Feel All Emotions

I have been reading A Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life by Judith Lasater since December 2007 (thank you, Amazon Orders History). Every time I read the daily entry, I get a new perspective and insight.

Today, February 27, the entry reads:

If you want to embrace the light, you must also embrace the darkness.

LIVING YOUR YOGA: We all long for love, peace, and ease. But in order to fully experience them, we must also be willing to embrace our hatred, anger, and agitation. Today when you feel any strong negative emotions, really feel them. Cutting off negative feelings cuts off our ability to feel all emotions.

I especially enjoy this, because reading it feels like a long relieved exhalation. It’s given me permission to acknowledge emotions that I once thought were “off-limit”.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

One thing about the yoga and meditation world that I think “hooks” people in is the promise of bliss, and not just any kind of bliss, eternal bliss, ecstatic bliss, (uh, not to mention, yoga bliss hips). If you’re not happy, practice it. If you’re currently happy, you could be happier, all the time. My god, even the mat wash oughta be happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for happy, love, bliss, and more happy. Nope, nothing against that at all.

What I’ve learned though, that when we talk about abstract concepts like love, compassion, happy, spiritual, bliss, without setting any context, without any preconditions, we can run into all sorts of troubles when we’re not experiencing any of those emotions.

For example, let’s say something has gone very wrong, everything has hit the fan. My uncensored reaction might go something like this, “I’m so pissed! No, I’m fucking pissed! I HATE HATE HATE.” Or, perhaps something milder happened. Maybe I’m slightly offended by something. I might run off, get on my high horse and judge, roll my eyes and get all worked up. You know the drill.

Uh oh, but, I’m a yoga teacher! I’m not supposed to get upset! I’m not supposed to get livid! Quelle horreur! Seeing this, I might tell myself, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m fine. I’m supposed to be happy, and loving. Yes, I love everyone. And we’re all one. Ommm.”

If this is my approach to every crummy moment in life, I’ll end up with a lot of repression, won’t I?

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I’m learning that in the context of yoga, things like love and happiness aren’t what we think they are. They’re not the–”I’m so happy it’s sunny out”, or, “I love this present you gave me”–kind of emotions.

Once, when my boyfriend was waiting to hear back from a prospective employer and getting worried and anxious, I told him to be happy and just enjoy the moment. He looked at me like I was out of my mind. “Be happy? How could I be happy when I may not get the job?”. “Is everybody who has a job happy? And all the unemployed people are swimming in giant seas of unhappiness?” I asked him. “Well, yeah. How could you be happy if you don’t make any money?”

I knew then that we weren’t talking about the same kind of happiness. My teacher Shinzen Young often talks about a kind of happiness that’s independent of any conditions. That’s probably the happiness and bliss that yoga teachers and magazines often talk about. But I’m not convinced that it’s clearly explained enough, especially in mainstream yoga. Or, perhaps the ambiguity is intentional. After all, my guess is “Practice Feeling Completely Rotten” doesn’t sell as many magazine copies.

All Fall Down

I’m finding out that taking the role of the Witness, the Observer (or Ishvara) means that I’ve got to call an Ace an Ace. Whatever emotion that’s passing by, no matter how dark, should be recognized. Oh look, there’s anxiety. There’s jealousy. There’s selfishness. There’s self-righteousness.

And the trick is to do so with a kind of tenderness, a kind of… well, love; love for my humanness. How human of me to be scared, to be hurt, to project. Practicing this way, for me, creates a kind of happiness that’s really sweet, and so hard to describe. “I’m happy that I can see how awful this experience is.” I know, it doesn’t make any friggin’ sense, does it?

Well, I can say more, but Pema Chodron has eloquently and concisely put it in one sentence as she talked about Maitri, the practice of loving-kindness.

“Maitri is not about feeling good, it’s about feeling whatever you feel with a compassionate attitude and with extreme honesty” – Pema Chodron, Awakening Compassion Lectures.

Have you ever felt like you were “supposed” to feel anything different than what you’re currently feeling? How do you work with that?

Perhaps you need a copy of Yoga Journal, kitteh?

Perhaps you need a copy of Yoga Journal, kitteh?