On a recent trip to Hawaii I was fantasizing, as I boarded the plane, that if I would actually keep track of all my air miles, I would be able to trade in a seat for first class. How lovely that would be on a long flight like this one! Something to add to the end of the to-do list, that will never get done, as I travel all over.
I made my way to the back of the plane, surrendering any objection to being sandwiched between two strangers for the next 10 hours. As I am putting my way-too-many carry-ons away, I hear a couple talking about how they couldn’t get seats next to each other, and were hoping to switch with someone. I offered to swap seats with them and ended up sitting to another girl who was separated from her beloved too. As this game of musical seats continued I offered to switch her as well.
She was elated and said that her partner got moved to first class, so I could have his seat! I was elated now too, but I don’t think her partner was super excited, with his reply, “Hun they moved me to first class!” Ahh the sacrifices we make for love.
In sacrifice we make each other holy.
As I made my way…and quite a scene.. with my over packed carry-ons up to first class, and a slight-cocky smile of “i did this” on my face.. the woman’s partner said, “You will love the guy you are sitting next too, he seams like a really a cool guy!”
As I encroached upon my new first class seat, with enthusiasm, I could smell the strong scent of bourbon( i think it was bourbon). Sure enough it was the tall, medium build, middle-aged man I was sitting next too, that reeked of this scent. As soon as he turned to say “hi,” and looked at me with that twinkle behind his eye, I knew we were in trouble. A spark I know well. I have always had a 6th sense about every lover I have ever had, from either hearing about them before we meet, or a certain moment in our relationship when our eyes meet in a depth that says, hold on.
I am not speaking of lover as in sexual partner, but lover as in a teacher..or teaching, someone whom you are intimate with in a way that shapes the way you view the world, or at least yourself in relationship to it.
I feel a similar sense the day before, or moment a virus invades my system, a momentary vulnerability that leaves me wondering… Was the virus waiting for the precise second for me to let down “my defenses” in which it would invade my system? Or did I just sense the moment my body chemistry was changed, due to fate?
This is the mystery of all relationships. There are certain people that hack your system and you theirs, that will change the way you experience the world. Sometimes for awhile, and other times forever.
And so I take a deep breath(whoa-that bourbon) maybe not so deep, allow myself to be susceptible and sit down next to him.
He was in a vulnerable place as well, having taken sleeping pills along with his alcohol consumption, and immediately began apologizing to me for his state. I was impressed by his open-ness, even if it was drug induced.
When I told him I was on the way to lead a yoga retreat, he said, “I have been wanting to try yoga.” and so I replied “That probably means you should!”
He said that he would love to ask me questions, if I would be open to it, and so it begins…
Our yoga journey begins with asking questions, and so I knew this was the moment. “I love questions!” I said, ”But, be careful”, I warned him, because I was in no mood to hold back anything, currently meeting this man where he was by allowing him to pour me a bourbon on the rocks as well. Now anything was fair game, as I don’t drink hard liquor…ever.
So the questions began. Yoga is about questioning everything. Jnana yoga is to use the mind to go beyond the mind. To sharpen our intellect through self-study. In the Indian text, The Bhagavad Gita, it is the vulnerability of the warrior, Arjuna, and his asking questions to his teacher, Krishna, that creates the mystical moment of union. They become one from going deep into this question and answer session together on the context of love, admiration, vulnerability and complete honesty.
My friend on the airplane confided in me over the loss of his love(divorce), what it is like to be a man(just wanting to do the right thing), an innovator(being good at a job that nobody else can do), and seeking something more(begin true to oneself). I listened, speaking intermittently.. as he affirmed, “That is what my therapists says.”
And then I asked him something that I have asked a few of my type A students, coming to me in a crisis of feeling “stuck.” A question that creates a bit of an “existential crisis.”
“What if you were running a race and someone told you that there was no finish line?” “what would you do?”
He smiled charmingly and scrambled for the right answer, as quickly as possible. He gave me an answer that I hadn’t heard before. He said, “I would find someone to make up the finish line with, and we would run it together.”
My heart sank, being a hope-less romantic. I would not be defeated, so I talked about fantasy, and how that is what we are all doing, just running races that we are making up, instead of waking up, and seeing clearly. I continued to ask questions letting him know that his answer was not sufficient for what he was dealing with, because it was time to ditch the old habits and begin to see things with clear eyes. To stop doing everything for everyone else and follow his dharma!
This moment was about him, and this is what he needed to hear.
He refuted to my passionate statement regarding him standing up and making change, by stating, “It must be wonderful ..being so perfect” and “Don’t you ever get angry and argue.” Which I thought we were already doing, so I replied..still with heightened senses and volume from the 1/2 glass of liquor.. “Yes, I embrace argument! It is a sign of intimacy!”
…to which he responded “How many more hours do I have to sit next to you? How did you end up here? Where is that other guy?(we call these less useful questions in yoga)… followed by, “There is a seat for you on the fucking wing!”
I must have gotten through to him. It was at this point we yoked..not like that.. you dirty minds.
He told me he was going to pass out for a bit.
As he slept…I wrote, ate, and started reading a book that always sends me into tears.
He woke up to me crying, got me some tissues, brought me back almonds after spilling mine all over the place, and a sprite apologizing, because of course the “Ayurveda Health Counselor Yogini” doesn’t drink pop.. But he didn’t want to come back empty handed.
I have many male students, my partner being one of them, and it has made me a very strong woman, but I still crave being taken care of by a man. I enjoy the soft surrender of what it means to me to be a woman, on one plane, with the gesture of a man wanting to take care of you. Even though this was one of his “issues” meeting one of mine. It was comforting, and we were a hot mess together. Another quality of intimacy in relationship, is to witness each other at our highest points and lowest points and still see the potential and love that holds it all together.
We didn’t really speak much after he told me to find a seat on the fucking wing, but here we sat.. still vulnerable, digesting what just happens when two strangers talk too much about everything that matters and doesn’t. Every relationship deserves this kind of vulnerability. Relationships end when there is a power struggle, because charity and compassion end with them. Charity and compassion are the sutra, or wick in the lamp that keeps the light burning.
Never give your power away, but surrender to one another just enough that our ideas, values, and beliefs can be shaped to meet the moment, rather than some rigid idea of what they are “supposed to be.” True power can only exist in the context of true compassion, and moment to moment action. Intimacy comes when we…almost loose ourselves.
We said an awkward goodbye with our jet-lagged remains,slight hangover in our bodies, and morning-after look in our eyes. There was really no need for goodbyes… I said what he needed to hear and he said what I needed to hear. And I believe that we left each other feeling more like a man, and more like a woman.
His response to “my question” about the race has stuck with me. In my pursuit for self knowledge I can forget why I would want to obtain true power and knowledge in the first place.
It is all for you. It is so that I can share it with you. So that we can make up our own finish line and run it together.