Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We Let What Arises, Arise.

Every time I get to about the 45-minute point in my 1 1/2-hour yoga class, I start to get cranky. I want to go home. I'm tired. I want to eat something, or crash on my couch and watch whatever movie I have waiting for me. I can think of all these chores and tasks I want/need to do. My mind starts to wander. My yoga teacher always talks about "letting what arises arise." At this point in yoga, I could get up and walk out. Nobody's stopping me. Or I could slack off and just not do the harder poses. That's what the class is like. You do what you want to do and no more. I could let my mind wander and just not focus on what she's saying. But what's interesting is, if I relax and just let it happen, the discomfort at being in the middle of yoga class isn't quite as bothersome as it might have been if I had tightened up about it and let the cranky, tired story take over.

When I start to watch the clock in yoga class, I play with it. Sometimes I want to sneak a peak, during downward dog, at the clock, and sometimes I don't let myself. How does that feel? Then, sometimes, I do let myself. How does that feel? It's a good lesson in letting it all arise, no matter what, and in not judging it. Sometimes, I'm shocked at how slowly time moves. Then, when I get into a sequence, I peek at the clock and 15 minutes has gone by. Poof. And what's different each time? Not much, just what I'm choosing to focus on.

I stopped doing yoga for about six months, because each day that I had a class, I'd spend the entire day feeling bad about it, making excuses not to go, feeling tired and out of sorts. I finally decided that if it was that painful, there was no reason to do it. But since I've come back from New Orleans, my life has changed to the extent that I can, for some reason, let things just be. I can notice the discomfort at the prospect of doing weird poses in a hot room for 1 1/2 hours, and not feel strongly one way or the other. I can decide to go or not go, and not make up a story about it. Or I can come home and goof around on the internet and not feel guilty. I can go on dates and not feel nervous, and not feel upset if things don't seem to go well. I can get an e-mail from my ex- and feel vaguely amused but not caught up in the old drama. Or I can start to get caught up in the old drama and watch myself not get truly hooked by it. I can have plans for Saturday or not. I can not sleep well on a particular night and not be upset by that fact the next day. I can just let what arises, arise.

How odd. 

When we let things just come up and be, they don't have power over us. In yoga class, when I wish the class was over, I can just experience the feeling of wanting the class to be over. I don't have to have a story about why the class is so long or how I'm too weak to do a 1 1/2 hour class, or how the woman next to me is better than I am and she doesn't seem to be tired. It's the same with everything else. Play with it. When you're hungry, can you just be hungry? When you're sad, can you just be sad? When you're confused, can you just be confused? How long can you let it just be? Then when you start to make up a story, can you just watch that process without jumping into it, wholeheartedly? "Oh, there's that story again." Can you let what arises, arise? 

Here's a concept: What if everything is perfect the way it is? This can be an easy or impossible concept to grasp, depending on what your circumstances are. But no matter how difficult things are, is it possible to relax around it and, even if just for .3 seconds, let it be what it is? I don't want to be on this mat, hot and sweaty. Oh well. I don't want it to be this cold outside. Oh well. I don't want what happened in my last relationship to have happened. Oh well. Maybe you don't want to be unemployed, to hate your boss, to be in the situation in your relationship that you're in, to be sick, for your mother to have just passed away. But can you let what arises, arise? And if you can't, can you let that arise and be OK? 

Yoga teaches us many things: to pay attention to how we hold our bodies, to breathe, to stay committed to something that's often hard, to be patient, to be self-compassionate, to not judge ourselves or others. One thing it teaches is that discomfort is not inherently negative. It just is. It can be borne. Also: usually, discomfort means that we're not allowing ourselves to relax into an experience, and sometimes that we're literally not breathing. When I practice not giving up at the 45-minute point in yoga class, I also practice not giving up, lashing out, tensing up, or getting swept up in story outside of yoga class. Emotional pain, like yoga class, will end. And, like yoga class, it makes us stronger and can make us more flexible if we can choose not to harden against it, not to stiffen, not to get up and walk out. And, as my yoga teacher says in the middle of difficult poses: "Remember to breathe! Breathing is good!"

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