I walked into my yoga class this morning with an unusual and irritating edginess. For an early Monday morning, after a restful weekend, I actually felt quite wound up .
Over the weekend my husband and I were not connecting as easily as I might have wanted. I felt that we were a bit like those magnets that have different and opposite poles that keep them from coming together no matter how hard you try.
I thought to myself as I rolled out my yoga mat, that it might just be the heat, or general life stressors that are affecting each of us differently.
I remember that he was talking on Saturday about his own distress about the shooting in El Paso. He was also talking about global warming. I can remember thinking to myself, as he was expressing his distress, that I honestly could not take in any more bad news. The world just seemed too full of bad news. I simply felt very little capacity to think of any more.
Because I chose not to relate to his conversation, I pushed him and his feelings away. Why? Because they really are my own. I was pushing my own distress away. The end result of my suppressing my own anxiety and sadness was that I was literally unable to connect with him. I could not connect in any meaningful way while I was shutting down inside.
My yoga teacher offered everyone in the class a sticker that was a gold star. She laughed about how her children got gold stars throughout school just well… because! We all got a gold star for just “showing up” to class. I felt a bit surprised, after this small act of kindness, that I started to cry.
She asked everyone to place their gold sticker in the upper corner of their yoga mat. She said something to the effect of, “No matter what you are feeling in these terrifying times, just give yourself a gold star for deciding to show up.” She then invited us to sing. I usually don’t sing in class because I am shy; but, this time I sang OM SHANTI out loud.
I cried some more.
I noticed that our normally packed yoga room wasn’t so full today. I thought about the various reasons that people might not show up for class: heat, vacations, battle fatigue?
I then began think about the shadow. From time to time someone will ask me in a phone consult if I work with the shadow. I find this question to be most interesting. “Why are they asking, ” I wonder. After all, I am a Jungian Analyst and we do have an eye, ear and nose for shadow.
While I tell people, “Of course, yes, I do work with the shadow”, I also wonder, privately to myself, what is this persons connection is to their own self love.
I don’t mean this in a new age kind of spiritual bypassing way; I mean that very often, shadow business comes out of a deep avoidance with ourselves and what makes us human. My personal experience in my office is that while there are cases where people might seemingly “love themselves” in a malignant and narcissistic way- most people don’t love themselves at all. They actually have too little regard for themselves. This hatred toward themselves is often a root cause for many destructive behaviors. This becomes a vicious cycle because destructive behaviors then increase a feeling of self hatred and around and around it goes.
This brings me back to my husband and the weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio.
It is my feeling that if we cannot humbly care enough about ourselves, how in the world can we care about others?
When we are afraid, we close up to protect ourselves. It takes courage to say, “I am actually worth looking into my own fears, anxieties, blame, selfishness, greed, pride, arrogance, power, self seeking, control, or worse- indifference.”
When my own spiritual tank is full, I feel humbled, open and often quite fragile. I consider this fragility to be a human strength. The open and vulnerable shakiness allows me to be even more receptive to others. I listen better and I am not so caught up in my own “bla, bla, bla.”
My husband was right. There was very good reason to feel overwhelmed with sadness. Because I was unable and unwilling to be touched by this despair, I was not available either to myself or to him. This means, I am not available to anyone. In Buddhism, this is called The Cocoon; it is a cozy, claustrophobic, ego/ignorant state complete with a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign.
When I began to cry in yoga, my heart immediately opened up. I felt more available. Honestly, I felt more human.
I know that we are tired of crying. I am. But a broken heart is the antidote to indifference and the insidious need to not be touched by pain. It takes courage to stay awake to the pain and suffering in ourselves and others.
Be broken open. Let your humanity spill out. Love yourself for showing up. Love yourself for being willing to look not only at our own shadow stuff, but the collective shadow business that is erupting everywhere. We too are a part of that dark shadow. I feel that we are part of that collective shadow because we are also a part of the collective light of awareness, consciousness and a willingness to confront it and show up in our own lives.
Is a gold star for just showing up enough? I don’t think so. I do think that we need reminders that we are all really doing the best that we can.
These times are dark and I don’t have any indication that things will change anytime soon. But my yoga teacher also read a quote about faith. The jist of the quote was that faith is the bird singing at the darkest part of dawn because it has faith that eventually the dawn or awakening is coming. The light and the dark go together. You cannot have one or the other. One actually informs the other. It is the light of awareness that can see the shadow. In my own experience in my office, it is this very light of awareness that softens people and allows them to cry. I am grateful that I could see my own shadow this morning on my yoga mat. May that awareness be a small drop in a bucket of collective change.
In fairy tales it is often weeping or tears that can break a spell.
Just as it is said that the Buddha was born from the tears of the great goddess Tara, the mother of compassion, we too can wake ourselves up from our own spell. Weeping in hard times does not make us weak. It allows us to maintain our humanity. Maintaining our humanity is crucial in these dark, confusing and terrifying times.
Weeping connects us to our own compassion and courage. Our tears may keep us safe from falling into the most dangerous of collective shadow: indifference.
“We need to look at the fragility of life. Illness and obstacles are a gateway to experiencing truth and reality and vulnerability. It takes courage and strength to do that, as well as gentleness and fearlessness.” – Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Copyright © 2019 Katharine Bainbridge MFT, All rights reserved.