#YogaEveryDamnDay 6: Seeing through Feelings
Before owning a dog, I looked forward to the gloriousness of Saturday mornings, where I could sleep in as long as I wanted. Those days are gone. Stanley wants out at 6 a.m. at the latest and to eat by 7 a.m., so lately I am becoming a grown-up and slowly understanding the beauty of weekend mornings. Gratuitous puppy photo:
The best thing about going to yoga at 7 a.m. on a Saturday? You're done with your workout, you feel all loose and limber and relaxed, and you get to take a nap later (well, I bribe myself with this sometimes). Then by noon, it feels like you've been awake FOREVER and you end up being pretty productive because there's just so much time to DO things all day.
Class was super hot, super packed, and taught by a favorite instructor. She mentioned "seeing through feelings" -- how we create a lot of stories, full of feelings, and we bring those to our mats. But lots of times, those stories are false. They are just feelings. It's up to us to see through them, and know that all feelings are fleeting, particularly negative ones.
Here's a story: as a kid, my parents encouraged me to try lots of different kinds of extra-curricular activities. But they had two rules:
I learned pretty quickly that ... Mom and Dad were serious about these rules. Even if my sisters and I HATED whatever we signed up for within the first day or week, we had to see it through the end of the season or session. And looking back, my parents didn't really seem to care what we chose, within reason, so we had the freedom to choose what sounded fun.
Over the years, rule #1 taught me the value of commitment: when you say you're going to do something, and you verbally make that commitment to someone else, it's important to follow through. And if you're paying money for something, that's another good reason, but mostly, it's less about the money and more about character-building. Rule #2 introduced me to a love of moving: not for the sake of exercise, but to be healthy, to respect your body, to push your physical limits and cultivate endurance, strength, agility for a longer life.
So in sixth grade, I joined the basketball team. I mostly wanted to hang out with my friends, many of whom were on the team, and I probably wanted to be liked as well, and many of the "popular" girls played basketball.
Except ... I was terrible. Stick-thin, gangly, and afraid of the ball hitting my face, I avoided the playing aspect of basketball as much as possible. (Unsurprisingly, I also avoided volleyball, kickball, four square, etc.) I remember desperately wishing that nobody would pass me the ball, a wish that usually came true, because I would just pass it off to someone else as quickly as possible.
My mom recalls that one day, the coach called her over and said, "Do you think Julia is enjoying being on the team? And playing?" And Mom said, "Yeah, I guess ... what do you mean?" Coach: "Well, during a game the other day, she complimented someone's hair bow." (What can I say? Politeness was also prioritized in our home.)
I made one basket the entire season, and it was for the other team. Ha.
Being an awful basketball player didn't traumatize me; in fact, I only remember the little I shared above. But that experience happens over and over again in life. We try something. We're not that great at it. We hate it and want to quit. Sometimes we stick it out, and discover we want to keep trying, or something we realize it's not for us.
Even the stuff we do that we love can be a struggle or flat-out boring sometimes. I love writing, but most days, I don't like the process of sitting down at my computer. I like having money in the bank, but I don't like sticking to my budget. I put off calling my grandma, but I don't like feeling disconnected from her. I would rather eat a cookie than a salad, but I also want to feel good and energetic. And so on. It is never-ending; excitement goes hand in hand with practicality.
In yoga, we practice using our breath to move through challenging postures. I can't tell you how many times I've been in half-pigeon wondering when the F it is going to be over. When a teacher makes me hold Warrior II for five breaths instead of three, I'm like OMG YOU LIED. Some days, the second I get to my mat, I want to get up and walk out. The tedium of practicing every day, of doing the same postures, can get to me.
This, of course, is where the real work -- the real yoga -- begins. I stay. I do the work. I show up. And it gets better, because all that resistance and negativity and general feelings of Ugh, I don't wannaaaaa eventually passes.
Because commitment is kind of boring sometimes. That's the reality nobody likes to talk about; we would rather talk about the shiny, fun, pretty parts. But commitment has its ups and downs. There are days when we don't really feel like doing the work. There are moments when we are full of fear and discomfort and self-criticism. There are times when we are angry with ourselves for not being perfect like, all the time. But guess what? It all passes, sooner or later. Even the good feelings of happiness of contentment, they too slip through our fingers, which is why we need to be present in order to cherish them.
Those pesky negative stories and feelings will blind us at first, and when they rise up, we start to think we will always feel this way. That can be terrifying or paralyzing or both. Seeing through feelings, in a sense, is that pause or moment when you realize that it (whatever it is) will pass. Even if the feelings come back (chances are, they probably will). It doesn't mean shove them under a rock, ignore them, deny them.
Basically, it's treating yourself as a toddler, as one of my wise yogi instructors described it. Its saying to yourself, kindly, "Wow, that was a lot of self-criticism/anger/fear/sadness right then. Whew. Am I done now? Okay, good. Moving on." It's rising above to actually SEE your small human self being a petulant child in the corner -- the self that really just wants to be liked and accepted at all times -- and then giving yourself some love. It means accepting that grief, anger, sadness -- pain, in a word -- will not last forever. Feelings come and go for a reason, but you get to decide how long they stick around.
See what's on the other side of your feelings. Move from that place.