“When our “garbage mind” …spills out, we may be alarmed and think that we’re not doing the practice correctly. In fact, we are. Only by exposing the garbage mind can we identify it and free ourselves from it.” – Thubten Chodron
It wasn’t a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year for me, and it’s difficult for me to admit it. I feel guilty for feeling that way, and I feel guilty for acknowledging it publicly. Mostly, I’m ashamed of feeling miserable. I’ve been in this state of anger and irritation for two weeks, and I’m noticing a lot self-judgment about it. (Should I feel this way? I should get over it. These feelings are burdens to other people. No one cares. No one wants to hear you complain.) All these judgments create this angst tumbleweed that rolls around in my spirit picking up more things to be mad about. Me and my tumbleweed are fully convinced that everyone is up to no good, and I am ready to fight. This particular feeling is not something I’m accustomed to dealing with. Depression, I know that one well: make some hot cocoa, put on your pajamas, and ride this puppy out. Anger? Hmm. So far I’ve got: try not to bite the heads off innocent people who love you and do more cardio.
Yesterday, some fellow yoga teachers and I (with my tumbleweed) drove down to West Hartford, Connecticut to attend the open house for The Yoga Shop‘s new location. When we walked through the doors, I was immediately struck by the bright energy in the room. There were so many smiling faces. My whole body was braced before, and I felt it completely soften. My big angry tumbleweed ceased to tumble. I waited in line to walk into the room (there were a lot of people there), and I watched the owners, Annie and Kim, greet everyone as they entered. As I observed them warmly embrace each person before me, I thought, “Oh, they probably won’t hug me. They are so busy. They probably don’t even remember me.” (Yes, I know this is highly illogical since one month ago, I was in a weekend long training with both of them. That’s just where my head goes.) When I walked up to both of them, I fully expected to just give them a wave and disappear into the back of the room, and Kim suddenly pulled me into her chest and gave me this SQUEEZE, and said, “I’m so happy to see you.”
I felt the weight of my previous brooding soften. My tumbleweed turned to dust. I don’t think that happened because they are magical beings (although sometimes I do think they might be unicorns), but because when they say, “I’m happy to see you,” they mean it. They say it to you while looking you in the eye, firmly embracing you, wholeheartedly. They commit to connecting with you. And I felt in that moment, that was the anger antidote: connection. My resentment was preparing me for a fight from any angle, and that moment of vulnerability, and authenticity said, “You don’t need your weapons here.”
I laid down my defenses, took my place on my mat, and began class. It was fun and challenging. There was a spontaneity about it that is very beneficial for type A people like me who tend to dissect and analyze (even our yoga!). I noticed in times of exertion (we did Goddess pose A LOT) I could feel that angry dust start to stir up again, and I just stayed and tried to soften around it. Towards the end of class, I was resting in child’s pose listening to the teacher, Joe, speak about holding on and making the choice to let go. It made me think that my feelings (my angst tumbleweed) were a lot like those poses that were hard to hold. I could clench and resist my way through them, counting the seconds I was there, praying for someone else to deliver me from them, or I could stay there, soften around unpleasantness, and relax into whatever was there. I could feel angry, and I could loosen my grip on it.
There’s still some holiday residue lurking about within me, although I most of the tension I was feeling has left. There are these tiny flashes of it that appear, and I notice my immediate reaction is to shut it down. When it happens, I try to think about those warm greetings I received yesterday. I think about how connection drops defenses. When I can connect to my own feelings in the moment, I don’t pile on the extra criticism and judgments that cause more stress. I don’t have to feel guilty or ashamed of feeling angry because that is how we free ourselves. When I can greet my own anger with open arms, I can watch it embrace me, feel it’s grasp until I can soften, and then I can watch it leave.