Today in yoga class, the instructor posed the question: What has the yoga practice done for you? My mind churned with various thoughts. Yoga has been the great salve for me. It has revealed, in its austere way, my beauty and my ugliness; my light and my shadows. It has taught me to see the plays of my ego, not only on the mat, but in my daily life; and to recognize that despite my previous understanding of the ego, its emergence is a signal of fear—in its myriad of forms.
For years, I didn’t know how to deal with fear. Lately, I just sit back and watch as it churns within my body. It’s interesting when I am conscious to not only recognize it, but to feel it. Usually when I feel fear it’s a fight or flight response. A message screams from the brain that says: IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED!!! For years I was the compliant soldier, despite the fact that my compulsive, immediate action behavior had quite undesirable results. I’ve realized there is a third option that hasn’t been given a lot of play time—observation. Through observation I begin to understand what fear in the guise of jealousy feels like; and what fear in the form of unworthiness feels like; and what fear in the form of frustration feels like. It goes on and on…and amidst this watching, I realize I don’t like how fear feels within my physical body. I find love a more joyful experience—the feeling of love in the form of hope; the feeling of love in the form of forgiveness; and the feeling of love in the form of acceptance.
I pause in this thought as I realize this is what yoga has done for me. Yoga has brought me to a place of acceptance. It began with the acceptance of my physical yoga practice. The depth of my physical practice changes daily; and in my journey to accept myself wherever I am on the mat, I give myself a tremendous gift called allowing. I allow myself to enjoy the present moment of my physical embodiment of the practice; and through this allowing, this non-attachment, there is a removal of resistance, which creates a bliss I cannot express with words alone. The miracle is that the more I accept the constrictions and blockages within my body, the more they fall away.
This bliss needs to experienced, just as much as fear and love need to be experienced. Once fear (anger, aggression, jealousy, frustration, etc.) is deeply felt, it becomes understood for what it is, and then it can be released. I truly believe that often the aches and pains in our body are reminders that we are denying ourselves the healing medicine of ‘feeling’ our emotions. We have been socialized and brainwashed to ‘stick it out’, ‘keep a stiff upper lip,’ and ‘the show must go on.’ And so we bag our emotions. We stuff them down within us, swallowing their shadows and their light; and although we wish they would disappear, they remain within the physical body (sometimes in the form of ailments or chronic pain), waiting to be received, to be recognized, to be felt, appreciated, and accepted; so they can be released.
Once you begin accepting yourself and the myriad of emotions, a wonderful thing happens: you begin to accept others as well. You will begin to allow them to be who they are without trying to change them, or fix them, or judge them. You feel strangely but wonderfully lighter. Hour by hour and day by day, life becomes more joyous.
To me, acceptance is like planting a seed; and what emerges from that seed…is freedom.