Friday, September 12, 2008

Room for Emotions

A few years ago I traveled with certified Iyengar yoga teacher, spiritual mentor, and beloved friend Gabriel Halpern for a yoga retreat at Kripalu. When we arrived in Albany it was gray and rainy, and I was disappointed by the weather so I complained about it. Gabriel replied with the observation, “Rain is a sign of fertility.” And said that it could be seen as a blessing for a rich learning experience on retreat.

Perhaps emotional rains can also be seen as a blessing. These showers nourish the ground of consciousness and water the seeds of creativity.

A strategy for working with the emotions in yoga comes from the LifeForce yoga training that I did earlier this year. This approach uses archetypes of human experience to set the tone for practice. One of the archetypes used is the bodhisattva of compassion from the Buddhist tradition, Kuan Yin; the name means, “she who hears the cries of the world.”
In the representation that I have, Kuan Yin is seated on a human hand. The hand represents action, and I’m inspired to think that something I can do can actually create enough space to adequately hold my sadness. At certain points in my life this seemed impossible. But the practice of yoga and meditation does create more space in the experience of consciousness so a person can hold much more than once seemed possible. And I now find myself in a place where I can hear other people’s sadness, too.

I’m also inspired to think that this representation might also suggest that humanity has the ability to hold it’s sorrows in this troubled world.

It’s not from the intellect that one can do the kind of listening I’m talking about here, it is from the heart. In the heart I’m convinced that there is adequate space to hear all cries. To me, Kuan Yin represents the listening heart. This kind of listening is not trying to fix anything. Heart listening is acceptance.

The yoga mat can also represent this, an open and accepting space where feeling-states can safely come up. Metaphorically speaking, the yoga space can have the ears and heart of Kuan Yin, who hears an individual’s sorrow, as well as all of humanity’s sorrow. Suffering is bigger than any individual. This reminds me that I am not alone, and that my emotions are a natural part of the path.

In yoga, there is a call for me to expand beyond my woe-is-me story line. Yoga gives me tools for enlarging my consciousness, and with that the sense of who I am.

I have a story, but who I am is bigger than that. And how I express who I am is a creative project.


Anonymous said...

The first and only time I've been to Kripalu was last winter, for a workshop with Amy Weintraub, and gray and rainy would have been a huge improvement over the icy and incredibly treacherous conditions on the way up--in fact, I managed to skid across the center line into the opposing lanes crossing the bridge over the Hudson. As it turned out, I'd managed to do so while there was a lull in the traffic going that way, and just a few feet from the guard rail, the car stopped, and I slowly moved back to my right side of the highway. In retrospect, a near-death experience seems quite appropriate before a weekend that gave me such a different view on my life in an exceptionally accepting space. The way home was clear and crisp.....

Brooks Hall said...

Wow, that's a dramatic introduction! It sounds like you left the workshop in a good space.