I’ve always been an overly emotional person. My folks like to tease me about when I was hardly 6 years old, and would stare out my bedroom window, make up melancholic songs, and weep. I’ve tried many things to help deal with this aching, bleeding heart of mine. I can’t eat meat because the idea of an animal dying sends me into a fit of depression. If I think too hard about paper, I worry about trees. Commercials have been known to send me into an emotional spiral that could take days to recover.
So, maybe it is just my temperament, but the news these days makes me cry. Being painfully empathetic, I feel as if the pain of the world is washing over me at times. I used to tell this to my therapist, and she would tell my that it wasn’t my cross to bear. I’ve mentioned this feeling to my happy-go-lucky-yogi friends and they remind me how blessed my life it. I’ve told my more cynical friends, and they remind me that there is nothing I can do to stop the violence in the world.
Terrible things keep happening, and I am, again, trying to process and put my broken heart back together. Yoga has always helped me get through difficult times. These are the truths that I learned on my mat, and help me survive times like this.
- Life is suffering. Everyone is suffering. Hurt people hurt people.
- Attachment to comfort, ignoring what makes us uncomfortable, causes more pain and suffering.
- Hate cannot stamp out hate. Love is the only thing that can do this.
- Sometimes it is easier to despair, and hate than it is to love. Love anyway.
- Change can start with you and grow.
Next time the world seems like it might be doomed, or when the news gets your down, or when you simply feel the weight of powerlessness, come to your mat. Notice how much yoga acknowledges suffering. Yoga can in a lot of ways be suffering. It is hard, challenging, sweaty, difficult work. We purposefully put ourselves in those awkward positions in order to practice calm in the midst of this suffering. In power yoga, in particular, we set our attachment to comfort at the door. We look right at what makes us uncomfortable, breath, and sink deeper into it. Ignoring you body in a practice can lead to injury. Being present with it leads to strength.
We think about hate as something people send out. However, it is true that what we hate in others often reflects something we dislike within ourselves. In our lives, it is sometimes easier to bury these messy, ugly parts of ourselves. But try as we might, they find their way to the surface during a yoga practice. In a particularly challenging pose, we notice the deep seated emotions residing in our body. In that moment we have a few choices: We can ignore that funky stuff, but this gets us out of the present moment. We can push ourselves through it and fight it, but this causes more tension and pain in our bodies (hate begets hate.) Or we can look right into the things we don’t like about ourselves and choose acceptance and from acceptance love. We can begin to grow love within ourselves. Choosing to love even what we have spent our lives disliking about ourselves can feel like the hard road to take. And it is. But hate festers within us, causing a decay of the heart. Love brings in the light and lets us grow.
This final point has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. You do not have to change the world in one fell swoop. Change doesn’t happen like that. Notice how much you have grown since you started practicing yoga, or simply in your life. Notice how much control you have had over your own evolution. Next time you practice, wake up to the moments that used to challenge you and be aware of how you can breathe through them. Power yoga gives us the space to foster great changes within ourselves. Don’t keep this to yourself. As you begin to grow attitudes of love and acceptance within yourself, share this with literally everyone. As Gandhi put it, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
Our world can seem like a big, scary place. It can be easy to loose hope in the face of all of our problems. But it is important to remember the strength you actually have. You can cause change. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, they were all just people. They were real people with real problems. They were supported by more average people who saw that one small idea can grow, and grow, until it ripples love out into the whole world.