Many of us in the yoga field talk a lot about how we really want to grow and we totally want to transform our fear into love and emerge like a butterfly into, like, an evolved person. Yet when that very opportunity comes to our door, we often slam that butterfly in the face. I get it, I've done it and will probably do it again. It's a knee-jerk reaction to slam the door on change as the evolution and continuation of our race has depended on the brain's ability to avoid obstacles and pain.
Yet, yoga asks us to do the opposite, or rather, it asks us to go beyond the antiquated survival program of the old brain; to the newer brain, our heart, and our soul's ability to remain connected while expanding. The emergence of the self we envision takes many, many humbling steps. (Think of how long it took the Grand Canyon to become "Grand") Many of these steps are walked in a "backwards" direction because we have to "go back" and reclaim the parts of our self we denied, hid, or shunned. As a culture we only praise the forward momentum and we are ashamed of our mistakes. Going back to reclaim something we ignored or gave away, is Not encouraged or even congratulated in our culture. Society only sees a mistake and mistakes are viewed as failures-which is a trap because, as you know, we make mistakes EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
But in yoga, mistakes are not chastised, they are the beginning of a "do over". And yoga freely gives as many do-overs as you need which is ideal because we infrequently get things right the first time. (This is just the process of learning, people. Would we shun a child for adding two numbers incorrectly? No, of course not, that's ridiculous on top of cruel. We are nothing more than big children who are still in the process of learning.)
If our sincere intention is to transform our unconsciousness habits/fear/pain (different words to describe the same thing) into consciousness, then we must go back with the light of awareness to reclaim our buried treasure. This is one way we can release the clenching grip of our triggers, pain & unconscious habits. Often, we forget we are doing good work when we reconnect to the shadow self because emergence isn't glamorous. (Insert Simon and Garfunkel's 'Hello darkness my old friend'-:)
We do not equate something as lofty sounding as emergence with the overwhelming & messy job of being with pain/fear. However, we cannot simultaneously be full of unconscious triggers and be fully at peace or present with Life in a lasting way. So yes, accepting, and being friendly with, our triggers, our ugliness, our resistance, our beat-up bodies and fragile emotions is an integral part of transforming into a butterfly. And again, this takes a very long time even with consistency. So hopefully you have a warped sense of humor, a healthy dose of self-respect and an appreciation for the Grand Canyon.
One thing my teacher, Francisco, has said and I guess it's obvious to those who practice yoga long enough is, "our body is proof of our karma". No one with a body is immune to karma and so we can say that we are all dealing (in varying degrees) with our unconscious behaviors/pain. But haven't you, like myself, realized when a shunned or hidden part of yourself is revealed, it no longer has the same level of control over you? That extricated unconscious trigger begins to deflate. Just like it took many steps to reveal the unconscious, there are also steps that need to be tended to in this new reality. This may mean you need to rehabilitate the tissue that stored the issue and maybe it involves forgiving yourself or someone else, maybe you need to set some boundaries, or emphasizing the positives?
But then, is it not also true, that after you take these steps you are greeted with feelings of elation, lightness and a bit more freedom? And that's good design as it creates motivation to keep us moving toward our vision for our self. People who feel the elation of emergence don't reach for life-denying choices. The ripple-effect from a well-done practice cannot fully understood. And even more motivating is, it really does get more fluid with practice. Karma is not often easy but, an experienced yoga practitioner has the tools to deal with what arises and tools make a job easier. Yoga affords us the ease of becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. It's one of the greatest tools to release the pressure valve, and hence develop ease, that I know of. Life's purpose isn't to placate us with comfort folks, it is here for Truth. This encourages me to nurture myself through my days and through my life because suffering is inevitable as long as we have a body but we have ways to mitigate the volume. (Can you sense the encouraging trajectory we are on in facing our pain and resistance?) And hallelujah for that because it is only a matter of time before discomfort will come knocking on the door asking us to expand our sense of what is True; ie: Emergence. The people who regularly open the door, they are people with a solid sense of what is going on and this is one demonstration of a healthy practice.
We cannot use the same thinking and behavior that got us here, to get us there. In using your body, mind, emotions in new ways, you naturally teach yourself to respond in new ways too. The beginning is the most challenging part, and if at this time we shrink in fear and choose the "familiar", I promise you it will not only be a harder road, it will be a longer one too. It is very easy to have compassion for those moments when we won't challenge our preconceived-mind-identified-behaviors because we have all done it. It's understandable that most people won't because as a culture we are fearful, tired, unwell, overwhelmed and, we are without regular hits of Divine-laden experiences. But do not let this depress you because this can be a success story if we are willing to be just a little less status quo and a little less fearful; and a little more open to questioning our behaviors and biases, and a little more open to treating ourselves like a child learning to add numbers. How we interpret a situation has to do with how we see things. How we see things has to do with our current emotional status, our health, our economic status, our relationship satisfaction, our childhood programming, our societal programming, our unquestioned assumptions, etc. And here we are back to full circle with what vision do we hold for our self and are we getting the support we need to fulfill it. And now let's earnestly ask ourselves what we want from OUR life. It's yours, take it.
What sorts of feelings do I want to feel in my home; your home being your body/feelings/thoughts/spirit?
Am I able to feel my feelings? Do I need to professional to help me discover what I'm missing?
How am I participating in my current reality?
Do I need other people to behave a certain way so I feel comfortable?
If you have an intelligent asana practice and/or skilled yoga teacher, do you consider that the pain you found doing yoga was already there and yoga just revealed what was hidden, or do you think the pain came from yoga?
In what ways can I nurture myself through my pain?
Do I reward myself for showing up for myself?
Do I celebrate my personal moments of emergence like I do holidays? If not, why not? That is worth recognizing!
Am I open to the lessons Life presents?
Amy Williams, Kaiut Yoga Teacher, Paonia, Colorado