Getting to know the sangha within myself during a session with Leo

the cozy golden corner

I am floating in a golden ocean, the waves my beating heart, floating without effort. I am held by the earth, love, the loving presence of my own body, and Leo. There is nothing to say, just to float in this cozy corner of home, soaking in the rays of the warm sun streaming in from double-paned windows. I am loved. I am welcome. I have the right to be here. I am touched by everything.

Moments earlier, I danced across the wooden floor, a phoenix rising, a monarch butterfly. Making space for the energy of play to manifest in movement, spinning, leaping, blooming, crawling, lying facedown on the snuggly carpet. I am a miracle in constant change. My body is a miracle arriving home to play.

I am my anger and impatience at the tangle of sensations in my body arising when I consider partnership. I am the soft and loving presence that arises to meet this anger, watches it transform into a sense of loss. Fear of being lost, without anchor or home.

I become a raincloud searching for its home, wandering the sky (are you my home? are you my home?) and the raincloud that knows it will soon become rain, the tea in the cup, sewer water. Nothing pure or impure, changing form as conditions arise and fall. The relative nature of this body settling into the formlessness of interbeing. I am not lost in the ultimate dimension.

I contain multitudes, the sangha within myself convening for a boisterous, lively first meeting on the nature of partnership. My anger wants to be heard, my confusion, now my anger at my confusion. Everyone has a turn speaking their truth into the room, there is no cross-talk, each piece tries to practice deep listening and loving speech. No piece is right or wrong, or needs to solve their problem today. The voices in attendance include:

  • Fear that this session with Leo will end without a resolution, coming full circle
  • The part of me that wants to run away from the difficulty of relationship
  • My exhaustion at gender roles, men that don’t take responsibility for their own emotions, men that are dangerous (seriously FUCK OFF)
  • My intuition that women are cozy and home-y
  • My desire to have partnership and family with another person
  • My confusion over my sexual fluidity
  • My sexual attraction to men and uncertainty about attraction to women
  • An observation that my perceptions of men and women (and their gender roles) are coupled to the relationship of my parents I saw growing up
  • My delight at Leo meeting me (and the cozy golden corner)
  • My delight at me meeting myself
  • My happiness as I am
  • My anger and impatience at this mess
  • My numbness, the tender vulnerability underneath it, and the fear of enmeshment in relationship
  • My fear that I am not "pretty enough" or "interesting enough" to be attractive to another person
  • My fear of aging. Part of me resents growing older because of the "expectation" that I should have found a partner already. I didn't agree to this expectation, society. Fuck off.

At first, the pieces are separate, hiding, ignored, but I invite them all into a circle for sharing. Everyone will have a turn to speak their truth. It is a packed meeting. The exhaustion wanders in from the cold, the confusion stops huddling in the closet, my delight ushers the rest in. Come sit with me, my friends. You are all welcome and safe here. I love you.

When everyone has gathered and shared their truth, a new message from Delight arises.

Tread lightly and play.

Don’t take this situation or life too seriously, dear one. What if you are not a problem to be solved? Maybe the right person will help you to untangle the knots, will greet each member of your sangha with an open and loving hand. Will honor and bow to the confusion, doubt, fear, anger inside of you, and celebrate them alongside the joy, clarity, bravery, vision. You can do the same.

Maybe this person will share the practice, will deepen your understanding of interbeing so that being with them is an expansion of you, not an contraction. Maybe they will delight in your path, from California to London to Paris to Vienna to New York to Palestine, back, forth, adding new places as ideas and people arise.

Maybe this person will take their time, like you, have their own dreams for the world, like you. Maybe they will know how to speak gently and forgive easily, how to take care of their own anger and confusion without blaming you for it. Maybe they will love you as you are, without you needing to do or say anything.

Can you imagine that such a person exists?

Yes, I can – and surprisingly, I can think of one person who could be this person. I am cautious not to project or assume, but perhaps I will check when I’m back in California. I don’t feel afraid with this person, I feel calm and spacious, curious, playful. The possibility feels fresh, new, alive, scary.

I am willing to explore and reach for things that I currently believe are impossible.

Today, I opened my heart to this possibility of romantic relationship, after dwelling in fear and numbness for the last two years. My story has deep roots: I don't want to make a mistake, hurt another person, fall into patterns of longing and disappointment like I did over years with Scott. I am still nursing tenderness, shame, and an aversion to the churning uncertainty of this past relationship, and the others before it. The sensation in my body is much like the earlier exploration of dangerous men: force in my arms and hands saying loudly, fuck off. I don't want the emotional burden or pain of what came before. FUCK OFF.

What is romantic relationship? My intellectual brain says, a partnership with spiritual, emotional, and physical/sexual intimacy. There must be a physical/sexual piece, for spiritual and emotional intimacy can also be found in deep friendship. There must be a shared sense of partnership: a pair of individuals meeting the world together, committed to bearing witness to the other in beauty and sorrow. There must be commitment and spaciousness to make mistakes, fail each other, and to come back together out of love and faith.

Is there a tenderness in my body for this kind of relationship, one that is kind, gentle, safe? Yes, the tendrils of hope are growing green in the golden field.

A guide to accessing my own power

I did not know who I would meet entering Leo’s house today, if I would be able to access my own power. I asked myself yesterday what might help and ideas rose easily.

  • I can remind myself of my own capacity to calm my body, inviting in the breath, grounding, guided meditation, sensory exercises. I can take a break, sip my tea, turn to see the sky. I can use what I teach and practice to calm myself.
  • I can embody calm and dignity, drawing upon memory and imagination to activate body sensations. Yesterday, I imagined myself as the Buddha facing the demon Mara with solidity and love, declaring to all beings their right to be here. In other moments, I've imagined myself in the Buddha garden at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, watching a sea of humans emerge from the forest.
  • I can give myself permission to be myself. Today I celebrated wearing a hoodie sweatshirt, my hair in a ponytail, putting on and then washing off my makeup. Just getting dressed felt like a hug of self-acceptance today. I am who I am, this is what I look like. I am not a woman dressing for a man. There is no need to cover up my face for Leo’s sake.
  • I can water my own flowers. I am so proud of my efforts on Tamkeen and Carefree: both feel like sources of nourishment and power in this moment.  
  • I can quantify my trust in Leo to the following: I trust him to fulfill his agreements to me. If there is something I’d like to trust him on that goes beyond what’s already written, I can propose a new agreement and see if he’s willing to agree. Agreements are the ground of stability in our coaching relationship, enabling me to rise into my own power.
  • I can give voice to my own anger and difficulty in a loving, curious way, speaking from my own experience. Leo is capable of handling his own response. I do not always need to reconcile the difficulty of past sessions in this one; I can voice my processing without getting caught in its shadow.

I am a powerful being capable of stepping into my own truth.
I have powerful questions and content within me.
I delight in play, dance, and body movement.
I can say fuck off to things that don't serve me.

Sangha within myself