“I love you. I love you. I love you.” – you to some part of you (or you to someone else)

“It works best if you DO it.” -a student

It’s December and as many of you know, this is the month that I lead what I call the “I Love You” practice, and you can read more about what “I love you” means in this blog from last year. In case you don’t know about this yet, it’s very simple. In class, or in your physical yoga practice, it means that when in any pose, to whatever is getting your focus at any given moment, you give the energy, the feeling, the attitude, the perspective, and even the words: “I love you. I love you. I love you.” One of the reasons behind this practice is to create a very safe, loving, friendly environment inside in which to do the important inner work of real Yoga, as opposed to simply exercising and getting a workout.

You may have guessed that I do it at this time of year specifically for several reasons. One is that, this being the dark time of the year, it’s one way to bring some serious light to the inner world and thus to the outer world since they can’t really be separated. We spend time, energy and money on outside lights which I enjoy and is festive and fun and beautiful (though sometimes excessive and wasteful), but to me it is insufficient to simply put a veneer of light, to light simply the surface, or just to light the outside, when really it’s the INSIDE that so desperately needs the light. Nature is just fine with it getting darker at this time of year, obviously. It’s US that need the light.

I also lead this practice at this time of the year partly because, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a lot of people have more interaction with their family of birth than at other times. For many people, this is a wonderful thing, but for many others this is a huge challenge at best to stay loving, centered and focused on what they WANT to focus on. This inner practice on the mat can help us stay more loving and grounded in our true self and not buy in too heavily to others’ thoughts and perceptions/imaginations. It also works well when applied to OTHERS, silently and repeatedly thinking “I love you, I love you, I love you…” mentally directed toward other people, even those who present personal challenges, family or otherwise. After the fact, several people have told me what they consider as miracle stories of challenging relationships changing unexpectedly for the better after they did it for some time, even in one case changing a decades-old negative family situation. And you don’t have to tell them that you are doing it for it to work; in fact, in many if not all cases, it would be BAD to tell them you were doing it.

Though it’s a very simple practice, it is not necessarily an easy practice for many people. One woman each year for a bunch of years, has told me that it makes her angry when I lead it, but at least now when she shares that, the anger is in the past tense, which is, of course, progress. And she is not the only one. Over about 12 years that I’ve guided this annually, quite a few have expressed their (initial) strong dislike of this practice, though without exception of those, all have over years made self-admitted progress and in some cases, even getting to actually feeling/experiencing/giving love!

The reason for any negative reaction is that this simple practice is very confronting to the opposite voice in there. The inner critic, of course, for many, has a LOT of practice and is fairly content with being the preferred lens through which the Innermost Self views the world and the self. In general, it won’t let go of its feeling of power and authority very quickly or easily. When we confront it with an opposite voice, a necessity if we are to move beyond it to a deeper Truth, resistance may show up. If we can keep loving, keep thinking, and if possible, feeling “I love you” to whatever is showing up, then we are building our inner power AND our ability to love in all circumstances.

Here’s where we get to the above quote from the student. She so humbly and honestly said one day in class when I asked for questions or comments on the practice, “I’ve been coming to class very sporadically for about 7 years now, and today I realized that it works best when you DO it. Up till now, I thought it was just a mental exercise.” I loved her honesty and insight into the practice which to me indicates her awareness and progress in the practice. I figure that the practice may at times need to start as simply a mental practice which will in due time wipe away enough of the opposite voice and then reveal that the sentiment/words can actually be EXPERIENCED/felt and not just thought. I’ve been saying in class recently that if you are doing the practice and doing it doesn’t have you change what you are doing in the poses, or how you are doing them, at least from time to time, then it means either that your love is perfected… OR you are on autopilot and have allowed an opposite thought to dominate, a thought such as “I’m willing to SAY love you, but I really just want the pose to be this other way!” or “I love you, but I would love you MORE if you were as I think you should be.”

After that woman shared her observation, I started reflecting on how many things that statement, “It works best when you DO it,” applies to: basically anything that we already know would be good for ourselves or others! This being the end of the year and time to think about New Year’s resolutions, which I’ve written about before, I might suggest you joining me in contemplating what in your life or your mind would work best if you actually DID it, if you took it from the thinking-about-it realm to the doing-it realm? It’s possible it was the first thought in your mind when you just read that. That’s how it works: our Innermost Self KNOWS the best actions for us to take, always, though the mind often makes it difficult to hear that deep inner guidance.

“I love you” is, I think, a very important practice because it can help us move powerfully toward the perfecting of “our” Love and will inevitably reveal where we are blocking the flow and the guidance of Love. The practice is important because when we finally get quiet in ourself, the obvious Truth dawns that IT (whatever “it” is) is all about Love, it’s ALL LOVE, and that ultimately we are made of Love, we ARE Love and that we live in Love. Those words, though, in the end are meaningless if we don’t experience the Truth of them for ourselves, so feel free to use them for inspiration to check out their truth or just chuck ‘em and focus on the “I love you” practice and all your other good efforts for a long time without break and in all earnestness, to quote Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (I.14).