This semester we have been studying resilience in the Yoga for Life program. What an incredibly prescient theme we picked! As many of our lives have changed significantly in the past few weeks, we have had innumerable opportunities to put our practice to work. I have been home for over a month at this point. Each day is filled with waves of emotion, ranging from joy at being able to take long walks outside and feel the sunshine on my face, to heartbreak at feeling the pain and suffering of the world in my body. I have had moments with surges of energy when I have tried to be productive and DO something. I have had moments of intense fatigue that is not quenched by rest or sleep. I have felt deep grief over the loss of my job and my routines, and over the vast amount of suffering and loss on this planet. I have also felt deep peace when I allow myself to slow down and BE in the moment, without trying to do or fix anything.
What I am learning is that all of these emotions are not only appropriate but welcome in this space I am holding. I am also learning that they are all temporary. Like waves in the ocean, they rise and fall. There is no way to contain a wave; no way to push it away. At the same time, each wave is but a ripple in relation to the vastness of the ocean. Instead of being carried away by the waves, we need to learn how to surf; how to be with things as they arise, without turning away. Whatever arises, allow yourself to feel it all, not just on an intellectual level, but in your body. Where do you feel grief? Where do you feel sadness? Where do you feel joy? Hold space for it all, and practice nurturing and comforting everything that arises. When difficult things arise, think to yourself, “this too belongs.” Each wave is part of the greater whole. Everything is welcome here.
We read Pema Chodron’s Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World for Yoga for Life this semester. She writes about how adversity can open our hearts to ourselves and to each other. Here is an excerpt:
“What will I do and how will I be when unwanted events occur? Will I be able to maintain a steady mind and a kind heart that can accommodate whatever pain arises and therefore benefit myself and society rather than be a hindrance? How will I react to illness, to devastating loss, to insults and disrespect? What about when things get worse in the environment or politics? Will I freak out and erupt in hatred, fear, or self-condemnation? Or will my practice allow me to be with what I’m feeling and proceed sanely and humanely? Will adversity bring out my basest qualities or will it bring out my best ones?….Whatever the future brings – welcome or unwelcome – we can use it on our path of awakening. To me, this attitude is the best kind of optimism. As we keep opening up to our potential as bodhisattvas, we will go from having a tiny view of ourselves and our world to discovering a boundless capacity to care for and benefit our fellow living beings.”
We have a choice to let this experience isolate us or connect us; to knock us down or open us up. What if, instead of seeing this time as something we have to endure, we reframe it as an opportunity to develop the awakened heart and mind of bodhichitta. My best friends live in Ireland, and they call this time of sheltering-in-place “cocooning.” That word resonates with me as a cocoon is a comfortable, cozy space that protects us while we grow. This time alone is an opportunity to cultivate “the rawness of vulnerability of our hearts,” as Pema Chodron says. As you allow yourself to truly feel what you feel, may that deepen your connection with others so you no longer feel isolated and alone. Everyone on the planet is experiencing some type of suffering right now. Just like you and me, other people want to be happy. Just like us, other people do not want to suffer. Just like us, other people do not want to feel lonely. May this suffering open our individual and collective hearts. May it deepen our compassion and our connection to each other. May it teach us that the vastness of love in our awakened hearts and minds is available right here and right now.
Rachel de Simone DPT
Join Rachel, online, for an informational session about Evolution’s Yoga for Life Program, Thursday May 21, 6-7 pm. Sign up here to receive the online meeting link. Rachel also teaches regularly at Evolution on Monday and Saturday mornings.