Maybe you took a yoga class and hated the experience. Maybe there’s a pose you can’t or won’t do. Maybe you were driving and flipped someone the bird. Maybe you use curse words. Maybe you supported someone’s bad habit. Maybe you eat meat, or sugar, or cheezies. Maybe you drink alcohol or coffee or pop… Or maybe you’ve done all these things in one day!
Many of us have ideas in our head of what it means to be Yogic. Perhaps it involves meditating daily, being vegetarian, being in constant bliss, or never having or expressing any feelings or emotions that don’t “feel good”. I’m not entirely sure where these ideas come from. I know they are out there, and they influence the scripts that run through my mind. A lot of the yogic imagery seems to revolve around some sort of perfection… It’s almost like the perception is that being yogic transcends our humanness.
I have had the opportunity for some very human moments this year. In January we got a puppy. I’ve never had a dog before – ever. I’ve had cats my whole life. I didn’t know much about dogs. What I knew of dogs included their ability to follow commands (sit, stay), they like to run a lot (I on the other hand believe that unless you are being chased, there is no need for running), they bite (I got bit when I was 8) and a hundred pound dog (they can get very big) dislocated my shoulder in 2006 when I was walking it and it attacked two other dogs and their owner… Not a great start to dogness. That said I’ve had some friends with really great dogs too.
Enter LB (our dog’s name is LB). He was just under three months when we got him. The first few weeks were horrible for me. I work from home, and having a puppy in the house while I was trying to work was very challenging.
Here’s a brief summary of what I learned:
- Dogs are pack animals and always want to be with their pack. I was very frustrated at LB’s constant need for my undivided attention.
- Everyone wants to be free. When we would crate him he would howl, growl, bark, whine and scratch incessantly. When anyone or anything is that unhappy, unhappiness arises in me too.
- Dog teeth are very sharp and scary and they have a lot of teeth (apparently in the wild they rip things apart). I hate being bit by anyone or anything. One very important boundary for me is that I am not a chew toy. When I’m being used as a chew toy I get scared, then angry (anger is a very mobilizing emotion – it moves energy quickly and enables action!).
- LB is very energetic and wants to play all the time. To me, dog play is aggressive, chaotic and scary. I worry that they’re all going to eat each other (at the very least hurt each other) and it makes me very uncomfortable.
By the end of week three I was tired, unproductive, frustrated, and stressed. I was losing it. LB started barking at me and I screamed back so loudly the dog cowered, and then I sat on the floor and burst into tears. All of this was hard enough to take, and yet there was another piece… There was this voice inside my head that kept saying, “Aren’t you a yogi? How can you call yourself a yogi if you can’t even figure out how to deal with a puppy? This little helpless puppy and you scream at it…. really?”
And there it is. Yogier than thou.
At Kripalu they have these huge inspirational signs up in all the stairwells. There’s one that says, “Yoga is the practice of learning to tolerate oneself”.
Yoga is a practice of self-inquiry. Anything that brings more of our inner experience forward for exploration is a good thing. It’s hard, yet good. All of my resistances bring forward facets of my being that I am reluctant to connect with – anger, frustration, guilt, shame, envy, judgment, discomfort, failure, and fear. All these very human experiences bring up something else – doubt… doubt about if I am a “good” person or a “good” yogi.
I believe we are all “works in progress”. Yoga is hard work and requires constant and deliberate practice. It is worth it for sure, however the journey is challenging. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel whatever emotions are arising, they will stay separate and un-integrated and continue to build our resistances. Interestingly, everything that I resist is a reflection of how much I am in resistance to myself. It is a part of me I would rather disown than integrate. Richard Miller calls these “The Pointers”; indicators that have the potential, when integrated, to help us recognize our inherent wholeness.
It often feels easier to throw the source of our discomforts outside of ourselves (blame, projection). I am uncomfortable because of so and so. I am angry because of this or that. The reality is that all those things would never have surfaced if they weren’t inside us in the first place. The whole world is a mirror of our inner experiences.
In order to integrate all our pieces, reflection and self-inquiry are required. This is the challenge – to really look at and face and be with the pieces of ourselves that we would prefer not to hang out with. I find it helpful to sit with these facets of myself in meditation or while journaling or when on my mat to explore why I am in resistance to myself. Yoga provides some amazing tools for the inquiry. What is it about this piece of me that creates tension, aversion, or negativity? How come I’m not OK with experiencing the full spectrum of human experience? What beliefs do I hold that are limiting my ability to accept life as it is? How can I soften to the things that make me cringe? Can I breathe through it? Can I learn to tolerate my humanness?
Truth be told, there are some parts of humanness I will never be OK with, like violence or harm of any kind against innocents. I can accept that I feel that way about those things… Why is it so hard to accept that I get angry when I’m being used as a chew toy by a land shark (aka LB)?
LB is a wonderful teacher for me. He’s showing me how much of a control freak I am, how short my fuse can be (especially if I’m over tired or over scheduled), he’s bringing me into the present moment with all my feelings (preferred and not so much)… He’s creating a space for me to learn and grow – to soften around my resistances and integrate more pieces of me into wholeness.
As I write this newsletter, guess who’s snuggled up beside me keeping me honest and making sure I spell-check? That’s right, LB is. It’s taken some time, and yet he and I are figuring out how to co-exist. I’m learning to soften to his enthusiastic and high-energy ways; he’s learning that Mona is not a chew toy (boundaries are super important). Life is a fascinating work in progress. I’m not as afraid of dogs… I might even really like this one a lot 🙂
Om Shantih and Prema (universal peace & love),
Mona L. Warner, ERYT500 & CYA-E-RYT500