This week in class I've been talking a lot about having to go through the fire to get to the other side.
There is a saying in yoga and spirituality called spiritual by-pass. This is where you don't do the work. Where you pretend that you are already there. Everything is love and flowers and sunshine and everyone is so amazing and so incredible. Have you ever met someone who says things like this but immediately the voice of your intuition says something doesn't make sense with this person, something doesn't feel right? It's like you can feel the tension within them that they aren't acknowledging. These people scare me a little. They are pushing their stuff down and repressing so much and one day they are going to snap and on that day everything isn't going to be all flowers and love and sunshine.
When I first started to practice yoga I think I thought a little bit like this. I had a lot of negative stuff moving through me and yoga was bringing it to the surface. I was embarrassed. I thought this isn't very "yogic" to have all these negative emotions moving through me and coming up in my practice. I didn't really understand that this was the practice. Bringing these emotions to the surface, processing them and learning to let go of things was and is a big part of yoga, healing and a spiritual path.
I was talking with a student recently about this and I think there was some confusion and is some confusion in our yoga community that if you're in your yoga practice and negative stuff is coming up for you then there must be something wrong with you or with your practice. Isn't yoga all about fun?
There is nothing wrong with you if your stuff is coming up for you in your practice. This is the practice! This is exactly what you want to happen. When you go into the fire your stuff comes to the surface. And in the beginning a lot of your stuff is going to be negative. Think of your emotions as one of the ways that you process stuck energy and tension that is stored in your body and in the sub-conscious part of your mind. These raw and powerful negative emotions that often rise to the surface during your practice are not a bad thing. You're releasing a lot of tension. Let it go. Let it come up and let it go. This is the place to feel sad and cry. This is the place to feel angry and frustrated. This is the place to process grief and pain. This is the place to let it all go. This is also the place to laugh, to feel joy and release and to surrender. This is not a place where you pretend, where you fake it, where you pretend that everything is love and flowers and sunshine.
You have to go through the fire first in order to get to a place where you find peace and quiet and calm. And there's no b.s. when you get to that place. It's real and authentic and true and it's as real and authentic and true as the crap you had to go through and the stuff you had to burn off in order to get there. It's earned. You earned it. You don't accidentally quiet your mind and achieve a state of enlightenment. You show up and you do the work.
Whatever comes up for you in your practice is okay. Whatever things need to process let them come up. And then let them go. And it's important to remember that the fire, the practice didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. Your teacher didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. The room being too hot or too cold didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. The pose you are in didn't create these feelings that are coming up for you. All of these emotions that are coming up for you represent stored, unprocessed tension that is inside of you already and needs to be released. You can choose to look at it and bring it to the surface and then let it go or you can pretend that it's not there.
Show up for yourself. Do the work. You have to go through the fire to get to the other side. You have to look at the pain and feel the pain in order to heal.
There's an old story that is often told in yoga to illustrate what we are doing in the practice...
Think of your mind like a dirty pot that is sitting in the kitchen after dinner. If you pretend the pot is clean and you put water in the pot it's going to be murky, foggy, cloudy. This is our mind. It's cloudy. We're in a fog. We are trying to connect to the present moment but there's all these patterns and habits and attachments and things that are constantly pulling us out of the moment. We have to clean the pot before we can fill it up with water again or whatever we want to put into it. What happens when you clean the pot, though? And this is why we avoid going into the fire in our practice. It gets dirtier before it gets clean. When you clean the pot and start to scrub all the crap off the sides and the bottom it comes to the surface. The water in the pot while you are cleaning it is way dirtier than it would be if you just used the dirty pot as it is and things are way messier than before you started cleaning things up. And it also takes some work to get the pot clean. You have to put in some effort, especially if there's a whole lot of crap there and your pot is really dirty. But it's worth it! It's so worth it. After you put in the effort eventually the pot is clean again. It's like it was brand new. You can pour water into the pot and it's clear.
The tapas in your yoga practice is cleaning your mind. We're scrubbing away old patterns, habits, impressions and letting go of the phyisical and mental tension that is holding us back and keeping us from seeing the world clearly and being connected to the present moment.
Clean your pot! Show up for yourself. There is no such thing as spiritual by-pass. You can pretend that your pot is already clean but everyone else can see the dirty water in it. You can pretend that everything is love and flowers and sunshine but if you are repressing things, if you are pushing down against the tension, one day you are going to explode and things are going to come rushing to the surface anyway. I don't want to be around when that happens.
Everything isn't always supposed to be flowers and rainbows and sunshine. If it was then flowers and rainbows and sunshine would have no meaning. Earn your flowers and rainbows and sunshine. Go through it and get to the other side.
Clean your pot!