Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ironic how sometimes in life we are called to be strong by being vulnerable. We have this concept that strong means unflinching, impenetrable, stoic, and tough. But if we only offer that version of strong, we shut the door on so much of the human experience. We miss out on our shared humanity. I've found that out of vulnerability can emerge really great things - gems of wisdom, overwhelming happiness, relationships, and peace. Most importantly, I am a better friend when I expose exactly who I am - flaws, hang-ups, inner conflicts, all the usual junk floating just beneath the surface.

Because, who the hell wants to tell their stories and share their thoughts with someone unable to relate? Someone who seems to have all their crap together? C'mon, none of us are there and we never will be. That's why there is death. So let's take our common existence and build on it.

Maybe tough is overrated.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Unease of Easy

I've always wondered what it's like to be weak, to not handle an unpleasant situation in the most upright, truthful, graceful way. I usually take the higher route, albeit with a few slips, but I've never decided "screw it, I want to take the easy path in dealing with this" and, well, not deal with it all. Until recently.

The story is this: something unpleasant happened to me. I could have dealt with it properly and honestly like I usually do, but I was tired of striving to be good at everything and be strong all the time. So I let myself be weak, and I avoided the truth and made up my own reality that better fit my image of how things should have happened or how things should be. Contrary to my weekly yoga practice, I resisted the unpleasantness of this passing moment in my life. I didn't use my breath. I fought. I relived moments long gone. I was that cartoon character, punching the air around me, so caught up in adrenaline and the culmination of anger that I didn't even notice the other person, my scapegoat, had left. I was fighting myself.

I learned there is nothing at all easy about the "easy" path. Rather, I just ended up with all this negative energy and a lot of shame. The easy path didn't excuse me from dealing with unpleasantness, it just prolonged it. And in prolonging that moment when I would have to accept a reality I didn't like, I made it harder on myself. The truth got heavier, and the shame of having taken the lower path made me smaller. I contracted. I was less than the full person I am quite capable of being. As a dear confidant told me, I had "lost the twinkle" in my eyes.

This was all very temporary - a period of a month or so. But it provided a lot of insight into how uneasy the easy path can make a person. Had I accepted unpleasantness from the moment it was pushed onto me, it would have hurt, but it would have been over and I would felt proud of the way I had handled the situation. Shame, I learned, is a very strong, corrosive emotion and much harder to carry on a daily basis than any uncomfortable truth.

In yoga, we hold poses long enough that it becomes uncomfortable. My body starts trembling and my mind looks for an escape. So many times in a pose, my mind is:

". . . how can I make this easier, how can I quit this pose without being alone (since everyone else is still holding the pose), what can I do instead of be in this moment, ugh I hate this pose, why am I here, this is stupid, why is this not easier . . ."

My mind seems to conspire against me in a tough moment, signaling that I should just quit and do something easier. My body responds by falling out of the pose, or moving a lot. My body, my life, cannot maintain stillness without the quiet of my mind. I look around and the people next to me are still holding their pose. Why is this so easy for them? Why aren't they struggling like me?

Do you get it? Yoga is a metaphor for life. In my pose, in that moment when I feel uncomfortable and look for an escape, my teacher's voice in the background reminds me: use your breath. If you look at your neighbor to compare, you will lose focus and fall out of the pose. If you let your mind talk you out of this pose, your body will fail you. Then, you will feel frustrated and angry. If you let yourself fall apart, everything around you will fall apart.You are strong enough to power through this moment. Prove it to yourself.

This is just a moment and it too shall pass.