingly infinite possibilities of life can be seen as such in the metaphor of the mirrors. Ultimately no matter how you look at it all the reflections come back eventually to the perceiver—as the seer sees, so the seen is seen.
The relationship between student and teacher is a spiritual one. By spiritual I mean that it is focused on identity. The student seeks out a teacher because they want to know who they are. They are looking for help in understanding the confounding complexities of their own personality. They are having an identity crisis. Usually this search starts when the student begins to realize that they may be more than they thought they were or that life may be more than just eating, sleeping, money, sex, marriage, home, job, car, etc. This is why the spiritual path is not for normal people; it is for people who are looking for something more than what is considered survival or sensual gratification. They are at a critical point where they are questioning the existence of such concepts as God and Love. Traditionally the guru provided the student a love object. The guru allowed the student to love them. It was understood between each party that the relationship would be one based on love. The teacher would by their very presence become a focus for the student to pour their feelings into. It was a unique relationship in the fact that there was no sexual gratification or material gain involved. You could say it was a “pure” relationship in that sense. There was nothing that the teacher could give the student but love. “I can’t give you anything but love.” There was nothing that the teacher needed or wanted from the student—other than the student’s happiness or ultimate enlightenment, which is the realization of Love. Love is that which connects us all—it is the ground of being. It is slippery as mercury and cannot be grasped, while at the same time it is attractive, embracing, enveloping, nurturing and constant.
The teacher provides a mirror for the student. The teacher reflects back onto the student who they really are. The teacher reminds the student of God. The teacher reminds the student of who they really are. The teacher is a doorway that the student uses to walk through into the realm of infinite possibilities.
The student was permitted to use the teacher in order to see themselves. The teacher, it was understood, would act as a passive mirror reflecting the student’s outward as well as innermost desires. This is why we hear of many accounts between students and their gurus, where the student says things to the effect that “It was like they saw right through me. There is nothing I can hide from them; I am transparent in their presence. They seem to know everything about me, and yet they still love me, unconditionally.”
The teacher may want to suggest to the student that after they leave the class, whenever they encounter someone, whether walking down the street or wherever, they silently say, using Moon Language, “Love Me.”
Here are some songs I would include on my playlist this month, I realize they are mostly from my 60’s generation but nonetheless, the lyrics really do speak to this month’s focus: