Sometimes there’s an intense desire to be anywhere but where we find ourselves, especially if we find ourselves in the middle of a truly challenging situation. Life will offer each of us no shortage of opportunities to practice patience, grace, awareness, strength, compassion and clear-seeing. The only question is only what we’ll do with the opportunities. Of course, there are some opportunities we’d rather not have, some lessons we’d rather not learn, but we don’t get to choose. In yogic philosophy, “dvesha” is defined as “aversion”, and it’s one of the “kleshas”, or five poisons that cloud the mind and lead to suffering. When we resist the reality of our current situation, we will surely suffer.
Case in point: recently I was contacted by a young man who’s sister was diagnosed with cancer. He and his mom have been with her every step of the way. It’s just the three of them. There have been ups and downs, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, and all the pain that comes along with the disease, and the battle against it, but he’s been showing up for his sister and his mother as best he can. Now, his mother has been diagnosed with cancer, too, and he wrote to me because he’s terrified of losing the only family he has, and he’s upset with himself for being scared when he knows he, “needs to be strong for them”. The truth is, it is terrifying to think you could lose the two people you hold dearest, and that it could happen all at once, and to deny that it’s scary and enough to make a person feel completely vulnerable and powerless, is to compound the pain. Now, not only are you scared and humbled and at a total loss, you’re also disappointed in yourself for feeling those things.
Sometimes we underestimate ourselves. You can be scared and brave at the same time. You can be scared and strong at the same time. You don’t have to reject one thing to be another.
Let’s make it less life-and-death for a moment. You can be in a committed relationship, you can be totally in love, and still feel passing attraction for other people. You can be happy, and still wonder how it would be if you were single and free. It’s what you do with your feelings that defines you. It’s how much energy you feed them, how much time you allow them, how seriously you take them. Human beings are complex, and life is wildly interesting, but it’s not easy. It’s understandable that we want to categorize things, clean them up, put them in neat boxes with clear labels, but so much of what we experience happens in the grey areas.
If you’re scared out of your wits, and the voice inside your head is yelling at you to be strong, that’s brutal. Now, you don’t even have a safe haven within yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. We’d do ourselves and each other an enormous favor if we could hold a space to feel many conflicting things at once, so that we could calmly take a look at what’s real. Facing reality as it is takes bravery, there’s no doubt about that, and sometimes reality is tough to bear, but trying to “buck up” and muscle your way through the parts that break your heart will just make the experience that much harder.
One of the greatest gifts of a regular yoga practice is that you learn to quiet the storm that rages in the mind. Seated meditation offers us a chance to create space between our thoughts, and also to identify with them less strongly. We all have crazy, strange, fleeting thoughts and feelings. Ideally, you get to a place where you choose the thoughts that strengthen you. You decide what to feed, but self-acceptance is key, it’s essential if you want to be at peace. You don’t have to feel shame about your passing feelings. If you notice a pattern, or you observe that you’re always heading in a direction that’s going to bring you down, of course you perk up and pay attention. You examine why you’re heading down a path that will bring you pain, so you can crawl out of that groove and pick a road with potential for healing. Short of habitual thinking that’s weakening you, go easy on yourself. It’s your actions that define you.
Sending you love, as always,