Difficulties arise for every one of us. They do. They will.
The question we face is, will we make them worse or better?
Our yoga challenges us to consider the ripples we make as we move through the world. What self do you offer? Do you make a big, angry splash? Are you a gentle source of support and acceptance? The self-inquiry we undertake and the awareness we cultivate helps us to develop a peaceful stance. Does that mean we won't experience any more challenges? Of course not. Wish I had that magic elixir! But it does help us to maintain our equilibrium and integrity so that we don't increase the disturbance for ourselves or others. And, it helps us to have compassion and grace for all beings, wherever we are on our paths.
Let's be clear. We don't have to like or support bad actions, or the things that challenge us. Feel the feels! But do we want these emotions to stick to us and weigh us down? That's when we become dense and muddled and make a huge splash. Imagine you're going through your day and someone snaps at you and treats you unjustly. Ouch! That sharpness can stay with you and magnify as you turn that injustice over and over in your head. And what happens then? You've gotten crabby and you in turn blow at someone. That bad event changes how you react in the world. Or, you can acknowledge, "That was rotten. It hurt." And then figure, "Hey, that person must be hurting to act so hurtfully." Feel it. Acknowledge it. And then, release its hold on you. You can stop the cycle of hurting.
That's doable in my little example, which we've all certainly encountered. But what about when the bigger stuff hits? You're in chronic pain? You've lost a job. Someone you love is suffering and you can't fix it. Sitting with your feelings isn't always a one and done situation. Sometimes, it means sitting with each wave of feelings. But our yoga practice is just that. It's practice "being with"--even the tough stuff. The poses we hate. The emotions that come up. Our mental judgements and stories. We develop the courage and capability of meeting each thing...and then letting it move on. And that process shapes us and how we move through the world.
The more we "attach" to the stories and feelings, the more they control us. Many years ago my family lived in California and my husband had taken a new job across the country. He had to start it before we could join him, so I was tasked with preparing our house to sell, keeping it clean and supporting us all through the upheaval of leaving—largely on my own. And I had so much fear. I wasn't going to have the house in shape for it to sell for the price we needed. Our kids were going to fall apart. I had to leave the circle of support I'd created and start all over...and so on and so on. One day after yoga I sat with the most dominant fear in that moment, which happened to be about money.
I didn't do my normal thing--get busy, tuck the feeling away and carry on. I gave myself space to just be scared. I still remember so vividly, because it was a different response for me then. I imagined holding myself, murmuring soothing acknowledgements to myself, just like I would for someone else experiencing pain. I cried, felt and witnessed my experience. But instead of rehashing the story, I just felt the pain until, for the moment, it was spent. And I realized the tension and inability to breathe were gone, again, for that moment. In that space of peace, I imagined everything working out ok. I didn't have to know how. I could let in that glimmer of possibility. And I felt better. The gripping fear had dissipated. And I was in a better space to move forward, without all the contraction caused by my smothering emotions.
Fast forward, and yes, change occurred. We sold our house. The move happened, with a few glitches but really, it was all ok. In retrospect, it was actually fabulous. But we don't get a crystal ball in the moment. We just have our toolbox. We have the means to keep charging into our lives with the energy of negative fire, or we can embrace the certainty of change and direct our energy. Our emotions can lead us into more mess. More tension. More adrenaline. More wreckage. Sometimes, it can be a catalyst to change something. To learn something, even if it’s simply that we are resilient and supported. And in that space, we reclaim a peaceful stance.
We are humans, having a human experience. And that experience is often tough. Will we create secondary pain through our reactions? Or will we use the fire as momentum to learn and grow? Will we spread pain or peace?
I've taught and lived yoga for more than 20 years. I know it can be intimidating. But it can also be fun--and rewarding--regardless of your starting point or challenges. On this blog I share some of the yoga wisdom that sustains me.