When I’m practicing I’m never alone. Everything that I’m dealing with at that time is with me. Sometimes I bring anger, frustration, happiness, weakness, strength and it manifest itself on my mat. I don’t speak much and I’m not worried about fitting in. I see the improvements in my practice but only after I do the work and if I get complacent I’m reminded to keep working.
Sometimes I struggle dropping in, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the day. Sometimes it’s ugly. Sometimes I surprise myself by going deeper into a pose I’ve been working on. I know it will take time, so I keep coming back to give myself the chance to grow. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing that I can’t turn off. I just know I don’t turn off and I don’t want too-Warren B
I received this amazing comment to a recent blog post, Yoga Dealers of Drug Dealers. Warren brings up a great point about turning off emotions. He is right. Don’t do it.
A long, long, time ago, I used to watch Vampire Diaries. I know. Don’t hate. The vampires, in this show, have the ability to cut off their emotions. However, whenever this has happened, vampires that are normally sweet, upstanding people who risk their lives for friends and family, turn into murderous sociopaths.
The same things happens with… err…. humans. Maybe not the murder but definitely an unintentional negative shifting of pent up emotions to other facets of our lives. Many times when we think we are controlling our emotions or cutting them off, we are really just suppressing them. Suppression results in “post suppressive rebound effect“. Scientists discovered that the more you try to not think about something, the more you actually wind up thinking about it. In studies, people who were allowed to think freely about a given topic thought about it less. Essentially, when you allow yourself to feel, you work through it faster. Suppression has also been linked to health problems such as cancer,a shortened life span, and depression.
In the world of Yoga, suppressed emotions or unresolved actions have long been thought to cause “karmic” pain.
NECESSARY, KARMIC PAIN
This form of pain is more difficult for Westerners to understand, as it involves the concept of karma. Through our past actions, words, and thoughts, we have created who we are today, including, according to Patanjali, the type of body, span of life, and form of death we will experience. When Patanjali stated that future pain is to be avoided, he did not elaborate about past pain. Past pain in this context is the pain that we have created through our past actions. It may be experienced now or in the future. We cannot change our past actions. Once the seeds of our actions have sprouted, the karma associated with those actions cannot be intercepted, and the pain resulting from them needs to be endured — not grudgingly endured but willingly accepted as ordained. If it is willingly accepted, it will lead to a karmic purification, to a burning of the old karma associated with that pain.
Occasionally in life we have to go through letting-go processes, and they are not complete without painful sensations. Grief is an example of such a process. Nobody will doubt that a possibly lengthy grieving process, during which we learn or come to terms with letting go, follows the death of a loved one. These processes can come to a conclusion only if we willingly and consciously enter into them.
Karmic pain in asana is that pain that cannot be removed by anatomical inquiry and attention to detail. If you have done everything in your power to correct the posture and the pain still persists, it may be necessary, karmic pain, something you may have to go through. It is very challenging for a yogini to know that she has done everything in her power and yet continues to suffer. Many people at this point will stop practicing because they feel unfairly treated. If you manage to continue your practice, you are fostering tapas, the ability to sustain your practice in the face of adversity. If you refuse to work through karmic pain and simply endure it, your yogic progress may stagnate.- A Deeper Conversation on Pain with Gregor Maehle.
Spiritual Bypassing is another form of suppression prevalent in the yoga community.
Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.
Spiritual bypassing is a very persistent shadow of spirituality, manifesting in many ways, often without being acknowledged as such. Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.
True spirituality is not a high, not a rush, not an altered state. It has been fine to romance it for a while, but our times call for something far more real, grounded, and responsible; something radically alive and naturally integral; something that shakes us to our very core until we stop treating spiritual deepening as a something to dabble in here and there. Authentic spirituality is not some little flicker or buzz of knowingness, not a psychedelic blast-through or a mellow hanging-out on some exalted plane of consciousness, not a bubble of immunity, but a vast fire of liberation, an exquisitely fitting crucible and sanctuary, providing both heat and light for what must be done.
Most of the time when we’re immersed in spiritual bypassing, we like the light but not the heat, doing whatever we can to distance ourselves from the flames.
And when we’re caught up in the grosser forms of spiritual bypassing, we’d usually much rather theorize about the frontiers of consciousness than actually go there, sedating the fire rather than breathing it even more alive, espousing the ideal of unconditional love while not permitting love to show up in its more challenging, personal dimensions. To do so would be too hot, too scary, and too out-of-control, bringing things to the surface that we have long disowned or suppressed.- Avoidance in Holy Drag by Robert Augustus Masters, PHD
From a Yogic stand point, there are two solutions to dealing with negative emotions and thoughts. You can watch the thoughts and emotions and allow them to move through you or replace the thought with a positive thought.
No matter which one you choose, you don’t want to continue with the story that caused the emotions. When you allow the emotions to move through you, you are doing it without the story. You are just feeling. When you replace a negative thought with a positive thought, you replace the negative story with a positive story.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:2- Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations in the mind field-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Cessation is not suppression. It is a result of a deep connection with the Self that usually happens after a long spiritual process. Remember your first crush in school that you thought you would never get over? The one you got emotionally tore up over to the point where you thought you would never breathe or love again? At the time, it felt like everything, but now it feels like nothing. You probably don’t even think about that person unless someone brings them up. The fluctuations have stopped. You are not suppressing it. You are just no longer attached. You still have fond memories but they no longer guide your behavior. That is closer to what Patanjali is referring to in verse 1:2 of the Yoga Sutras.
Feel your emotions. Let them move through you. Eventually situations and events will no longer have the same effect on you but it takes time.