Recently, I went out for lunch with a friend whom I hadn’t met in a long time. The food was good but not really much on our minds after we got started. Mostly we just sat with each other catching up on what had happened since last we saw each other and what was going on now.
After the usual warm-up of polite phrases, I shared with him about my recent 1-month silent yoga retreat. “A NadiPrana retreat, you know”, I said – and of course, he didn’t. “It’s a Buddhist form of yoga. It’s more about awareness, about exploring your feelings and sensations, or about fully noticing your inner landscape rather than about postures.”
This fascinated him. He explained that he had been doing yoga himself regularly for some time now, and immediately went on asking me about what I thought yoga actually meant and if he was doing it right. “What are you feeling when you are doing it?” I asked, “That’s the thing, the key to everything, the link that connects you and your life to asana practice.” He frowned, “This is news to me. My teacher only talks about postures and breathing and nothing more.”
I went on, “For me, yoga is much more than that. It is fantastic to do the postures and breathing exercises, but beyond that yoga is meditation, focusing on it actually allows you to sense the breath flow through the entire body, allows you to feel how it feels when the entire body becomes like a limitless field of awareness. Some call this the non-dual state, or enlightenment, or samadhi… But, never mind the big words. It all starts right here, with me – or with you.”
There appeared the frown again, a questioning look in his eyes, “Nobody talks about these things where I learn yoga. Like there is this constant inner dialogue in me, this ceaseless stream of thoughts. This is not addressed in my classes. For years I have this fight going on in myself, but I never mention it when I talk to my teacher.”
I shrugged, “Most people, including many yoga teachers have no clue as to how to deal with these matters, so they do not talk about it.”
After this he totally opened up and almost blurted out, “You know what, I ever told you, but I’m gay.”
The revelation did not have much of an effect on me although it was news. I would have never figured. But, where I’m coming from, someone ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ is not an issue. I told him as much, “What is it to me? To me you’re still the friend you always were. I don’t have to have an opinion about your sexual life, do I – except for the simple insight that whatever is, is?” He said that many people did have an opinion and were judgmental, and that he had been very uncomfortable when he first noticed his preference because of society. But now, he added, “I’m much more comfortable, since I have accepted myself and can openly talk about it. Earlier I feared that my friends would leave me when they found out that I was gay. But since I have accepted myself I have not lost any friends and often they have come to my help instead.”
Talking about self-acceptance and how being genuine with one’s emotions and feelings is the key to being happy with one’s life made me mention how much bringing this quality of genuineness out in others, is a part of my work when I teach courses in Ayurvedic massage. “Really?”, a quizzical look appeared in his eyes. I ventured on, “It’s just like with teaching yoga, if you want your students to be good at what they are doing and yoga have a real impact in their lives, you have to show them more than techniques. You have to support them to be real to themselves and to others, to stop lying to themselves, like the classic ‘that everything is okay, when it actually isn’t’.” “What do you mean?”, he said. “That when you are in the healing professions, you need to feel through and understand your own emotions and feelings in order to be a true professional. Only then will you not be blindsided by your clients’ evasions and little white lies. Only then can you help them discover the key to their health for themselves and feeling good about themselves and their lives, right. You need to be good in terms of your technique and you need to be self-accepting – so much so that you can accept others the way they are and then help them.” – “I’m not so sure if I’m getting all of what you’re hinting at”, he interjected. “You actually said it yourself when you mentioned how you were eventually accepting yourself as a gay man, and how this self-acceptance made others accept you as you are, and actually supporting you rather than criticizing you. That’s what I mean needs to happen to the people in my classes, if they want to become good therapists, and my goal is to support them in that. They need to go through some kind of transformation, in their own time and on their own terms.”
As I said, it was a good lunch: a real meeting with a friend, and genuine meeting of the minds. And yes, of course, we enjoyed our food, too.