April 18, 2012 § 1 Comment
I haven’t considered myself to be an angry person. A person who has experienced anger, even walked in it, yes, but if I identify with an emotion, sadness or sensitivity are far more readily available to my experience than anger. I always thought that in order to be angry, you had to consciously feed the flames which heat the rage. I’ve struggled with staying angry at people who I feel have wronged me, because I have always struggled with seeing things in shades of black and white, and it always felt like too much work to be angry at somebody, and then also remember to stay angry. I’ve always associated anger with fire- cutting, white-hot, undeniably present. I didn’t know anger could be a shadow, creeping insidiously, the same way sadness and fear can present themselves quietly but swampishly oppressive.
I found myself recently battling with a very insistent shadow on my heart and I became very confused. Used to sadness and loneliness, I realized that I was neither sad nor lonely, but still there was weight sinking my spirit. The waters were rushing around me and I wanted to leap off into the flow but something was holding me back and taking me down fast, even though I felt all the momentum and buoyancy rising within me, I couldn’t get off the ground. Then I started having strange little incidents- people who got in my way on the sidewalk frustrated me to no end, having to wait for the bus for an excessive period of time would throw me into a fit of crazies, I got into a fight with my roommate, and it all epitomized when a girl purposely pushed me on the bus and I snapped- I felt the true heat of anger rise in me, and I followed her, getting in her face and demanding an apology for the entirety of the bus ride. Not graceful at all, and I’m really glad no one I know witnessed it, although I’ll gladly recount the tale, because it is kind of hilarious. But the fact was, I’d hit some kind of stubborn brick wall inside of me and, damn, that dam was strong,
That night, after I got home, I realized that conscious rush of anger had been a relief in a way. Somehow I felt less wound up than I had in weeks. I began to recognize that the sensation was very familiar, and very much not a surprise- that underlying hum, that discomfiting sensation in my spirit I’d been struggling with? I was angry.
I was angry and I didn’t want to be angry. I didn’t want to carry around that burden of being hurt and scared and armored up for attack at any chance. I was frustrated, even at myself for being angry, because it was against all the things I felt I’d been working for and contrary to the way I wished to walk in the world.
Anger, like ennui, isn’t something I get to just wish away. The emotions and states exist to inform, and so the practice is learning to stay present and probe the underlying energy of the emotion, and eventually to come to recognize the raw energy for what it is. I wasted so much emotional resource continuously being frustrated, allowing myself to get worked up over things beyond my control, and I wanted to reclaim the energy. But first I had to stop being angry at myself for being angry.
Like most things lately, it happened for me on my yoga mat, sweating my tears out on the glittered temple floor of Laughing Lotus. I was struggling with an intense balance sequence (and of course, the way you react to balancing is for sure an indicator of the way you’re facing challenges off the mat), and I was SO frustrated I couldn’t sink into a posture I’ve had no trouble with in the past. I couldn’t find my base of support, I couldn’t access my core, my mind was flying in ten thousand directions, and I just failed entirely at drawing it all back into center and just calming myself down enough to either try the pose or have the humility to fail at it. And then I fell flat on my face right as the teacher came over to assist me. Not graceful at all, and this time plenty of people witnessed it, but as I surfaced from my faceplant, I found I was laughing, and hard. Falling has a way of resetting my ego, reminding me that my dignity is completely something I made up for myself anyway.
So fine, I’d been trying and trying and trying to force my way through the anger, but just like the balance, the truth was that I wasn’t giving myself the space and the honest compassion to accept what was happening, and so I was trying to get over the wall without climbing it. Anger is just another shade on the emotional palate, but I was too afraid to let myself accept it, so it persisted. Only once it tripped me up so much that I fell flat on my face was I able to let go enough to embrace it as just another part of the wave, and then I was able to ride the flow onward.
April 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’ve scrubbed the surfaces in my kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms, and bedroom multiple times. I’ve swept, vacuumed, washed, washed, and washed again. I’ve taped down plastic coverings over all exposed surfaces after they’ve been scrubbed, scrubbed, and scrubbed again.
It’s Passover. It’s spring. Tonight and tomorrow night, under the light of the full moon, we celebrate breaking free from bondage and recreating one’s self anew. I love the metaphor of the Passover story – an epic,wandering journey through vast deserts for decades, utterly necessary to receive the lessons of transformation. If we didn’t wander in the desert,we would never reach the Promised Land.
The other thing I love so specifically about the tradition of Passover is the celebration of communal liberation. It isn’t about the freedom of any one soul, but of the breaking free of an entire community, and being able to regard one’s self as also worthy of that liberation.
Under the light of the full moon, as spring fully erupts into blooming life, I examine what in my own world is flourishing and what needs to be pruned, and whether I am productively using my energy to nourish that which is abundant and lively, or if I am depleting my resources by trying to give my best to something that won’t make it through the growing season, and which is truly worth my effort and love.