Feel the feeling but don't become the emotion. Witness It. Allow it. Release It. ~ Crystal Andrus
The other day, I came across a note I wrote to my husband a few years ago. At the time, he was struggling with some frustrations and trying to deal with his anger issues in a healthy way. I could see he how he was beating himself up and I wrote him this short note (below) as a way of offering him some outside perspective.
So often, when we’re in the midst of dealing with our emotions, especially the ones tough to feel that we keep deeply buried, we fall into the trap of over identifying with them. In Yoga Nidra, we remind ourselves that we HAVE emotions, thoughts, and feelings but that’s not who WE are. We are who we are at our core, our innermost center. That unchanging self experiences the sensations of thoughts, feelings and emotions while still maintaining its true essence.
Put a bit more simply, you can experience joy, anger, sadness, excitement, regret, etc. Although you move through these varying experiences, you do not become joy, anger, sadness, etc. These are temporary sensations, passing through your life and they’ll be replaced eventually by other such sensations. No one is truly bitter, for example, they’ve just come across an experience that they are grasping too tightly, they’ve lost their ability to let go of this idea; this feeling and they’ve chosen to adopt this as their identity rather than letting it move on to make space for another sensation or experience.
The getting stuck part is a struggle many of us know well. Grasping on to something that feels good or feels familiar starts to feel safer than releasing it in case we’re not ready for what will take its place. Life is impermanent, though and we are dynamic creatures moving through this impermanence. So the only thing that we can be certain of is that things will change.
So then, how do we deal with the changes? We break out all the tools we’ve developed through the years from our education and experience and we remain flexible, open, receptive and grateful. Or at least, that’s how I do it. Sometimes it works really well and I amaze myself with my ability to "improvise, adapt and overcome”. Other times, I’m what commonly known as a hot mess as I take all the wrong turns navigating whatever new situation this life has presented me.
Practice is our only option. What that practice looks like is where we really get to express our different styles and flavors. There are a multitude of ways to figure out how to thrive in this crazy ride: meditation, yoga, affirmations, exercise, therapy, mindfulness, dancing, singing, chanting to name a few. There’s no cure all for life - no one way that works above all others. Sometimes movement is what you need, other times stillness is the answer. Noise can be liberating yet so can silence.
A common reminder that I offer students in my yoga classes when we’re moving from one side to the other, is to not assume that what you need is always going to be the same on both sides of our body. Sometimes we need minor adjustments or modifications that better accommodate what we’re feeling in the moment. So much of that is a metaphor for life off of the mat as well. When we greet each moment with the uniqueness it deserves, we can handle each situation with whatever tools it calls for. Leave the assumptions behind and instead be willing to reach back into your toolbox to try something new at all times.
Below is the letter I sent to my husband. I’ve saved it for myself because it’s a great pep talk for me too, on the days that I’m more hot mess and less amazing. Write yourself a note for the times that you could use a little extra encouragement. After all, sometimes the only person who really knows what you need to hear to inspire you - is YOU!
When I look at you: I see joy. Your smile lights up the room and comes from deep inside. There’s a little impish quality to it. Like you have a little joke that you’re always giggling about. I see strength. Not the kind that comes from muscles, though you have those too, but the sort of strong that comes from being willing to move mountains for the people you care about. I see vulnerability. That honest fearlessness that happens when I force you to do something new (cuz I’m bossy) and you’re scared but do it anyway. I see trust. And I feel trust. Trust that you will always give me your whole heart and whole self and will accept mine in return, without judgement. I see potential. Because I know that although you have some insecurities (like we all do) you are capable of more than you know. What I don’t see is anger, resentment, rage or meanness. Please go look in a mirror and take a few minutes to look slowly and deeply until you see what I see. I am filled with love ❤️ for the life we have built together and the adventures still to live.