I was co-facilitating a group a few years ago when a woman came in who was stuck in a job that she hated and wanted desperately to leave. Within several minutes I knew that she was fighting an unconscious trauma from her past.
But I could also tell that she was not ready to go there.
Over the course of several weeks I watched other members of the group all attempt to coach her out of her fear so that she could transition into the life she really wanted. As people spoke, she nodded her head, said she understood, went back and forth, gained hope, lost it, and then fell back into offering excuses for why she couldn’t quit.
From the outside, it didn’t make sense. People were exasperated. Eyes rolled. Some participants, I could tell, just thought she was plain stupid. But I knew this wasn’t true and that something much deeper was at play. From the very beginning I could see that this transition point in her life was triggering a significant trauma from her past that was creating a powerful, undeniable emotional signal within her that screamed: “Stay put, and suffer in silence! Because if you don’t, the consequences will be worse!”
Because if we cry, we’re weak. And if we’re weak, then we’re likely to die. And if we’re likely to die then no one will ever want to be associated with us because even being in proximity to us will threaten their survival too.
And so if we cry we will be ostracized, isolated, and left for dead.
And so we don’t cry.
Instead we repress, we anesthetize, we push down the emotions like an ostrich with its head in the sand hoping that because we ignore the pain and grief and sadness within us it will never have any effect over us. Like an oncoming train we magically assume that ignoring it will prevent it from ever hurting us.
Do not be fooled. Your unprocessed emotions do not disappear when you ignore them. On the contrary they will continue to act out in spite of you in an on-going attempt to heal the part of you that has been wounded. Ignore your emotions and you will only have two options. Either to continue repressing them in increasingly damaging ways with alcohol, drugs, food, work, sex, or any other emotionally distracting activity, or to simply allow them to be triggered like a volcano erupting over and over again when you least expect it. Either way make no mistake, your emotions are stronger than you. While they can be occasionally stifled, they can never be silenced.
Inhale, bring your palms together, and begin by dedicating this practice to all the great yogis and yoginis who are turning in their graves or laughing into their loin-cloths because of the Diet-Pepsi-maxification that Western culture has unleashed all over their sacred path of transcendence.
Take a moment to honor the great Patanjali who an entirely new wave of young mat-slingers often confuse with a sweet dessert that follows your dhal and rice course. Give reverence to the Rig Veda that is absolutely not the great-grandfather of the Lord Vader. Exhale and release any judgment around the effectiveness of hip-hop yoga, wine and yoga, or products like Water Mat Yoga to accelerate your union with “the god head.” If Western yoga culture is going through its adolescence, then it needs our support, wisdom, and compassion as it navigates through the madness of the modern-day mass media marketplace.
Sun salutation, raise your arms to the sky, and primal scream for every time that a teenybopper’s cellphone with a Taylor Swift ring tone has started playing “Shake It Off ” during your Corpse Pose, causing your subtle body to crash into your physical like the meteor that ended the dinosaurs.
Conscious women today are like the 300 Spartans, and unconscious men are a bit like the Persian army. On the one hand you have one of the most elite forces to have ever existed in all of history – and on the other – an overwhelming tyranny of millions hell bent on controlling and exploiting them.
Every day, all over the world, these forces face off in a modern day Battle of Thermopylae where a small, courageous few attempt to hold back the tide of millions in a narrow mountain pass of the present moment. Think about it.
As a woman, when a man says or does something that disrespects you, when he subtly treats you in a way that is beneath you, or is not fully present to you, when he fails, even momentarily, to see you, you are in precisely the same kind of confined, emotionally charged space in which the Battle of Thermopilae took place. You are literally in the “Hot Gates” that a brave few held their ground in the face of oppression and enslavement.
Food gives us life, and then one day we realize that it also offers us an escape. When we suffer we eat, and when we eat, we fall asleep awake. The result is that fine dining in the modern world isn’t simply a competition to create the most delectable dish, but to design the most […]