How a Fear of Intimacy was Sabotaging My Intimate Relationships

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Forty Days of Heart-Opening Kriya
See all articles in the Forty Days of Heart-Opening Kriya series here.

Fear of intimacy lives in the heart... opening into Lotus Mudra

Fear of intimacy lives in the heart… opening into Lotus Mudra

by Kara-Leah Grant, Musings from the Mat

On August 18 I started a forty day Heart-Opening Kriya. I’d just started a new relationship and wanted to support the opening of the heart as much as I could.

That initial commitment to 40 days extended out to 90 days, and finally 120 days – and I finished on Sunday December 15.

It was an extraordinary time for me, for many reasons, but I wanted to share with you the major result – if you want to call it that – of this practice.

I finally got down to the roots of an old childhood wound which has been at the heart of all my relationships.

Here’s an in-the-moment inside look at this process, written in November when this all unfolded.


I’m going through an intense excavation right now. It’s bloody hard work – fortunately, after nine years or so of learning to face into the dissolving of my psyche and the release of long-buried emotions, I’m well-trained in the process.

This doesn’t make it any easier though. Today was difficult. I feel awful – depressed, irritated, itchy to be anywhere but here. It’s a glorious spring day in Glenorchy. A rare, still, spring day. There’s no better place or time to be alive. Yet I itch to be anywhere but here. Here of course is inside me. That’s where I don’t want to be. It’s got nothing to do with the outside surrounds at all.

It began with my relationship.

We hit our first major conflict or issue and – for the first time in my relationship history – faced squarely into the issue, shared our concerns, listened to each other, and came up with a strategic plan to deal with this issue. We sailed on through to a brand new level, a place I’d never before been in a relationship.

Awesome right?

Well yes, totally. We spent a few weeks of ever-deepening intimacy. This was extraordinary.

But as with computer games, when you finally fight your way through to the next level… yes you gain points and maybe a new life or two, plus the kudos for being champion of the last level. Now, on a new level, the landscape is different, and so too are the challenges.

All those old demons that you finally got the hang of and conquered – gone. In their place, new demons, with new disguises and new defences.

So too in relationship – or at least in this relationship.

Ever-deepening intimacy soon meant that I hit a brand new demon – something that I’ve never come up against. Plus, I’d noticed that I was using alcohol to create false intimacy and decided to stop drinking. I threw away my crutch.

These two factors lined up – deepening intimacy, no crutches, no-where to hide. Oh, and I just remembered a third factor – the heart-opening kriya I’m currently using as a sadhana (daily yoga practice).



I took a break to make dinner.

I came back.

I avoided writing.

Writing is a way for me to help this excavation process – to go inside myself instead of flee up into my head. When I’m avoiding writing, there’s definitely big stuff going on!

After dinner, I came back and used Facebook to flee. I knew what I was doing, but still I scrolled though, anything to stay distracted from this pain and hurt in my heart.

Until I came across an Upworthy post – photos a husband took of his wife as she was dying of cancer. Those I stopped at.

That will work, I thought.

I looked at those photos and my own tears started to fall. I’m crying now as I write this. Why? I don’t even know. Samuel’s Dad used to mock me when this happened – when something when trigger these long buried tears that I have. I’d be sobbing and sobbing and he would jeer at me:

You don’t even know why you’re crying.

As if there was something wrong with me because of that. As if it made the tears worthless. As if it made me worthless. No I don’t know why I’m crying, but I’ve known all day that those tears were there, that they were coming.

I woke up in a lousy mood. I woke up depressed, I woke up irritated. I woke up wanting to be anywhere but here when there is nothing wrong with here at all.

This isn’t the beginning of this excavation though. That started last week. Almost two weeks ago actually, on a Sunday afternoon.

I’d just spent two days with Leighton, two days of deepening intimacy.

We were leaving a friend’s house and something small triggered in him and the easy intimacy we’d shared all weekend evaporated and a gulf opened up. It didn’t last long – whatever had been triggered inside of Leighton, he didn’t react outwardly, he didn’t dump on me. He went quiet and worked through whatever it was and all was well again within five minutes.

Yet… although I didn’t know it at the time, it triggered something deep inside of me.


It didn’t start then.

It started before the weekend.

It started with a voice in my head that said – I kid you not –

‘You don’t need a relationship.’

I heard this voice, and I recognised it. It was the same voice that piped up on Day Three of a silent meditation retreat I did in 2009. Then it had said:

‘You’re past all this – you don’t need silent meditation’.

Back then, I hadn’t recognise it as the voice of the ego and had bought into it – believed it – for a day or two. this time, I recognised the tone & timbre straight away and I laughed.

I don’t need this relationship? I’ve spent my entire life yearning after this kind of open, honest, loving and caring relationship. Why would I think that? Who was thinking that? What was thinking that?

I could sense in that moment that there were subtle forces at work within me, forces of self-sabotage.

I made a mental note to stay alert for their inroads into my head. Fast-forward again to the Monday after the weekend.

I’m on the phone and I boldly ask Leighton about what triggered him in the car on Sunday afternoon. I say boldly because usually I’m afraid to ask direct questions like that. I usually avoid going into the prickly aspects of relationship, averting my eyes until it’s too late and the issue has exploded in my face.

This time around, I’m determined to face squarely into everything, so I was proud of myself when I asked.

What I didn’t know at the time was I’d already gone into a subtle form of ego defence – call it the Spiritual Bypass if you like.

See, in my head, when Leighton was thrown off balance on Sunday afternoon I labelled him as not Present enough for me. I was already pushing him away based on this idea that I had. During our 45 minute conversation, I distanced myself from him more and more based on this idea I had about him not being Present enough.

Wednesday rolls around and I go to Leighton’s for lunch. Again, I push the issue from Sunday. I ask him what the ego means to him, what waking up means, I confuse him with a determination to nail down all these concepts so we can know exactly what we’re talking about.

The conversation doesn’t end well.

He’s more confused and frustrated, and I’m more righteous than ever.


The voice declares with glee.

 ‘He doesn’t know what I’m talking about. He’s not capable of holding these kinds of conversations, he’s not right for me.’

In the midst of all this though, there’s a wiser part of me. That part is asking…

How do I know what’s true here? Am I caught in a subtle ego game all of my own? Is this another layer? Is this more defence?

I discuss the issue with my flatmate and best friend, asking them, what’s going on? Am I seeing clearly, or am I stuck in a pattern? My best friend shrugs;

Just keep showing up. You’ll know.

Friday, I do just that. I go see Leighton again. Walking in the door he grins and his whole body lights up in pleasure at seeing me. My entire being responds. I note this. My mind I may not trust, but my body never lies.

We walk, and talk. Mundane things mostly, the connection is still strong. This looks good.

We take a seat by the river and get down to business. What happened Sunday? What happened in the conversations on Monday and Wednesday? Leighton goes first and I focus on just listening – no internal dialogue, no judgement, no ideas… just listening. He’s obviously taken time to contemplate and he does a great job of sharing what his experience of our interactions has been like and what it’s felt like for him.

He finished and we sit, watching the river. I feel into my body. I watch my mind. I watch the river. More time goes by. Finally I say:

I’m contemplating what you’ve said. I don’t want to just jump in and be reactive.

As I speak I feel emotion rising in my body. In that instance I know that the entire week I have been in a subtle ego defence.

All the story I’d been spinning about Leighton not being spiritual enough, present enough, conversant enough in spiritual lingo… it  was just story.

As I feel into the rising emotion, words come to me, words from the truth of my being, not from the spinning of my mind.

I realise that after such an intimate weekend, the flash of disconnect in the car felt incredibly frightening. It felt like it came out of the blue, and could strip the intimate togetherness away forever in an instant. It was deep, deep fear that has arisen in me on Sunday and I had kept it at bay with the spinning of my mind.

Tears fall. The distance between Leighton and I fade and we sit arm in arm watching the river, connected and open again. No stories or mind getting in the way.

But this was only the beginning. The deep fear that arose that Sunday has lived with me since childhood – a fear that those you love most can disappear in a heart-beat and you’ll have no idea it’s coming. It had finally begun to surface.

This fear has created a self-sabotaging defeatist pattern that has hijacked every long-term relationship I’ve ever had.

I’ve longed for deep intimacy and I’ve been deeply afraid of deep intimacy.

So I’ve chosen men incapable of being intimate with me, for a few reasons. Now, for the first time ever, after all the work I’ve done on myself, I’ve chosen a man who appears capable of deep emotional intimacy and willing to go there with me. I can’t hide anymore.

Saturday, Leighton came out to stay with me in Glenorchy. At this stage, I’m in a strange holding pattern. I know there’s this deep pattern arising, and it’s likely why I’ve been pushing Leighton away and it’s likely why my mind has been spinning these stories about why he’s not the man for me.

But I’m still now 100% sure.

Maybe he’s not.

This creates this push/pull dynamic between us all afternoon.

I can feel this shell around me – a desire to protect myself and pull away.

Yet when I relax and let my mind stop, I open and melt into him. I’m also aware of the space and understanding that Leighton gives me, allowing me to be in this strange push/pull space without making a drama out of it. He fully accepts me there.

Finally, after dinner, we’re lying on my bed, watching the clouds over the mountains, and I begin to put words to my experience. I open up and share with him how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my mind. This feels incredibly brave – as if in my voicing my doubts about him I may hurt him or send him running. Instead he listens and nods and tells me he knows all this.

Something about his deep acceptance of me as I am breaks something and out of no-where an internal connection is made and I start to sob, sharing with him the story of the day my parents sat us down on the couch and told us they were separating. In a flash, out of the blue, with nothing to warn me it was coming, I lost my Dad. At least, that’s what it felt like to me.

I sob, and I sob, and I sob. Leighton holds me, he fetches tissues, he stokes my hair and he just lets me cry and cry and cry.

Intellectually, I’ve known for a long time that my rationalisation of my parents’ divorce was a protection mechanism.

It’s 27 years ago now and part of me is like:

What the fuck – am I not over that yet?!!!

Apparently not. Apparently it goes far deeply than I ever realised.

That was Saturday night, six days after the Sunday. It was the breaking of the dam. More tears came on Sunday. More on Monday. I spent Tuesday night with Leighton and again, it was a subtle push/pull. I felt raw and vulnerable. Like a foal just out of the womb and on shaky legs. The entire world felt and looked different.

Yet there’s still work to be done. Here I am, a day later, writing this and bawling my eyes out again. Facing into myself again. It’s been a bloody hard day.

I have no idea how other people work their way through life like this. Through emotions. All this – so I can learn how to open up and be vulnerable and intimate and loving? Why’s it so bloody hard for me? Am I different from other people?

I got an inkling on Sunday as to why my emotional processes were so closed down as a child, and so fraught with opening as an adult.

I’d asked Leighton to chop up some driftwood in the garage that was too big to fit in the fire. I came around the corner into the front yard where he was sawing through a piece of wood.

Within a heartbeat, I knew what he was feeling and thinking about what he was doing.

No words were necessary.

It was as if I was him.

I knew he wanted to cut the wood because he’d told me he would, and he loved me. But I knew he was dismayed at how long it was going to take to saw through all the pieces and his heart wasn’t in it.

That kind of knowing – of what another is thinking and feeling as if you were them – not everybody has that.

It’s a gift or an ability that has been with me since I was a child.

I always knew what my parents were thinking and feeling as if I was them. There was no material difference between me and them. Only, when you’re a child and your parents are going through some really difficult emotional times… your ego does what it can to protect and look after you.

For me, that meant a thick layer of defence needed to be built so I could no longer feel and know what my parents where thinking and feeling.

That defence layer sent me out of my body and heart – that which senses and knows – and up into my head. Unfortunately, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t still knowing everything… my heart always knew… but I was cut off from the knowing because the connection between my heart and my head was severed.

What that’s meant is that every time another ego defence dissolves, all the tears and pain that were picked up at the time the defence was built have to be felt and released.

This has been the work I’ve been doing for the last decade. Feeling into unfelt tears, digging up old fears, dismantling ego defences. So much of who I thought I was… nothing more than a defence.

This is the process of yoga – a journey into oneself to find out who we really are, once all that we are not dissolves away.

This is why it takes courage. We will all face different demons. Some of us will have easier experiences than others. We’ll traverse different landscapes, take different routes. Yet ultimately, we’re all on the same journey. We’re all learning how to get out of our heads and into our hearts.

If I hadn’t been in the practice of watching my thoughts, I may never have caught that first thought:

You don’t need a relationship.

I may not have noticed it, nor noticed that it had a different tone. I may have believed it. In believing it, I would have gone down the road of getting out of relationship – the very thing that was going to help me heal that old wound.

Such is the nature of ego defences. When we get too close to pain, defences arise in the form of thoughts designed to protect us. Problem is, those protective thoughts often take us away from the very thing we seek to experience.

Yoga and meditation has given me the skills and ability to accurately read my mind and it’s thoughts – or at least, more accurately! No doubt there are still lots of thoughts I’m believing and reacting to that also aren’t true…

My hope is that in sharing my own process so intimately, it helps you to understand your own process. Ironically, in the sharing, I too understand myself better.

This experience is one of the reasons I’m now staying with my Dad for a time while contemplating where next to go. See, my parents may have separated, but my Dad never went anywhere. He was always there for me. It was me who withdrew from him – cut him off emotionally as a teenager. It was part of the same defence mechanism.

Now, spending time with him and my step-mum, it’s my way of completely opening back up to that which was never lost. It’s completing the circle.

As for Leighton and I, we’re currently on separate paths – but that’s another tale 😉

The heart-opening kriya I did? Worked a treat. Why? Because I was ready. Because the other factors lined up. Because it was time.

Your experience of the heart-opening kriya? Likely to be completely different. Only way to find out is to do it.

If you’re curious about this particular Heart-Balancing Kriya, you can download an 11 page PDF with instructions and images from the Yoga Resources Library, which is Inside the Box.

Yes, that means you do need to be a member of Inside the Box. Memberships starts from as little as $4 a month – although you’re welcome to pay more if you like. Just head over to the Yoga Resources Library and you’ll be prompted to sign up.

Read more: Forty Days of Heart-Opening KriyaGrief: The Shadow Side of the Heart Chakra


    • Kara-Leah Grant says

      My pleasure… there’s so much potency in recognition… in knowing we often all walk similar paths :-)

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