Recently I had dinner with a friend who told me that since her breakup, her yoga practice has gone deeper than it has in the last three years, in her case, especially in forward bends. It made me think back to my big breakup last year, and how one day my lovely Vicki suggested a forearm balance. Prior to that, I had a mortal fear of going upside down. But that day, it was like every emotion I felt in my chest contracted and expanded, and somehow there I was, upside down (against a wall of course), and holding this crazy pose. Of course, when your heart is light, sometimes your practice is almost effortless, your hips are so open that Warrior 2 or half pigeon does not feel like a death sentence. Who knew though that heartbreak could allow light into the dark corners of your body too?
Your body and your emotions are directly related. In fact, a lot of the time, when you experience some kind of emotional turmoil or block, your body will react to it. It has definitely been the case in my life. When my parents went through divorce, I suddenly developed respiratory problems, and was admitted to hospital twice. Respiratory problems, centered around the chest area, was the way my body reacted to unreleased heartache. After a while, when I learned to manage the emotions, I got better, but by that time, I had already been put on steroid based medication (which now I know is never a good idea). In my late teens and early twenties, I suffered periods of intense weight gain, and incredible digestive issues. If you study the chakra system, you will know that issues with the belly relate to issues with personal power, either so much that it becomes an overactive ego, or too little that you feel helpless. In my case, I was feeling helpless.
We have this idea that any sort of pain or illness is a bad thing, and worse still if it is emotional instead of physical. A physical ailment is normal isn’t it? But when it gets to a level where it is actually based on the emotional, it becomes unbearable. For years I thought my smoking was a physical addiction, but when you look deeper, an addiction, any addiction is a sign of emotional imbalance. Accepting that I was suffering from an emotional addiction was much harder than just saying that my body was addicted to nicotine. The thing is though, just like our bodies, sometimes our emotions get sick too. We just don’t want to look at it because this unseen universe, the one that goes beyond the physical is far beyond out comprehension, and most of the time, we can’t just pop a pill to cure it.
It is not all bad. Most of the time, going into the emotional illness, or allowing your emotions to be affected have a way of allowing you to grow. Sometimes emotional discomfort happens because your energy is growing and can’t fit into your current space anymore. Rumi said, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” Yes of course, sometimes the rubs are rough. The truth is sometimes it’s more like being put through the wash than just a rub, but every emotional ailment has a way of expanding you just a little bit more. The secret is to first do the difficult thing of acknowledging it, and then going through the more difficult task of sitting with it. Cry if you must, scream into your pillow, stare it straight in the eyes and let it hurt. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it hurts, but life is a cycle of emotions, and despite what the seven deadly sins tell us, there really are no bad emotions. They are there, and they are as natural as the sun rising. It is when we start first hating ourselves for feeling these feelings, then denying them and pushing them down that they have a way of just one day overflowing and drowning us. So be there, hard as it is. Emotions are God given. The test is how you react to them.
I wear rings with the Buddhist mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” which roughly translates to, “the jewel in the lotus flower.” Originally it refers to how Buddha is the jewel in the lotus flower that grew out of the mud, but personally, I think that we are all lotus flowers growing out of this muck call life. Every heartache, every bit of love, every flash of anger, and sadness, joy and hardship, every bit of emotion opens us up, petal by petal. The thing is, we should let it open us up, let the physical ailments be a window to your emotions, and a step to surrendering to your full potential. I say surrender because we never know what our full potential is, and while we push, we might be pushing in the direction that is the opposite of our complete selves.
There really is no point in my talking about it if I hadn’t been through it. So this is my story. For years fighting and pushing were exactly what I did, never checking in to see if this was what I really wanted. It was about being the “it” girl, making my parents proud, being this picture of perfection according to everyone else. Then one day, my heart broke. “How could it be?” I thought, “I had held my fire in, cooked, cleaned, been nice to the friends and family. Everything I should be.” Well, the thing is, I was not being me. So unlike other times, this time I stopped and lived in the pain. It was the most diffucult thing, but it changed my life. Things became clearer and I became more of me. Despite what I was made to believe, it isn’t all bad if you don’t want to be CEO of your own company with the 2.5 kids and the husband, or a multi-millionaire wearing Manolos. Just work at finding yourself. Not who your parents, society or the magazines want you to be. It’s about being where you want to be, and being the person you are. So surrender. Feel. Everything is a step in getting closer to the jewel within you, your true center.
Om Mani Padme Hum