Sunday, June 16, 2013

What Yin-Yang Really Means ...

“If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation. In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.” ~ Anthon St. Maarten

The Yin-Yang.

It's always been a favorite symbol of mine. In fact, back when I was a sad, angsty Denny's hostess at 15 years old, a regular customer came to know me so well, he gave me a yin-yang keychain one day ... just randomly.

I still have it to this day.

Until Yoga teacher training, I never really thought about it much more than it symbolizing balance — which it does.

As the years passed through me, from 15 to 29, it has come to mean a lot more. In Yoga, we talked about how the yin and yang energies coexist in all of us. Most people think they are opposing energies, positive and negative, light and dark, fire and water, male and female, life and death.

But they're actually complementary energies. And that's the part I didn't really understand until recently. See for me, and most people, I don't enjoy feeling pain, sadness, heartbreak, anger. I used to avoid those feelings, especially pain, at all costs.

In the end, however, they always found me and seemed to assail me, consume me all the more, as though having multiplied during the time I ran from them or built up walls against them. What I've learned now is those emotions are part of the grand balance of life. If we deny them, how will we ever remember what their opposites are, how will we recognize what joy, love, kindness and giving feels like?

I know, for me personally, the feeling of yin (the shady side) gives me a deeper appreciation for the yang (the sunny side) of life.

However, in the past, I used to live in the yin of life. When depression hit, that's all I felt and I got so used to it, feeling any yang emotions felt foreign and uncomfortable. Life experience and where my path is now has changed a lot of that.

So the idea of making room for pain still causes tightness in my chest, like a fight or flight instinct at the flicker of a threat. It's like a visitor that just irks you. Opening the door to it is like pulling teeth.

But I think when you look at that visitor in a new light, in a kinder light, it doesn't look so menacing after all. You realize it's a part of joy and love and compassion. That there is an ebb and flow to all of it.

I've felt heaviness in my heart the last few weeks ... for many reasons, some more prominent than others. This weekend it decided to knock on my door, it wanted to enter. And I let it this time ... I was terrified to be honest. The last time I let myself "feel" the things beckoning at my door, I felt crippled by them.

But the reality is, at that time, my mind ruled everything. It reined over me, like it does most of us. It played those same old records. But I've since created new record grooves. And even though those old records tried to play over and over this weekend, and while they did anchor me to the floor a few times, my needle eventually found the new grooves ... and as I looked at the pain I felt as a source of information as well as a complementary emotion to joy, it didn't scare me quite so badly anymore.

Perhaps we could all do this more often when we feel fear, anger, pain or sadness gripping at us ... wanting to climb into our beds at night. Maybe we can start to imagine them as just the other half of all those other emotions we enjoy and love so much. That they're part of one another, just like the yin-yang symbol.

Maybe we won't be so afraid of them anymore ... maybe instead, we will be the grand observer, the ever seeing, ever knowing walls of our homes as they walk through and walk out, over and over again.

Perhaps then, those sometimes powerful "shady side" emotions won't dictate our actions or rule our decisions anymore. Perhaps they won't consume us so much.

As I quietly ponder these things while touching my keychain ...

I dare to hope.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Learn to Swat the 'I Told You So' Bug

"Most people do not listen with the intend to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." ~ Stephen R. Covey

It's that moment when you see someone doing something you "know" they shouldn't do. You're almost peering into a crystal ball, everything to come seems so clear to you ... yet why can't they see it?

Then, inevitably, those very things you saw happened ... and that part of you — it's actually really an ego part of you when you truly think about it —is biting at the champ to say "I told you this would happen," "I told you I was right."

Well, as I continue this ever changing journey I'm on, I've come to the realization that despite perhaps "knowing" or "feeling" intuitively what was coming for some of those closest to me (or for myself for that matter), to take credit for the knowing is not quite truthful ... and does more for the ego than it does for the spirit.

Some of my friends or their friends, my family, even those acquaintances I only hear from here and there have talked about things they're going through to me. In the past, I'd offer up whatever advice came to mind, whether from my own experience, advice that was passed down to me or just from a place deep inside.

While I still dip into that well when I feel it is a good time to, I've begun a practice of listening more so than acting or telling. I've allowed the quiet to enter the conversations more in my life ... and here's why:

"Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another, which both attracts and heals."~ Sura Hart

Having been through my fair share of rough patches in life, I can honestly say I've had plenty of intuitive moments that, had I wanted them to, would have guided me through it all and likely helped me avoid some of the more traumatic and painful experiences. And my friends, family, they all expressed the same notions. And I couldn't blame them.

But at the end of the day, the things I went through over the last several years and even further back than that, they have not only served as teachers — albeit rough ones at times — they have also been experienced through my eyes, ears, body, heart, soul ... and mine only.

And for that reason, those experiences are unique to me. Any of my friends could go through the same situation, but will gain, lose, learn, self destruct, rebuild and grow differently from them as I did. So as hard, sometimes almost heart wrenchingly difficult, as it's been to watch others walk a similar line as I have, where I used to want to run and save them ... I know now I cannot. Just as no one else could save me.

We save ourselves — if we want to. And all we can do for our friends is be there, be as constant a presence of love, light, compassion, understanding and patience as we can be. It's hard, yes ... especially when I have trouble not sponging up others' hurt or pain or anger.

There is this meditation practice called Tonglen, which is Tibetan for "giving and taking." In short, you visualize taking in someone's pain with your inhalation and exhaling love and healing to them and all others in that same boat.

I've been trying to do something similar ... in my own way. I try to breathe through those moments I have when I feel someone hurting and either my heart is wanting to help with an urge to babble whatever advice I can muster or my ego is wanting to feel "powerful" for giving that perfect piece of advice.

Instead, I imagine myself full of healing, calming, loving light ... and emanating it with every breath I exhale or word of comfort I offer, even when I DO give some advice. Because it's OK to gently offer words from the heart — speaking your truth, as my guru says.

But I also remind myself that everyone is on their own path and will view every stone, every flower, every bump differently as I would. They'll get something specific to them and their own path out of it. And I have to respect that. Just as those who love me truest respected that about me and my own path and hurdles. And that's the part I'm honoring these days.

So next time you have that moment ... when those words are right there, on the tip of your tongue. Calmly silence them, see the person across from you as another fellow soul on their own path ... and maybe give her or him a loving hug instead.