These are tumultuous times. It seems every time we turn on the news or open the paper, we see or read about all the various protests happening here in NYC, as well as throughout the country and internationally. Or perhaps, you have been actively involved by attending some of these protests and rallies. There seems to be enormous tension between the status quo and the agents of change and progress, and some have posited that this is all leading up to a global shift of consciousness after the ancient Mayan calendar ends on or around December 20, 2012. I have found while discussing these issues with others, that many of us have been feeling more emotional than usual, and that many “negative” emotions, such as anger, fear and anxiety have been rising to the surface. As all emotions are energy in motion, and need to be expressed and examined in healthy ways, rather than repressed, this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if we find ourselves getting stuck in the muck of these dark emotions, what can we do to move through them and onward to a more peaceful state?
This past Sunday, I attended a workshop on Anger and Yoga at Integral Yoga Institute with the lovely Swami Ramananda, and I would like to share some of what we discussed with you as I found it very helpful. When we are experiencing “negative” emotions, it is important to recognize and accept it, rather than deny it. That doesn’t mean that we act out in damaging ways to ourselves or others, but rather to look inward and not deny that those emotions exist within us. Here is where the yogic practices really do help. When we practice yoga nidra, savasana, and meditation where we observe the body, emotions and thoughts without engaging or attaching to them, it can help us off the mat and meditation cushion as well. With our meditative and mindful movement practices, over time we build the necessary “muscles” to bring that level of awareness and neutral observation to ourselves in our real lives – even in times of heightened emotion. For me, and probably for many other students, it is especially helpful knowing that in yoga philosophy we are not defined by our thoughts, emotions nor our bodies. Our true or highest self, the witness self, transcends these aspects of ourselves. Often when I am in the midst of strong negative emotions, I forget this concept, and need to be reminded. We may be experiencing anger, fear, anxiety, but that does not mean that we are defined by those emotions. In other words, I may be feeling anger, but that does not mean that I am an angry person, or a bad person. It is important to not layer self-criticism and judgment over the emotions we are experiencing. Yogis engage in self-study – but that is always from a place of detachment or, if that word seems too cold, perhaps with loving curiosity.
There is much more we can discuss regarding this topic, but for now, remember that with our continued practice of yoga (all aspects of yoga, including but not limited to asana, yoga nidra, philosophy, and chanting), tai chi / qigong and meditation, we will experience benefits in our daily lives, and help ease the stress of modern times.