Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Sadness passing through

I have these little mantras, just personal ones, they're not something I use all of the time but sometimes I really need to remember them. Before I even really go into yoga I thought of my first one: "I am here." I was dealing with a breakup and my mind would spin off into daydreams of what had been (and what might have been) and I would just keep reciting "I am here, I am here" to try and bring myself out of the hurtful dream. I added a new one this week (not actually invented by me) "I am not my thoughts" and then I threw in "this too shall pass" (again, I pinched this one). 
It's funny, I was just in the supermarket queue last night and I suddenly went into this major angst which is hard to describe. There was an older African guy with his grown-up son in front of me, the man was in more traditional clothes and I assume was visiting. He bought a few things in two transactions, and one set was for example 3 boxes of razor blades which were all quite expensive (the first purchase cost a lot too - over £30 for just a couple of things). As I watched him peel notes off a wad I went into this mindset of feeling desperately sorry for him, almost drowned by the sense of his vulnerability - but actually seeing him was just the trigger and straight away I experienced all of the same feelings for my parents. The feeling is a mishmash of massive guilt, feeling protective, and overwhelming sympathy and all I know is that the first time I had it I was about 9 years old, and it practically crippled me.
But what I did this time was tried very hard to talk myself down from it - in fact just to let it go, which I did relatively successfully (although just writing about it now is bringing me out in a hot sweaty panic). But before I'd had a chance to get my equilibrium back completely it was thrown up in the air again.

I have a new rule of thumb. Any sentence which begins "I am upset because..." and goes in to contain the words "...on facebook" is not a valid complaint. What is this world we live in where a "like" or a comment (or lack of one) can send us onto a major downer? The fact that I'm 32 years old means I should know better - it's embarrassing and pathetic. But former relationships and social networking are a BAD MIX and thanks to this I went into a major tailspin yesterday evening. I won't go into specifics, just to say that something was confirmed for me that I had suspected for a while, but it suddenly dredged up a lot of the feelings about the relationship - on a plate - BANG and here they were. My first instinct was to pick up my phone to text my friend and say what had happened. I picked it up - and then put it down. I unrolled my mat. I tried some floating up into headstand. I repeated my little mantras a few times (mainly "I am here/I am not my thoughts). I tried not to fixate. In essence, I did everything I could to allow the feelings of sadness, loss, or whatever they may have been to exist, but to feel that they were just passing through. This is something I have read in a book once and also heard recently on one of Kino's podcasts, that instead of saying "I'm so depressed!" you say to yourself "feelings are sadness are there" - in other words, don't become the thoughts that you are experiencing. I think I am coming to understand that this is what non-attachment really means.

Still, it doesn't make it that easy to clear the mind and get to sleep. Nor to get up and practice this morning ("I am here; I am here; I am here"). I was having a bit of a hard time on my mat, not disastrous but I was definitely feeling on a knife edge emotionally. I wasn't sure I'd get through my practice. But then the dreaded triang mukha passed without incident and I started to feel better, things were flowing. As I reached the end of my practice I went into my last pose kurmasana, deeper than before with the feeling that my shoulders were really under my legs, and my hands were there ready to easily bind. But as I went to clasp the hands assistance came, I wriggled my right foot over my left and hooked the feet and was lifted up into the dwi pada exit...but I had a hard time understanding what I was being told to do. "Keep the head down - no down! Keep the feet locked! Move the hands back, PUSH into them - feet locked head down!!" with ongoing encouragement to lift up into titibhasana and then jump back. "Again" she says (2 is normal, this is OK). Again I go into kurmasana, even deeper than before and this time I bind the hands myself then start wriggling the feet in (I find it's harder when the hand bind is more tentative), cross the feet and we go through the same instructions. This time I'm more tired, the feet uncross but C tries to get me to recross them and lift back up, I'm trying to ask questions while in bakasana and she says "NO talking! Jump back - JUMP!" and I think I might cry. And then she says "Now do it again".
On the third attempt it's not so much tremors in my right leg as a 7 on the Richter scale. There is no binding of the hands. I can't even attempt to lift up alone. I collapse panting onto my mat and do the only thing possible - I take child's pose. The tears come in padmasana and as I am putting away my mat C is there. I want to speak to her but don't know where to start. 

But something else I had realised between last night and today's practice is that of course yoga people have negative thoughts sometimes, of course they get into these downward spirals of regret, loss, guilt, whatever it may be. My first teachers J & H seemed like such amazing, peaceful people I felt like they represented all yoga people who must live this charmed life, where they never wake up in a shitty mood just for no reason, they could handle any situation thrown at them with grace and compassion, in short they were not much like me (or anybody else I ever met). Of course this is complete nonsense and my immersion in the world of ashtanga has taught me well enough that we are not angels. But what separates me as a yoga practitioner from the me of my past is self awareness. When these thoughts come, I don't allow them to swamp me - or at least, not for long. I try to do something else that will shift the feeling, I don't wallow in it, spending hours on the phone in a "he said/she said" moaning conversation. So I told C that today I was on the edge - misunderstanding, she thought I meant on the verge of getting this asana and said yes, that's why she was pushing me. I explained (without explaining in detail) that I meant I had some emotional stuff happening before I came to practice, and she started talking about how interesting it is that we have this thread, this continuous thread that binds us, and that people have all this stuff going on that she's not even aware of always, and still they turn up on their mat and keep with it. But as I said to her, what else can we do? If things are happening in our lives that aren't great, what better to do than to show up on our mat - we keep moving forward so that we can move forward. And every day is a new day.


  1. Yes, yes, yes! Exactly! So much of this post resonated with me. There have been so many days when I thought: 'I just don't have it in me to practice.' On those days, the real yoga is in 'showing up' and doing what you can. I've even had great practices on some of those 'bad' days! You just start where you are, wherever that happens to be on a given day.

  2. The mat is a sanctuary, a place to be present and leave what's wrong outside. I think sometimes a teacher needs to know when "stuff" is going on, when its a day you need nurturing and not pushing.

  3. I LOVE YOU! :)

    Ps. I will join you in a conscious effort to moan less. I had no idea this was going on..wish i could have been there for you more tho! xx

    WE ARE HERE..and SUPER human.

  4. @Kai - I have that thought at least once a day...even on a good day!It's easy to make excuses for yourself too so as you say, the yoga is in turning up.
    @Kev - I wasn't consciously bringing my stuff onto the mat (apart from my parade of excuses), as you say it's a sanctuary but sometimes the thought patterns leave fatigue in their wake. I made an effort to leave my negative thoughts on the stairs (sorry to anyone coming up behind me who walked into them!)
    @Jen thanks lovely :) And it was you I picked up my phone to text then decided NO MORE DRAMA!! (haha I wrote that as darma the first time - Freudian?!!). We are here. xx