My Relationship With Resistance

 

temper-tantrum-girl

Have you ever considered how much energy you put into resisting things? I often find myself resisting people/things that are new to me or hard for me to grasp. And how could I forget, I of course resist when things don’t go my way. Never was it more apparent to me than when I moved to the Bay Area, I was surrounded by new concepts and ways of approaching yoga. When I was in Denver, I (by choice) was living in a bubble where things were one way and I had become accustomed to and well-versed at doing things “that one way”.

When I went to classes out here, I would find myself having mental temper tantrums because I was under the assumption that I had this whole teaching thing figured out, I knew “the way” to do it and these people were doing it in some other way. Their cues and approaches to getting into poses were foreign to me. Their method of theming classes and working the room was different. Many studios that I went to (in San Fran, Oakland, and Berkeley) put a lot more emphasis on breath worth and meditation than I was used to. Not only was I resisting the yoga scene, I found myself resisting the people scene, the difference in culture. When I say I felt resistance to these things, I often times found myself feeling annoyed and irritated, focusing on (what I saw as) the negative. It wasn’t long before all of this resistance began to weigh me down and I became extremely humbled by life’s smack in the face: maybe the problem was me. Who was I to walk around judging everyone for their difference in opinion and attitude?

Most of us will feel resistance to new and different things in life until the day that we die. Through meditation and yoga I have come to the conclusion that we can do one of two things: be a reactor (get pissed off and angry) or simply step back and be an observer. Rather than letting the frustration define us and our experience, what if we practiced taking a step back and just look at the resistance as tool (not good or bad), something to learn from? Can we remain impartial? This has helped me immensely and I needed this realization now that I live in a densely populated area where I am constantly experiencing novelty. This shift in perception has shown me how IGNORANT I’ve been for most of my life. I have such little information about life in general and I’ve wasted so much time and energy resisting people and concepts that are different from me and that I know nothing about. I was no longer in my little bubble and if I kept resisting newness or difference, I would forever have blinders on that would keep the world as I knew it and my mind small. San Francisco has been such a beautiful place to take those blinders off and because of it, my yoga practice, my teaching and my relationships have explored new heights.

I want to make an important point, I am not trying to avoid feeling resistance, or figure out why (for now). I think it’s part of human nature. Rather than trying to figure out where it’s coming from and why I feel it towards certain people and things, I am just trying to acknowledge when I feel it. Here’s where we become accountable–once you notice resistance, you then have a choice: do you want to be a reactor or an observer? Thus, another way we can take responsibility for ourselves. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, we are in the driver’s seat. It’s not other people’s fault that we feel resistance, but it is our fault if we become a reactor. Maybe one day I’ll come closer to understanding why resistance comes up for me, but until then my practice is to keep my eyes open. Becoming a reactor to resistance will keep you stuck and often leads us to behave in way that’s unbecoming. Again, I invite you to take charge and consider incorporating this practice into your life, on and off the mat.

Relax

I had my first laser tattoo removal sesh today and kept hearing my voice in my head, “Relax your face! Relax your face!” I use this cue when teaching yoga when I see people on the verge of losing it and I’ve found that simply relaxing facial features in a stressful situation can INCREASE tolerance. Boss yelling at you? Relax your face. Jerk in the car behind you honking? Relax your face. Try it. Happy Friday.baked_smiley_sticker-p217484076569376534envb3_400-1862

Riddled With Guilt

Man with conceptual spiritual body art

Catchy title, huh? I got candid with my yoga class last night about how guilt had run a long course in my life. Up until a year or two ago, guilt was a feeling that I experienced often, about any and everything. Not just about the big screw-ups in my life, but also the small things: not smiling back at someone, having a negative thought about someone, not doing one more savasana adjustment on someone. If someone honked at me for accidentally cutting them off in traffic, you better believe that I’d be reeling about it for hours. HOURS. That honk would echo in my head and I’d imagine what awful words they may have called me and how much I had inconvenienced them. What a twisted way to live!

I have reason to believe that people who consider themselves an “empath” or “sensitive” might understand where I’m coming from. Yes, I am sensitive. I, like many people, grew up being told that I was too sensitive. For the majority of my life, I believed that I was too…too something…too much for this world. I displaced myself into some other category, separate from the majority, a category where no one understood my heightened emotional state– always feeling and sensing everyone and everything and internalizing it. If someone was in an irritated or angry mood, I would somehow think that it was my fault, I’d feel that my presence must be the reason for or had at least contributed to their suffering  I was too much for a world where I wanted more. I wanted more eye contact, more physical contact. I wanted to hear about what people were feeling, I wanted to tell them too. I wanted people to pay attention to how their words and actions were affecting me, just like I was doing for them. I wanted confirmation if what I sensing about people was true or not.

I looked at being sensitive as a curse for most of my life. I became accustomed to feeling depressed. I’d imagined many, many times what it would be like to leave the world that I was “too much” for. It was like having the wi-fi option on your phone always ON. It’s always searching for a connection and it drains your phone faster if you don’t turn it off. I couldn’t turn it off. I was tired.

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with myself and decided to forgive myself for everything that I had ever done that caused me guilt. It happened when I was teaching a yoga class about the heart chakra. The words just came right out of my mouth, “Can you practice forgiveness with yourself? Can you forgive yourself for everything that you’ve ever felt guilty about and start over? You be that compassionate with yourself?” As I asked this of my class, I asked it to myself. Immediately, I felt a sense of freedom. Years of emotional weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I finally decided that I was worth it, I was worth forgiving myself. I was the only one who could release me from that mental prison, I was and am the only one in the driver’s seat of my life.

Forgiving myself is a constant practice, I find myself doing it a dozen times a day. Being sensitive is no longer my curse, it’s my gift. It’s not something that has dulled over time, it’s only gotten stronger. It’s so strong in fact, that every day, every interaction with someone feels like magic. I find myself very consciously and with ease, observing people’s body language, voice and eye contact. I feel that I’m able to interact and respond in a way that expresses an invitation to let down walls, to trust, to be no one else, but who they are. I wouldn’t have been able to discover this gift if I hadn’t forgiven myself. Through beginning to understand my sensitivity, I’ve had the rude awakening of seeing that throughout my life, I’ve over-exaggerated the impact that I have in people’s lives. Most people are so self-obsessed, just like I was, that they’re too busy thinking about what a big impact they’re having to think about what kind of impact you’re having. I’ve found this to also be very freeing and through it, I forgave myself for being so hard on myself.

Last night as I spoke to my class about my struggles with guilt, the demon of the second sacral chakra, we explored release of resistance in the hips by just softening to ourselves, our own nature. With some gentle back bending, we discussed exposing the vulnerable heart space, through which we can find a boundless amount of love, appreciation, and of course, forgiveness. For the most part, I believe that while we make mistakes (and we will until the day that we die), we are doing the best that we can. So with that, I invite you to forgive yourself. For everything. All of the time.