Feeling the feels
I hope this finds you safe and well. As you may know, we've been experiencing intense smoke up in the Pacific Northwest due to intense fires all over the west coast. If you have the means and wish to help, GoFundMe has set up a Wildfire Relief Fund, the funds from which will be distributed as grants to individuals, organizations, and communities that have either been impacted themselves or are dedicated to helping those affected by wildfires. Crossing my fingers for rain.
Speaking of giant plumes of smoke, I've been having great conversations with my friend Donna in recent weeks about emotions, awareness, and reactions - or the interplay of internal and external circumstances. Before I go on, I recommend watching this YouTube video "Weather reports are good!" with Erich Schiffman, because this talk is what really started my shift in being able to think about external circumstances ('weather') and my ability (or inability, lol) to observe how that affects my internal universe. My biggest struggle in yoga and in life is learning that emotions are not reality. They are real emotions, but they are not necessarily the whole story, they are a reaction. This felt SO infuriating to me at first - how dare someone imply what I'm feeling isn't valid - that I pushed back against it for a long, long time. It was only when I started to observe the effects of living in my emotions - and observing it in others - that I began to realize how detrimental it is to let my emotions write my life for me. To repeat, I am not saying "don't feel emotions." In fact, FEELING is what helps us NOT get overrun by emotions: feeling them yes, noticing them yes, but not being governed by them. When I let my mood or actions be dictated by external circumstances, I tend to think "Well, I'll feel better when there are things to feel better about." I look for validation for the emotions I have, and depend on external sources to supply the emotions I want to have. But that is such a recipe for disaster. It's like saying "I'll feel better when everything, even the things outside of my control, is just the way I want it to be." It's not only unrealistic, it assumes that the world is here to adjust itself around you, which, spoiler: it's not. (I know, I know, I struggle with that one too.) Plus: 1. It puts your happiness and contentment into the hands of someone or something else - whether that's your partner, your parents, the guy making your sandwich (MORE MAYO, get it TOGETHER, BRIAN), the snowstorm, or everyone of voting age in the USA. Would you trust Brian to run your life? This sandwich is bone dry!! 2. It makes you question your own needs - it's okay to not want mayonaise on your sandwich just because I do (and I do, BRIAN), or to not feel drained by politics even though your partner does. But if you're looking to me or your partner to validate your experience, if you don't get it, you might override your own wisdom, and go with what is right or good for someone else. Brian might be allergic to eggs, but I'm not, so what's right for him isn't necessarily what's right for me. (To be clear: by extra mayonaise I meant the regular amount, and then more. BRIAN.) 3. It's a real fucking rollercoaster depending on your input - hanging with your friend's chill-ass dog, eating brunch, and laughing? Life is great! There's a lot of things that bring us joy. Open up social media for just a sec? All of a sudden we're ugly/boring/trash monsters, politics is a hellscape from which we shall never escape, everyone we know is doing cool stuff while we aren't, and the sandwich shop took your favorite sandwich off the menu!? BRIAN (PROBABLY) STRIKES AGAIN. THERE. GOES. MY. WHOLE. DAMN. DAY. Point is, there's a LOT of things to feel great about, and a LOT of things to feel shitty about (many of them Brian-related). Which is true? Which is the "right" one? What should my state of mind be? Well, what am I experiencing right now? I guess whatever is most recent? How do keep track? How am I supposed to feel? But if I start to think of those emotions as weather, if I take a second before I lash out and sit in loving awareness, if I take a few breaths, I recognize more and more the part of me that's observing all of it: the input, the storms, the sunny skies, my reactions, how eager I am to grasp on to certain feelings or a particular narrative, how quickly and easy it is to slide into what feels familiar versus what is sustainable, healthy, and kind to myself (...and even Brian). Feel the emotions. Let your whole body and mind be aware of them. Listen compassionately to what you are trying to tell yourself. Acknowledge with kindness and patience that you see them, you hear them. But don't let Brian ruin your day. Brian's not the boss of you. Brian can't even handle the fucking mayonaise.