by J. Brown
In the grand play of will and happenstance that comprises a life, periods of malaise are bound to take hold. These times, while disconcerting, provide a fertile proving ground for cultivating a vision of ourselves based not in fear but nurtured by our deepest sense of courage and humanity.
Perhaps it’s the excruciatingly long winter we’ve been having here on the east coast, or the bleaker than usual picture being painted in the news of late, but motivation sure seems to be in short supply. Across the faces of the determined few in my daily classes, I see what appears to be people at a breaking-point. As though, something, somewhere, had better give soon or we might not make it through.
When one is standing on a precipice of emotional stress, doubt and self-loathing tend to color the lens of perception. It’s hard to think big and be bold when forward direction feels stalled and everything seems to be about as “ f ”-ed up as its ever been. And given the very real challenges that are coming to roost in so many sectors of modern life, we are well within reason to want to throw up our hands in frustration and disgust. But angst is really only so useful as you can make a piece of art with it. Beyond that, fuming and railing against all the many things that we have no say over will do little except exacerbate our dismay.
We are always imagining ourselves in one way or another. Do we see ourselves as moving in a direction that we want to go in and being the person that we want to be? Or have we resigned ourselves to the notion that we are stuck in a set of unchangeable circumstances?
Sometimes maybe we are stuck. We become subject to our habituation and we can’t see any way out of it. Attempts to break free from the confines of self-perpetuating ruts lead to further problematizing, where we make even more hay of the situation than is actually warranted. And maybe we can all just finally admit that Facebook makes it worse. A University of Michigan study found that Facebook leads people to feel less good in the moment and less satisfied with their lives. The authors speculate that what drives that outcome is social comparison. Other people posting flattering photographs and funny comments makes your own life feel more dull.
However, the prevailing meme that if we just unplugged our digital devices we would get back into the flow of life is unconvincing. Were people really any more connected or fulfilled before our suppressed demons started playing themselves out on the Internet? Perhaps what we need to unplug from is not the Internet so much as a larger neuro-net of ingrained longing and expectation.
I find that when my spirit is fatigued to the point of exhaustion, in order to care again, I must first be able to give up on everything.
But what could be more taboo in western culture than to give up? You’re never supposed to give up. Only weak people give up. And I’m talking about the most important stuff, too. My marriage. My daughter. The yoga center. The things that I hold most dear and treasure so completely. As if these things that have come to define who I am have been taken away from me and I am forced to face myself without them (see Family Life is the Yogic Cave.)
Truth is, as horrifying as it is to entertain the deep pain of losing everything I cherish, even then, I’m still OK. And you know what? I’m lucky in that all these things that I dread might be lost are actually still here. And all the things that I hope will yet come to be are still possible. An exercise in temporary surrender becomes like a hard boot of the system. A reset of my perspective that reaffirms the precious nature of life’s gift.
If these words have met your eyes then it’s safe to assume that you are currently existing. That means you are breathing. A heart is beating in your chest. There is a sun, moon, stars and planets in the sky. Regardless of the tribulations and obstacles we may contend with, this life we are experiencing is inherently worthwhile. I assert this not as a matter of wishful thinking but as a statement of fact, which it is your right to dispute.
For there is nothing in this world that defines us more than our own thoughts. And ideas are fluid, shaped not just by the turns and eddies of our lives but by the overriding directives we entertain. When possessed with the conviction that we must dream of ourselves and the future in ways that enable rather than impede, we make possible the fruition of our greatest aspirations.
J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY. His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and across the yoga blogosphere. Visit his website at jbrownyoga.com