I have this wonderfully powerful yoga teacher who sometimes asks us to stand face-to-face, heart-to-heart with sweaty strangers during class. People who we see often but probably smile and otherwise ignore. He tells us to look into each other’s eyes, and don’t look away. Don’t laugh, don’t fidget, just look at each other, notice one another and be there in that moment with that other person.
Surprisingly enough, this can be a very difficult exercise for many of us to do. It wretches us from our comfort zone and asks of us something we are not familiar. Something we may think is weird. Because normally we would look away as soon as eye contact was made.
For me, it brings up all the things we routinely look away from in our everyday lives, and perhaps don’t even realize we do it until we are chest-to-chest with sweaty strangers. Perhaps it takes a moment outside of our comfort zones to allow learning to happen. A feeling comes up and instead of noticing it, thinking about its purpose and reflecting upon it –we push it down and pretend not to notice the sensation it left us with. Why? Because it may be uncomfortable. It’s different. Instead, we ignore it and we lie to ourselves and pretend – - and we busy our lives and our bodies and our brains with things and people that don’t quite fit, just so we don’t have to deal with our truths – whatever they may be. Because they might be ugly.
Over the past 3 years, I have had the continuous feeling of being stuck in my life. Stuck in an overpriced mortgage, in a house that is no longer adequate for my family. Stuck in a neighborhood that wasn’t quite ‘me’. Stuck in a stressful financial situation that has no quick fixes that I so desperately want. Feeling stuck is shitty. It leads to feelings of helplessness, which is even shitter, and then some spats of depression. The circle of shit could go on and on if you let it.
At one point during those 3 years, when the majority of my major to do’s had been checked off, I was left with only myself. I was at a personal tipping point, a crossroads, and I knew that I had an important choice to make. I could add more items to my lists and continue to distract myself, or I could choose to sit with my emotions.
And I consciously chose – for the first time in my life – to not look away.
No more distractions. No more projects. No more senseless relationships. No more busying of my mind. Instead, I chose to just be present, and sit with myself and whatever feelings came up–without acting on any of them.
I continued to sit with the uncomfortableness of it all, for an uncomfortably long time.
I think of it like having a friend in emotional pain – perhaps someone grieving or going through a depressing time. There’s not much you can physically do to help your friend get through this time, but you can BE with them. You can sit with them, hold their hand – hug them, mostly in silence – but your presence can be felt as you quietly support their emotions. It’s kinda like that. Walk next to your big emotions as they come up, be with them, without trying to fix them.
During this time, I was sad. I cried a lot – sometimes I didn’t even know why I was crying, but I cried anyway. And I allowed that to be okay.
Then, one day the crying slowed and I had this sensation of clarity that I had never seen before and all of the sudden everything felt simple. I peeled myself off the floor and gradually began making decisions – BIG, life altering decisions in mindful ways. It felt right, and it still feels right.
The Yoga Connection
Like most things, my yoga practice has truly shown me the way. It has taught me how to sit with the uncomfortable things in my life and when you’re ready for them, the ah-ha’s will come flowing in.
They say that the pose begins the moment you want to get out of it – and I completely understand this now
Wiggling my way into the more difficult asanas and then staying in them when I want to fidget or collapse, breathing through the uncomfortable feelings and bringing a sense of calmness and ease to something that feels so uneasy has shown me how to sit with the uncomfortable things that pop up in both my body and mind in daily life. It’s shown me that I CAN! I practice it on my mat so when it happens off the mat, I am equipped to handle it. This is yoga and this is why I love it!
Choosing not to distract myself brought up many things that I had simply been ignoring. Some big things, some teeny things, but things none the less, taking up valuable real-estate inside of me. You can run from things, distract yourself from things and ignore them – but I assure you, they will continue to show up in different forms until you make the decision to not look away.