She rests on a mat
soaked with sweat and emotions
Words and watercolor by Radiant Spleen
In the many years I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga and meditation, I’ve never had so many people approach me after classes to describe experiences of healing release. Men and women both. This last week, events in our country have been an insult to women, and also to all decent men. People are reliving trauma, and watching with pain, as sick men in positions of power continue to play out the same old cycles of abuse and victim blaming.
As a teacher, I didn’t do anything special. It’s not me. The students are the one doing the work, I’m just sharing and guiding practices and teachings that have been shared with me. But I’m grateful to be able to do this work. It’s been a challenge to deal with my own anger, sadness and frustration this last week, too, and I haven’t always done well, or spoken with kindness in all circumstances.
The second Sutra in Patanjali’s yoga sutras, “Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah” which translates approximately as “Yoga is the restraint of fluctuations of mind”… sometimes this is thought of as the cessation of thought or mental chatter, and yes, there are points in meditation where we eventually bring the mind and emotions to stillness to experience a connection with our inner light of pure, unclouded consciousness.
But too often the practices of yoga are used to sublimate emotions, or to view them as low experiences meant to be transcended. Spiritual by-passing. Emotions and mind are not something to be banished through bliss-practices. The practice of presence is to sit with our darkness, anger, and sadness, too. Emotions as messengers. The messages carried by our emotions invite appropriate actions and responses. Once our emotions are truly felt, acknowledged and honored, they can move on through, so that we can reside in the place of contentment, clarity and bliss. But the pain has to be felt first.
And if at this moment in history the truth is “Burn the rotten, corrupt, rapist patriarchy to the ground,” so be it. Namaste.