So, I’m been feeling a little off lately. Not really bad, but not really good either. I feel a bit like I’m slogging through life and nothing feels like it’s as easy as it should be. I spent most of January not eating terribly well, not sleeping terribly well, and beating myself up about it. Even writing, which I usually enjoy doing, has felt like a struggle, like what of any importance do I really have to say. Kind of meh. But today I’m feeling a bit of new lease. And maybe what I have to say is, in fact, meh, but at least it’s a breath and forward movement. It’s shedding some light in on the dark.
One of my favorite things about a yoga practice, is that it teaches you to observe. You begin to observe life, the world, others - and most importantly, yourself. You cultivate a continual awareness. Throughout my day, I check in with myself “how do I feel now?” “am I present or where are my thoughts?” “what’s really going on here?” It’s this awareness that allows me to step out of the instinctual reactive mode. It’s this awareness that grants us the freedom to choose how we want to respond. It’s this awareness that affords us the opportunity to learn about who we are, what motivates us, and why.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we should shy away from strong emotion - quite the contrary. There are many times when getting fully swept away by emotion can be quite beautiful - lovemaking, meditating, mourning, anger to name a few. What I’m suggesting is that we examine what’s behind the emotion. Is it something real? Or are you reacting to something else - perhaps way in your past?
For example, I had a funny legal work situation come up recently, and it’s brought up all sorts of strong emotions. The narrative in my head has been something along the lines of “they don’t like me” “I’m not doing a good enough job” “someone must have said something bad about me” and diving into defensive mode immediately and then falling into the same old “I’m not good enough” story. But how much of this is real? How much of this is actually even related to the current work situation? Pretty much none of it. And yet off I go with my strong emotions reacting to something entirely different. Boring. Same old story.
I find I often do this with my body as well. If only I were a little thinner, if only my laugh lines weren't quite so pronounced. If only, if only. Blah blah. Same old story.
That’s when the observer comes to the rescue. That’s where I get to choose how I want to be in any given situation. But it takes being willing to go there - being willing to overturn a few rocks and look for the mucky stuff underneath. It may take some time of just allowing yourself to feel meh before you figure it all out. That’s ok. That’s good. It's how we break the cycle of the same old story.
Tonight is Shivaratri. It’s a night to celebrate Shiva, the Lord of Destruction. Tonight is a celebration of Shiva’s conquering the enemies of goodness. It’s a time to step into the dark with an open and honest heart and have a look. It’s in this way that we learn, we grow, we heal, and we move on.
This is from one of my teachers, Douglass Brooks:
Don’t leave your dreams unattended. Never ignore what comes unwanted. Take time, tend the heart--- if you do then the seeds of destruction cannot strangle your soul. Remember that everything finds a way to live that lives inside you. Gods and demons both need to find a place, to make room for each other. That is the purpose of the night: to give everything permission to emerge so that we can have the conversations we need to have.
This means we will need to make space in our garden for all that grows, and learn to tend carefully those difficult conversations. Day will come again. Don’t be afraid to welcome the sun, however it may burn, and when the rains come, even if they flood the heart, you will find beauty in them too. When you wake tomorrow you will find yourself moving towards the light again because you had the courage to sow all of your seeds. Try not to forget the strange feelings that emerge under the absent moon tonight. They too have something to say if you dream while awake.
Original post by Douglas Brooks here: