Exploring the Interior
Touring the Womb
by Maggie Lyon
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by Jennifer Esperanza
How often in our overflowing lives do we give our true attention to the quality of what is happening inside of us?
This piece is about precisely that: the process of slowing down, turning inward, and experiencing quiet. I like to imagine this act as a serene drawing closed of lovely substantial curtains, that when open, face onto a shining exterior landscape, but when shut redirect our gaze to a softer more nuanced interior.
Early last month, as I do every year on my birthday, I gave myself the gift of being contemplative and sitting for the entire afternoon. This also interestingly coincided with a terrible sinus infection, where I’d lost all sense of taste and smell. Not only did sitting practice create an invitation in, but too the absence of these vivid sense organs further embossed my withdrawal, an elective withdrawal from the bombastic cacophony of the surface.
In Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar demonstrates Sanmukhi Mudra, a seated posture where the fingers of the hands are pressed into the ears, eyes, nose, and upper lip as seals, encouraging the practitioner to peer within, and break with reliance on the senses. This posture is alternately called Parangmukhi Mudra, a name Iyengar defines as facing inward, or Yoni Mudra that is translated as the sealing of the womb or source. He goes on to say, “The senses are turned inwards…this brings a feeling of inner peace and one hears the divine voice within, ‘Look here! Look within! Not outside, for the source of all peace is within yourself!’”
This fostering of the inner body yields deep tranquility, and offers shelter from our sensory-laden worlds. Simpler even, is the wrapping of the head that we often see in restorative yoga, the pliant band imposing respite for our wildly overworking minds, while our bodies in turn rest.
These practices are also in keeping with Buddhism’s Heart Sutra, where emptiness, or what some link to the energetic state at the end of a complete exhale, is detailed in part as “no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind,” and when chanted in the zendo is rapturous and mimetic. But why again this sink, this chosen recoil from the sexy neon confrontational pop of the physical world? In short, beautiful calm.
The first blog I ever wrote was called Touching Stillness, and now years later, my plea is an adorned, amplified version of this initial offering. What I mean to encourage today is the revelation that occurs after touch down, once we step into our centers, and choose to stay for a while. We start to look around, to explore our at once unique and universal sacredness. In other words, we take roost in and rekindle our own divine wombs.
What is equally fascinating, while I grow more interior-minded, is watching my world-hungry 15-month-old daughter take her determined and effervescent journey in clear reverse rotation. First, she went from avidly nursing to avidly pulling away. Next, she went from facing me belly to belly in her sling, to kicking until she got to pivot around, followed by the same struggle with her stroller, all from in to out.
Over and over, she demands profound draws, cavernous swigs of life, of the bright colorful setting, the pulsing air, and all the wonder there is to behold; the feast of it all. She is indeed thirsty for sensory stimuli, and it is her right. I smile at her magnetic gravitation to windows. I laugh with delight when she presses her face up to the glass, marveling at, literally kissing, and looking to merge with the world outside.
As fresh as she is to all this, I am many years and many tired dramas ahead of, or more accurately, behind her. In paradox, I’ve let her wide-eyed curiosity cue me to retreat from my not so pure outer attachments and to retrace her evolutionary steps.
I urge you to conjure such retraction as well. The voluntary exodus from out to in becomes an essential part of our daily routines, and not only on our birthdays, or when things get out of hand, and we are pushed to the brink from exhaustion. We could all use, as spirited women on our paths, to gently disengage. For spells, we could all use to re-submerge, and tour the less glaring, swishing, rhythmic chamber of the womb.
Maggie Lyon is a writer on wellness and spirituality, and a holistic lifestyle consultant. Hailing from Northern California, Maggie first studied Feminist Studies with Bettina Aptheker at UC Santa Cruz before transferring to Mills College where she graduated with a BA in Creative Writing. In 2002, she earned her Masters Degree in Education from Teachers College, Columbia. A practicing Zen Buddhist and Iyengar yoga practitioner since the age of 16, Maggie also drew on her training in nutrition, intuitive healing, energy medicine, and natural health to found Lyon Lifestyle in 2009. She is devoted to supporting women in connecting inwardly, empowering themselves, and thereby transforming their lives. Along with her monthly blogs, Maggie also writes regularly for Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation. A mother of two young children, Maggie lives and practices quietly in New York City. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @MaggieLyon .