Have you ever said something that one might consider mean to a loved one? Have you been reactive without pausing to process your emotions? Or become impatient with a cashier whom you felt was moving at a glacial pace?
If you answered yes -- congratulations on being human!
Walking On The Spiritual Path
Spiritual pursuits on our path through personal growth can be tricky. We strive to grow; to open our hearts to others while also having compassion for ourselves. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? I have been incredibly hard on myself, at times, for not being “positive.” I practice yoga, meditate, and I write a wellness column on DoYouYoga called Peace, Love, and Practice for Pete’s sake!
I have been on this path for quite some time, and I found myself overcome by a nagging pressure that I “should” be more in command of my emotions, fears, and sensitivities. I asked myself, “What do all of these pursuits really mean?”
Yoga has helped me to access new energies within me both physically and spiritually. I write to connect with others in our shared humanity, as we are ALL multi-dimensional beings with both darkness and light in our human make-up.
After 10 years of working with a therapist and spiritual teacher, and cultivating a meditation and yoga practice -- I’m finally beginning to become mindful of the following 3 things. A work in progress for sure, but I hope that these resonate with all of you spiritually focused self-imposed guilt trippers out there.
Know Your Triggers
We all have triggers: a topic or sensitivity that seem to always ignite our anger/ fear response. Usually it is from a core belief that was somehow planted in the recesses of our heart from a very young age; beliefs like “I’m not good enough,” or “My feelings don’t matter.”
So here we are, practicing yoga, stillness in difficult poses, breathing through discomfort…while, trying to stay in a heart space when a family member or significant other triggers us. We find ourselves searching for that Bengal tiger determination that we commanded in a difficult yoga pose. Are we feeling mentally still now? Not so much.
Suddenly, we may lash out in anger and say something from a reactive place. Later, we may feel tremendous guilt over this because that’s not what a “yogi”/ spiritually focused person would do. These thoughts reinforce the negative core belief that we are not good enough, etc. And so the cycle continues…
It’s important to really know ourselves and what triggers us. Being mindful of who we really are in our heart center, how we have come to be reactive in certain sensitivities, and identifying these very triggers are crucial to our expansion.
No Need To be “Positive” All the Time!
One thing I’ve realized and continue to work on is that our emotions are signals. They must be felt and understood. Glazing over them in the name of “positivity” is simply repressing our signals and will eventually hinder our progress to a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.
Positivity is a buzz-word that no longer buzzes, but is now a deafening sledgehammer in the spiritually focused community. Catch phrases like, “No more Drama”, “Positive Energy”, and “Only Good vibes” are colorfully adorned on social media sites for our inspiration. We are bombarded with messages of positive thinking. We may then find ourselves pretending to be ok as not to seem “negative” or less spiritually focused, somehow. We may become reluctant to emote anything that may be perceived as negative.
Suppressed emotions do not dissolve. The mind-body connection is powerful and our emotions are signals that should guide our decision-making. It’s ok not to feel positive about a certain situation or area of our lives. We must not force ourselves to like what we do not like. Feeling our emotions and allowing them to flow through us is not only ok, but many spiritual teachers and psychotherapists recommend this because it leads to a deeper understanding of what we truly want in life. We can only know what we DO want if we can identify what we don’t want.
Compassion MUST Include Yourself
Compassion is based in the idea of oneness; we are all the same and trying to experience happiness in this physical existence. When someone makes a mistake or hurts us somehow, it is spiritually-focused to try and understand their humanity and have compassion. As we practice compassion, we may find ourselves operating under the idea that we must always forgive and forget.
Forgiveness is a process and does not mean that we must continue to allow any circumstance that can harm our well-being. If we continue to allow hurt into our lives, we are not having compassion for ourselves. If we are hard on ourselves for being human and having a bad day, speaking harshly, or not being the very best version of ourselves at all times, we are not having compassion for emotions and our own humanity.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ~ Pema Chodron
As we cultivate any spiritual practice and gain awareness of ourselves while also having compassion for others, we can ascend to meet our higher selves. We can transform our thinking, and our hearts. We can do this and still remain in a state of allowance for our emotions and humanity to freely flow through us.
Awareness is the key to our awakening.