I've seen it a lot lately - the feelings of being strung out. The anxiety. The fear. The anger. The overwhelm. The depression. The feelings of defeat. The resentment. The struggle. The divisiveness. The hate. Everything is HIGHLY charged right now.
Get a grip people!
*Screeching to a halt*
Woa woa woa. Okay. Let's back it up. Is that what yoga is about, though, getting a grip? I would say no, and that the gripping is what causes suffering.
Also, to be clear, I haven't just seen all of this intensity around me. Oh I am there too, with all the feels! Is that bad? It is an interesting reflection as I write this post. "Wait, do I really want to admit to all of that?" Yes. "But aren't you supposed to be happier because of yoga?" Not really. "Then what's the point?"
Now that's a good question. What is the point of trying to be "good" and do the yoga? And what does that even mean? Should I do some sun salutations, or alternate nostril breathing? Maybe I need to meditate, or give up sugar, or get out in nature, or eat some kale, or chant. All of this is fine and good, but what's the point? Feeling better?
I do believe in the power of yoga. It is deep and it is a lifelong journey that doesn't start or end with this body, time, or space. But it is not a practice to help us "get a grip." You can't force or fake it. If anything, it can have the opposite affect. Yes feeling better is often a side affect of practice, but it's not the point.
Where can you soften your grip/clinging? Are you attached to feeling happy? Do you demonize discomfort, strong feelings, pain? Are you clinging to how you think and what might be "right?" Yoga teaches skills to lean in and integrate. And, as Janet Stone puts it, to not be a "puppet of our preferences."
The point of yoga is liberation, bliss (not happy happy joy joy). It's the recognition of our true nature, remembrance, integration of spirit, digesting the ego and life's experiences, union.
Let's talk about that union for one moment. You may have heard that the Sanskrit word yoga translates to union or yolk. But what does that mean? Union with God? Community? Union with the planet? The light and the dark? Aren't we already all connected?
For the sake of this post, let's think about the union of opposites. The sun and moon. The light and the shadow. The "good" and the "bad," so to speak. What about all of those so-called "bad" qualities and feelings we have as humans? I've heard Richard Miller talk about all of our positive affirmations also mining up their opposites. They are connected. And while I do somewhat get on board with the power of positive thinking, we need to remember that there's another side to the coin of all those happy thoughts. Where there is light, there is shadow. And that is not at all bad!!! Even yoga goddesses have their shadow sides, even Lakshmi! And it's all connected. And it's all okay. Yoga and yogic practices can help harmonize the dissonance of opposites.
If you're still with me, thank you. I bow to your attention span. Thank you for processing with me.
Now I am not saying that we need to ignore the "bad" and tell the demons run amuck to constantly hijack our well being. (But if they do, can you zoom out enough to witness and love?) I am saying, though, that we need to hold space for ourselves to experience our experiences fully. If something comes up, let's say strong emotion, what is it really? Lean in. Listen. Like on the mat, "does this hurt, what's it saying?" We need to pause and listen and learn to move skillfully to whatever is next. Not just bust our knees to get into lotus pose. :) There is nothing wrong with you!
One of my teachers, Hareesh Wallace, says that the only difference between the "good" and the "bad" is how much work it takes to extract the blessing energy. Do the work, yes (or don't). But when you do, please be kind to yourself. You don't need punished for being a real human. Evaluate your why's. Embrace the wholeness of your experience. Harness the power for blessing, without placating or ignoring or sugar coating what's alive for you right now.
Okay, let's wrap it up with a little wisdom from the goddess Lakshmi. It's a long story with lots of versions, but I will sum it up very briefly.
In one of the stories of Lakshmi (goddess of beauty, blessing, and abundance), she retreats to the depths of the milky ocean (consciousness), and after a thousand years of churning (demons on one side of the ocean pulling on a snake wrapped around a mountain and gods on the other side of the ocean with the other end of the snake in a sort of tug of war), the Amrita (nectar of the goddess' blessing) is churned up and the goddess returns to the land and restores and renews the beauty and blessings. There would not have been the power or the energy to stir that long without the coordination of both sides.
So please be compassionate. Hold yourself in grace. Take a step back. The "bad" you might be feeling is just one side of the coin. Hold space for your tenderness. Shine the light of your spacious unattached awareness.
Let's harness the power of opposite and let the blessings bubble up,
for the benefit of all beings.
Written by Jillian Anawaty, SDYC Presenter and Co-Organizer. Jillian owns Vibrant Life Yoga & Pilates in Rapid City. She loves conversation, dancing, mysticism, plants, delicious food and sunshine.