Apprenticeship to Love: Daily Meditation, Inspirations, and Practices for Authentic Relationships, August 18, 2023

• Today’s question: How do you want to change? And, how will you allow yourself to be changed?
• Today's suggested practice: Day 17 of this month's practice, to practice for yourself, your wants, the things you yearn for (see my "Short Practice to Relieve Anxiety,” below)
• My practice: 5am: 75 minutes: Yogic postures, Pranayama for a Calm Heart
• My vulnerability practice: To trust her to be herself, to support her in being herself: always changing, without limits to her whimsy, her wants...

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~Rev. Hans Peter Meyer


First, echoing Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, let me wish you a Happy Elul!

It's the month before Rosh Hashana. In this month we practice what Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg "repentance and repair." Not as punishment, but as a calling to become ourselves.

I'm not of the tribe of Israel, and right now don't feel a desire to become one of the tribe. But I'm always curious about these other traditions that co-exist with the one I've been raised in and the one I've chosen to practice. And especially as the provide seasonal or calendrical foci for practice. So, this year, on August 18, this month of repentance and repair begins. Enjoy!
How many years have we been wondering, and wandering? Millenia upon millenia. The result: a cornucopia of what one teacher calls "wisdom traditions."

I was raised in a variant of the "Christian" wisdom tradition. Not one I'm very much identified with these days. But still, there's always something interesting to remember or be re-introduced to, along with so much —I'm not even sure how to describe it with words: Junk? Crap? Sh*t?

What I've found most useful for me is to begin with my body. Interestingly, it was my mother who introduced me to yoga via the TV yoga she used to practice when I was a child. My sister and I would join her in her various contortions, and these stuck with me. Some of them. Later, my first long-term GF introduced me to the book by the TV yoga lady, and that really stuck. Not as a "spiritual practice," but as a way to "fix" this already-at-21 bent and broken body. Slowly I began to notice the "other" benefits of daily practice: calm, peace in the midst of storms (most of them in my own mind).

Reading Rabbi Ruttenberg's invitation to this month of repentance and repair I am reminded of my own attraction to Stephen Jenkinson's words on regret, and the necessity of revisiting the "stones of regret" we gather at the edges of the field of our lives. Not to burden ourselves with guilt (as the good Rabbi warns against), but to remember, and do better. Perhaps, to do what our true selves knew all along was the right way, the better way.
What if this whole life was lived as a courtship? And what if our whole marriage were lived as courtship?

I teach my tango students this lesson: Everything is interpretation and improvisation; our desire for "moves" and templates and guides —all of this is our effort to escape from the deep beauty that stands before us in this moment.

This is true for tango. It's true for life.

It's not that there are no regrets. There are. But my inevitable "failures" in life and in tango are the building blocks for my particular art, as a man, as a dancer. Especially as a husband. This is the path of husbandry, absolutely: we do not know what flowers will blossom, or how they will blossom. We have ideas about this. Best guesses. The picture on the seed package. Experience. Etc. But every seed has its own story, its own unfolding. And so every woman. And every child. And every man. And, every moment.
Our beliefs lead to our actions. They aren't always what we want our actions to be —I do have regrets about how I've been. I do know failure. And even abject failure.

Reluctantly, in whatever wisdom this life is affording me, I've come to acknowledge that my actions always have consequences. Sometimes, more often than I'd like to say, these consequences have included harm, hurt, to others. Not intended. But there it is: harm is is one of the almost inevitable fruits of working in this garden of life. Perhaps the Jains, who "will not hurt a fly," to make a caricature of their beliefs and ways, perhaps they come closest to a life without harm. I don't know. I've only read about them. It seems a hard, though noble, way to live.

I'm less pure about my being in the world. Bugs matter less to me than my own comfort (though the science is beginning to tell me that bugs matter much more to my well-being, and certainly the well-being of my grandchildren, than I'm comfortable with). In my life, I've come to accept if not acknowledge that harm is always near at hand, as an inevitable consequence for the way I choose to live.

So I accept my harmful presence in this life. But I still resist acknowledging it (we'll eventually get to repentance and repair, maybe not today).

My model for resistance is my father. Dear dad. A beautiful and flawed figure who I both blame for most of my own flaws, and who I sometimes celebrate as the source of so much capacity for joy, laughter —and singing and dancing in my life.

My father is a profound example to me of how to resist the consequences of being privileged in this society, ie. as a white, European man the heir to so much cultural wealth and power in this world. Becoming sensitive to this life as others might experience it, that is, to me, what a big part of our work —and especially as white, Euro-centric (and I include most of the colonial Americas in this Euro-centrism) men— is in this world.

I invite my men students in yoga and tango to begin to feel into the beloved who is before them. This is magic work, beyond most men's reasoning. So we practice magic: breathwork, meditation, postures, all of it designed to re-set our nervous systems, recalibrate our intuitive capacities, "open" our energetic bodies. This is the poetry of our dance together. This is how we get past the reluctance and resistance of our fathers and grandfathers and the millennia upon millennia of men who've raised us to be stiff and unfeeling, to not know the wisdom of the feminine in our own bodies, nevermind the wisdom of her body. To become at least sensitive to this poetry, and "feel into" her, as one teacher repeats and repeats and repeats.

This is the work of repitition. Subtle practices. Like the revisiting of regrets. Not meant to weight us. Meant to free us. By feeling others' pain. By beginning to know others' experience. Putting aside my father's resistance and opening to acknowlege both my privilege, and my power to —yes, again and again and again— create and hold the safe spaces for Her to move, to be know.
Waking to who I am as a man. Being gifted with the experience of being a husbandman to a garden, and to a strange and beautiful relationship. To build on this devotion to her blossoming a way of being that at least acknowledges the harm I've done, the harm I may always do, and to deepen myself.
I understand that today we begin the month of what is known in the Jewish wisdom tradition as Elul. I've always felt that my year begins in this season of late summer, immediately after my own birth date. Always a season of opening, often terrible and terrifying opening. And now, thanks to the good Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, I begin to understand it and experience it as a season of repentace and repair, of becoming a truer man. Significantly, this is about allowing myself to receive, rather than willing myself to be changed. Like the garden, the season and Her ways transform me. Whether I allow or not. The only difference is that, with some years of experience in resistance and reluctance, I am beginning to allow myself to be more.


🌀Higher consciousness is this individual spirit [atma] with a mission and purpose, and it dreams of this with the heart. Powered by the soul, your life seeks this awareness —when it connects you discover ‘destiny’ . . . a life lived on purpose. (Guru Singh & Guruperkarma Kaur)

🌀Happy Elul! It's the beginning of the month preceding Rosh Hashana, and high season for the work of tshuvah, typically translated as "repentance." But of course it's more nuanced than that....
This work is deep and profound and it's about coming home to yourself. And it's not just for this season. But it is for this season. (Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg)

🌀You are beautiful. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren)


Day 17 of this month's practice:
Please read through first, then ...
Today, set a time —at least three minutes, perhaps 11— when you can be alone and in stillness.
• Stand or sit or lie, with a beautiful and straight spine, firm but relaxed, feeling your feet or your sit bones or hips heavy and connected to the earth;
• Close your eyes;
• Inhale deeply into your belly, letting it become soft and round;
• Exhale by gently and slowly, much more slowly than your inhale, pressing your navel to your spine,
• And listen to my guidance on this month's practice:

When you’re done, stand or sit or lie for another minute and breathe gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself: How do you want to change? And, how will you allow yourself to be changed?
Notice if your body-mind feels somehow changed. And whether you notice a change or not, be content with yourself, exactly as you are in this moment.
Continue with your day, open to the gifts it brings.


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