By Sarah Lesch
Have you ever been in your yoga class listening to a teacher talking about joy and happiness yet inside that’s not what you are feeling? Maybe you have experienced a trauma or loss in your life?
I recently had a day where I was feeling very melancholy. My first instinct was to lift myself up with a highly, prana-fied yoga practice to stimulate an uplifted energy. Instead, I was given great advice by my teacher to sit with these emotions and process what was going on. I took a deep breath in, unsure I wanted to heed that advice.
This idea of processing through something can be a shift from our typical tendencies toward avoidance and speeding past uncomfortable emotions, but as Kenji Miyazawa, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” So often, we are conditioned that happiness and joy is the goal of our existence and we move past the melancholy with extra stimulation or numbing of the senses.
But to be still and quiet with your own experience, working out what you need to, can lead to even greater joy and clearing. We don’t realize all that we hold onto. These repressed emotions become dormant in the subconscious only to unveil themselves when we least expect it. Sometimes, savasana at the end of yoga classes, can lead to this type of processing. In savasana, the body is clear and free after all the stretches and movements. Free to process and retrieve old stories and thoughts. They drift into the mind without invitation. This can be wonderful or sometimes, unsettling.
It reminds me of a speech that Robert F. Kennedy gave to announce the death of Martin Luther King. He knew there was going to be suffering when these MLK supporters heard the news, but he urged them to process the information peacefully. He quoted Aeschylys “He who learns must suffer and even in our sleep, pain that can not forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our own will, comes wisdom.” We cannot erase the suffering of our lives- we will feel it, but on the other side of it, becomes wisdom that we can carry with us and share with others.
Often we may hear something that is unsettling occurring in the world with wars and devastation. Sometimes we must open ourselves to listening to the stories of humanity suffering. I heard an emotional story of a Palestinian doctor describing a blast to his home by the Israelis that killed his children. By the end of the show, I was crying for this man’s suffering. He spoke of how years later, he still has conversations with them in his mind, how he always carries them with him. Instead of feeling down that I heard this story, I was glad to have heard it. Because we cannot always surround ourselves with joy, we have to hear stories of suffering and feel for them. This is how we move forward with wisdom.
So don’t tune yourself out to these stories. Filter and process. Take your suffering and the suffering of others and work with it to find the wisdom.
When you are feeling melancholy, write it down. Writing can help us to process our emotions.
Silence- meditate quietly focusing on your breath or a repetition of a few words (mantra).
Music-listen to soft music or your favorite tunes. Sound has a transformative ability within us.
Art- draw, listen to a good poet, find the poet or artist within, browse through an art museum.
Seva- serve, help others, make a difference one person at a time.
Nature- walk outside and just watch a tree for several minutes- look at how each branch and leaf is affected by the subtlest movement of air.
Look up- watch a bird gracefully in flight.
This is how we see the balance of joy and suffering and the beauty of it all.
About the author: Sarah Lesch is a 500- hour registered yoga teacher and contributing writer for Yoga Tampa Bay. She teaches at The Lotus Room where her classes are an intuitive expression of movement and breath, skillfully guiding students to draw upon their own inner strengths. She leads meditation, parenting, and advanced asana workshops throughout the area, as well as Stand-Up Paddleboarding adventures. Sarah enjoys poetry, art, music, and family. Following the wisdom that the individual epitomizes the universe, she promotes self awareness and personal growth.
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