Guest Post by Jeff Welch:
I’ve been on these roller coaster rides of emotion lately. Right now I feel so happy and grateful. Two hours ago I was kinda depressed and frustrated. A few hours before that I was indifferent. What’s going on with me?
“Oh right – it’s called being a human.”
These ups and downs are part of my experience – all of it is correct, appropriate, and perfect for this moment in my life. I’ve been doing a lot of work in my yoga practice lately, and perhaps this has been bringing more emotion to the surface of my attention (some of it buried really deep).
Sometimes, when people talk to me about yoga practice, I get the impression some think it’s all flowers and good vibrations. While it certainly has those amazing elements (and I’ve experienced plenty), that’s a myopic view of a true practice. Sometimes it makes you face some hard shit that you really don’t want to deal with – physically and mentally tormenting postures, leading to exhaustion, frustration, annoyance, loneliness, anger, mistrust, etc. etc. etc. I have had many a practice where I feel wrecked on all these levels.
But – Yoga is supposed to do this. At the 10,000 foot level, it is meant to be a pathway to lift you out of samsara, out of the illusion that all these roller coaster rides you experience are Who You Truly Are. The “mental fluctuations” arise to your consciousness and, via your practice, you are offered a safe and loving platform to observe them – not judge them, not run away with them, not berate yourself or others over them, but simply to see them, understand them objectively, and then let them go.
THAT is the growth – watching these fluctuations in life and not absorbing them into your thoughts, your perspective, your soul. You get an opportunity to practice that during asana, and doing this over and over, it becomes second nature – something you can take to the outside world. Over a long period of time, doing this completely changes your perspective, which changes the vibrations you energetically send, which changes the reflections to those vibrations that the Universe delivers. . . .
Which changes your experience of this life
Which changes your perspective
which changes the vibrations
which changes the reflections
on and on. . .
Going deeper, this extends to pleasure as well. Just like pain, pleasure is fleeting, but harder to give up because it feels so good! We humans run after pleasure, but run away from pain. It feels natural to do this because we are wired that way – it’s easy to observe that many sentient beings are wired this way. It all changes – nothing stays the same. But humans are given the gift of discernment – we don’t HAVE to be jerked around by the ever-changing thoughts and emotions, we have a way out.
None of this is bad or good
You are neither a “bad” person or a “good” person for being caught up in emotion. You are a human, having a human experience. Just know that you have a choice, every moment of every day for the rest of your life – a choice in how you will respond to this stimuli from the environment you find yourself. Just be conscious – be aware of the choice, choose with your full attention, and be with the outcome. If you are with it each step of the way, the illusion fades. Slowly, it is NOT immediate! After 25 years of practice, maybe you have a single, brief moment of peace, or maybe you have none. Maybe you are fully realized right now and none of this applies to you any longer!
But Yoga is not the leg behind the head, not the person who can do handstand, not doing a kick-your-asana workout for the body. All that is great and fun, and I take pleasure in those activities too! But by itself, it is not Yoga.
Yoga is facing your Self. Seeing It for All It Is – the ugly, the beautiful, the ever Present