I recently starting taking part in a therapeutic yoga class at a new-to-me yoga studio. I have dabbled in yoga in the past, but I have always let my ego get in the way of continuing my practice because I was convinced I was not good enough to go to a yoga studio. This is not an uncommon feeling for me, this thinking I am not good enough, and it is something I have been working through in therapy. However, my friend D attended the class and came out of it excited about the good energy she felt in the studio and the fact that she really liked the instructor, and I decided to go for it.
Today, Silver (she is our instructor) spoke with us about dukkha, which is a Sanskrit word that can be roughly translated to mean misery, unhappiness, or pain. Dukkha is said to occur because we are ignoring our true nature. She also spoke with us about the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a feeling that we have, either physical or emotional, that we have to experience. Suffering is something that happens when we hold on to our pain and let it become the anthem for our lives. I have been through quite a bit of pain in the past two years. And I have worked really hard to numb that pain through the use of food and the internet and shopping and all those other numbing behaviors that I default to. I do NOT default to “feeling the feelings.” And this leads to suffering.
As Silver spoke about these things today, and I wondered, “How did she know? How did she know that I needed to hear this? How did she know that I struggled with this?” The answer, of course, is that this is pretty universal. Painful things happen everyday. We get bad news. We wake up feeling ill. We get in a fight with a friend. We stub our toe on the coffee table. We are forced to confront (or maybe led to confront, in my case) something difficult about ourselves or our lives. And it HURTS. It does not feel good. There is pain. So we can feel the pain. Or we can numb the pain. One of these leads away from suffering, and the other leads right to it.
Yoga for me (and also the time I spend working out and especially the strength training portion of my workouts) has been such a great tool for silencing my inner mean girl. Today, I found myself upside down in a half forearm stand, balancing my body on my forearms with my feet off the ground, and I could not find it in myself to say one bad thing about my body. In that moment, it was not about the size of my jeans or the number on the scale. It was about the fact that I asked my body to do something that not long ago felt impossible to me, and my body did it. I was upside down. I felt amazing.
It turns out that there was happiness waiting for me on this journey. And I am pretty excited to say that I have started to find it.