Self-reflection (svadyaya)* while I was reading the new book Emotional Freedom, by Judith Orloff M.D. compassionately showed me some of my unprocessed emotional straw (dotted with plenty of unresolved EXCREMENT) that still needs to be spun into gold through the alchemy of yoga, as in the union of body, mind and spirit. You really need the spirit part to do it! Without opening the heart to something greater (Isvara-pranidhana)* than the personal story, we can become a prisoner of it. And the book is definitely written for men and women both. So if you have ever done something or said something you regretted later because it was harmful and not done with conscious awareness, this book offers helpful ideas for becoming more aware and for shifting into a more compassionate and loving place.
The chapter on jealousy (aparigraha)* had me rapt. In it I learned a new word: floccinaucinihilipilification which refers to “the habit of deeming everything worthless.” This definition transported me to my younger adult days when a regular phrase for me was, “Life sucks,” said in a passionless monotone. I just wasn’t seeing a place for my hope to sprout in the world I was seeing. The new connection I made was that this was an effect of having lived jealously. When you always think that other people have everything figured out, and you don’t, eventually, (it’s easy to see how) someone might give up under those circumstances. Especially when that person (me) feels that they want to make a creative contribution to the world. That is not something you can find from someone else. It must come from within. Dr. Orloff sees self-esteem as the antidote for jealousy. It takes courage to look inward for inspiration, when so many people who don’t really have it worked out, themselves, want to tell us how to do everything—especially when you are a young person.
But it’s never really about other people, as in “their fault.” The road towards freedom shows up for real when a person is ready to take responsibility for their life. And a nice part about the book is that the author sees challenging emotions as opportunities to grow. So if I were to see the next occurrence of jealousy as an opportunity to work on self-esteem, I would be in line with the message of the book. So the next time I think that someone else has things figured out so much better than me, I can dedicate the next conscious moment to looking at what I am doing instead of ruminating on my warped perception of the other person.
Sometimes I am surprised when the old “life sucks” Brooks shows up. It is never when I am teaching yoga, but she can sneak in behind the scenes when I am watching or listening to a situation, either alone or in a group. Certain kinds of looks from people can bring it on, or if I feel that I am not being seen it can also happen. The next time this happens I’d like to remind myself that the clouds of negativity are not me, and those thoughts are not who I am. They are just a part of my mental soup that shows up sometimes, and I don’t have to believe it. It’s harmful to act from that dark place, so my awareness of it is crucial.
I have encountered some people who don’t want to tolerate negativity in any form. But that might send it deeper into the subconscious, and from there it can control things without interference. So this is why it’s important to bring these old nasties out into the light of conscious awareness—this way you can grow emotionally by making choices about what you are doing instead of reacting out of old emotional patterns.
I am grateful for having yoga in my life. It was the experience of going deeper into myself through this practice that allowed me to see a world where my hope might sprout and my dreams might become realities. My dream of teaching yoga has happened, writing about yoga substantiates another dream, and now I’d like to extend my reach further (hope in progress).
* I added the corresponding concepts from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The book isn't about yoga per se.