This post is part of our YogaDork State of the Union series sharing reflections on 2014 and holding intentions and predictions for 2015.
by Jillian Pransky
For many, the drop of the ball has long been an alarm bell to “fix” what we don’t like about ourselves so we will feel better. We resolve to be thinner, healthier, wealthier, more ambitious, more confident, etc.
However, our urge to “change” ourselves, or our conditions, is often driven by a deeper unconscious desire to avoid, cover up, or numb out what we are really feeling. For instance, let me tell you a little bit about my annual urge to cut bangs.
No matter how many times in the past I have REGRETFULLY cut my hair in bangs, I still get the impulse to do it. (Gentlemen, please bear with me. This may seem like a girl thing, but it will resonate by the end.)
The urge always starts the same way… I’m getting dressed, doing my hair in front of the mirror and I begin pulling my hair into different styles, and before I get clear that I am actually just really tired, irritated, or simply in an unexplainable discontent mood I determine, “I need a new hair cut. I should cut bangs.”
Now, here is the crazy part. I know, with 100% certainty, I don’t like how bangs look on me. My hair does not bang well. Every time I’ve cut them (15 times maybe) I call my dear friend Nicole the next day and I beg, “Promise me that you will never let me cut bangs again.”
Truthfully after my last bangs cut in 2009, I thought I finally learned my lesson and really understood that it wasn’t “the answer” to the deeper feeling of angst.
So, I was actually amazed last month, when I found myself shamefully trolling the Internet for sample bang hairstyles. And, I even made an appointment.
Aware I was on the edge, I used my last line of defense. I e-mailed Nicole my Google hair cut results, “Scroll down to the last model. What do you think? Am I a crazy person? Still with the bangs…”
And while I wasn’t really sure what I wanted her response to be, thank god she wrote back, “You made me promise to talk you out of this conversation if you ever brought it up again! Put the scissors down and walk away slowly. Love, Nicole.“
I canceled my appointment.
But truth is, I still felt unsettled. And while I was relieved I didn’t cut my bangs this time, I still had to sit with this uneasy restless feeling inside. I was not comfortable. But over the course of the day, or maybe two, the restlessness eventually diminished (and my hair was in tact!)
As Pema Chodron teaches, “The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain.”
As a culture, we are not encouraged to fully experience or relax with discomfort or agitation. Instead we are encouraged to avoid it, to fix it, to do something “else” — cut our hair, go shopping, eat sweets, have a drink, check our iPhone, download an app, turn on the TV, or some other numbing activity. But usually our quick fix, while initially relieving, leaves us feeling worse in the end.
However, if we can learn to pause long enough – without avoiding or reacting – we may find that either the uneasy feeling naturally dissipates, or that the discomfort we are running from may not be as unbearable as we thought, or that there is some deeper wisdom available to us within this anxious state. Some brilliant truth becomes more clear about what really needs to shift or change.
“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” — Pema Chodron
Over time, our yoga and meditation practice can help us learn to “pause” before we reach for relief or react allowing us instead to cultivate more patience, and a capacity to stay open with our discomfort as well as the discomfort of others. And hopefully, most importantly, the pause can help us make less-regrettable decisions. (Or at least not cut bangs…again!)
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” — Viktor Frankl
Eventually, pausing more, we find that our daily, moment-to-moment actions naturally become more aligned and with, and reflective of, our deeper intentions and aspirations. That our thoughts, words, and actions organically harmonize. And as Gandhi taught, this is happiness: “When what you think, say and do are in harmony.”
May it be A Happy New Year for you, your loved ones, and all beings!
Jillian Pransky is an international presenter, National Director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training for Yoga Works and co-founder of the Bright Spirit Yoga Teacher Training. She leads programs at Kripalu, Omega and Mohonk. Jillian’s Calm Body, Clear Mind DVD and Relaxmore CD have garnered excellent reviews from many including Dr. Memhet Oz. She has been featured in many magazines including Yoga Journal, Self Magazine, Family Circle and appeared on CNN.