I’ve been feeling my way through lots of deeply ingrained layers of pain and sadness for the last two years and it has been an active and many times terrifying process. I have intentionally gone towards my pain, sadness, fear, and worry to allow them full expression so I can truly unburden my spirit and shift my patterns that were learned as a child. There is no other way to really know peace and equanimity (staying in middle ground). I do not say this lightly and understand that many believe that affirmations, meditation, yoga, optimism, self help books, life coaches, good deeds, and altruism can do this unburdening but I tell you no. Just because you read a manual on how to fly a plane doesn’t mean that you can fly a plane and just because someone is telling you all the right phrases and coaching tools does not mean they have done the work themselves. It’s a lot easier to tell someone else to do something difficult than actually do it themselves. Too many talk the talk but don’t actually walk it. I do think that these are wonderful tools that help and I completely support them and also know that they can not remove or undo our samsaras (deeply ingrained pain bodies), only we can by healing the roots of the pain. I learned that walking through the darkness is the only way to get to the light and it requires breathing, awareness, daily practice, and trust.
I had spent my entire life running from my sadness and fear and pain and did everything I could to avoid feeling it until my wife Jill died in April 2011. If I thought I knew what sadness and fear and pain was before that I was truly mistaken as the heartbreak that occurred was intolerable and constant. I was dragged down into a darkness of being that can not be described with words. Guttural wailing that left me prostrate on the kitchen floor, emotional pain surges that had me standing butcher knife to chest wondering if I should hit the floor or not, and a deep abandonment that left me drained of all life force. A continual state of deep, profound perturbation. This pattern of horror ensued for months until I began to stop trying to fight the waves and instead allow them their full expression. Fight or flight slowwwwwly became let go or be dragged. I knew that breathing was a key to getting through the rogue waves that battered my spirit’s shores and also knew that somewhere out there is a light(ness) and that I wanted to know it. After spending my life avoiding pain I decided it was time to try it differently as my old ways did not serve me and I had nothing left to lose. I began to read spiritual guidance books that provided different perspectives and tools for me to work with my emotions rather than try to stop them and intentionally did what I could to trigger my pain bodies so I could allow them full expression for the first time and also look at them and see what the roots were. Stopping feelings is like trying to stop the wind or yelling at the rain; not gonna happen. It just keeps coming and no matter what I do to elude them, I can never escape them. The book that resonated with me is ‘The Places That Scare You, A Guide To Fearlessness In Difficult Times’ by Pema Chodron. I also began to write which was another important and effective tool. I learned to stay with the feelings that came in without judging them or trying to push them out with happy thoughts. Nothing in my mind could fix my heart because it my mind was a noisy place that caused my suffering and wanted nothing more than my heart and spirit to continue suffering so it could stay in charge of my being.
My friend Charlie (www.MeetingWithCharlie.com) once said “no feeling is good or bad or right or wrong, it just is what it is and if you find it doesn’t serve you anymore perhaps you will make a shift, or not.” Learning to trust that these feelings were waves that come in and go out took practice and trust. Understanding somewhere in my core self that I am part of nature and that nature has a rhythm to it and even if I don’t like or understand it or what’s happening, I still trust it. Why not? Nothing else up that point in my life was working for me, other than my amazing love with Jill which still had childhood patterns tightly intertwined into my adult relationship. Another tool I added to my spiritual belt is yoga. The connection of mind, body, and spirit through physical movement. It requires breathing, and presence, and willingness to stay with discomfort, and allowing the thoughts and feelings that arise during practice to come in and go out without latching onto them. All verbalized each time by the yogi leading the practice. Yoga edified the lessons I had learned through introspection, writing, and staying in it. I have taken what I learn in the yoga studio and combined it with my own inner work to use out of the studio in what I call “life’s yoga, the daily practice of being”. Lessons such as the pose begins when you want to get out of it, which translates to, when emotions bubble up that I do not want to feel I have to be willing to stay with them.
Recently there is a theme that has been a topic of conversation with most people with whom I come in contact with who want to talk. It’s about worry, which is fear, which stems from not wanting to feel something “bad” because it makes us feel hurt or sad or alone. We talk about all the noise and wind that comes into our minds as a way to avoid feeling whatever comes into our hearts and spirits. We talk about patterns that are created in us from the time we are born screaming into this world. Patterns that are ingrained in us by parents who, with their own emotionally unresolved patterns, ingrain them into our emotional wiring and we then grow into adults who react to the same emotional triggers as when we were children. Our fears of not being loved, abandonment, being liked, having value, and whatever else you can think of are still there until we go towards these triggers and look at them, from where they come, and do they still serve us now. Having mind body awareness is a key to recognizing these patterns and that comes with breath. Having awareness to recognize that “uh oh here is something that is making me feel a certain way” gives the opportunity to take a breath which helps to see the pattern of trigger and reaction. Having awareness to take three slow inhale, pause, exhales to provide the space for heart and spirit to become the influence over our being in lieu of our windy minds. Having willingness to stay with uneasiness or discomfort or pain or fear or sadness in order to release it/them. As we discuss these things there is sometimes defensiveness that arise like “I’ve already looked at it and I don’t want to deal with it anymore” or “ I just want to be happy and not think about the bad stuff” or “What good will it do to rehash the past” or “ I just try to live in the present moment”. All this is noise, wind that our minds create so we don’t have to go into our heart space because it is a part of us that we are not comfortable residing in. I look at it like this. When I first began yoga I couldn’t even come close to touching the floor in forward fold and certainly did not want to stay in half pigeon or frog as it was so uncomfortable that I would fidget and forget to breathe and think, think, think which made the poses more uncomfortable and more painful and more difficult. The yoga teacher leading the practice would tell us to breathe, allow the thoughts to come in and out like clouds passing without grabbing onto them or judging them, and the more we relax into the pose the easier it gets, just stay with it. All of this the antithesis of what my mind and body was telling me to do. So I offer this thought to you. If you find that you are tired of being ruled by negative thoughts and emotions, are at a spiritual crossroad, or emotionally broken and scared then please practice some of life’s yoga that I have presented today. See your heart and spirit as a newbie to life’s yoga and understand that it can’t do a forward fold right off the bat. But with awareness, breath, writing, and daily practice your heart/spiritual muscle will become more willing to stay with discomfort as it strengthens through the willingness to be vulnerable. Understanding that our heart/spiritual muscle has not ever really been exercised in a healthy way and it did not become cumbered in cloaks of pain overnight. With practice your heart will be palming the ground in a forward fold that will create a space and lightness of being that you have never known. You will be free of fear and worry and sadness and open to an aliveness and joie de vive that we thought impossible. Wishing you peace, love, friendship, and joy. Slow inhale, pause, slow exhale. namaste