I was listening to a talk by one of my favorite orators, Andrew Solomon, on the subject of depression. I may be slightly misquoting him, but he said that people often think that depressives see the world through a dark veil of sadness. But those with depression know that the veil has been taken away, and that they are seeing the world truthfully. This is absolutely the truth, as I see it. My own journey with depression has taught me that the world is a terrifying place full of hate and anguish. And although I don’t regularly struggle with depression any more, I have never stopped believing that. While in the throws of a depressive episode I feel that the weight of this truth is too much of a burden to bare. I want to say that finding my way to happiness lifted this burden from me, but it didn’t. Accepting this truth gave me the strength to carry that weight. Happiness came when I allowed the honesty of suffering to exist, while acknowledging my ability to do something about it. Life is suffering, and the sooner whe stop fighting that, the sooner we can find the strength to hold ourselves, and others, up.
Finding this strength is what I work on when I practice yoga. I believe that the practice is intentionally hard in order to put us in difficult situations. Each pose is like a miniature stress situation. It is our job to dig deeper once there. We have to get right in the midst of what scares us on the mat, whether it is silence, sweat, or a release of tension. We have to stare into the face of that hardship and choose strength- the strength to stay, be calm and maybe even a bit joyous. It is this strength that prepares us for the hardships of our life. We don’t go through the hard poses to get physically stronger or more flexible. We go through the hard poses as practice for the hard moments in our life.
Seek out the moments that scare you. Let your practice be your personal definition of hard. Look for the poses that expose the nasty part of you. The poses that make you think ugly thoughts and perhaps not look perfectly graceful. Let your practice shine a light into the darkness inside of you. And then breathe right into it. Connect with that dark place that lives within all of us. Because the world is full of darkness. Every single person has lived with the truth of anguish in their hearts. And yoga can be your chance to get stronger under the weight of that truth. Yoga can give you the strength to hold up that truth. Yoga can be your chance to admit the existence of suffering that is both within and without us. And through connecting with this, we can connect with others. We can acknowledge that if we have darkness within us, everyone probably has some darkness within them. We can find the strength to hold ourselves up, and perhaps others too.