Just The Most Difficult

Just the most difficult…

Person, task, money problem – an endless list of times we can feel this way.

When we’re at the point of putting our heads in our hands in desperation, when we’re really starting to resent what’s happening and all the people we see as responsible, we’ve actually invested a lot of emotional energy. We have literally given ourselves, at least at some level, to the very thing we struggle with.

Teacher trainees meditating in class.

Yoga offers an explosive interpretation – that most of the struggle is not in the situation on our hands, but in dealing with our own feelings about it. Feelings and hormones (like adrenaline etc) work together. Levels of stress chemicals climb and climb as we consider all the wrong done. On the other hand, actions – in themselves – are neutral and dispassionate. In theory at least, we can solve the problem without getting stressed.

Ok, so how is this possible? Let’s take an example of a physical Yoga practice. We move – in sometimes quite demanding ways – analyzing and correcting our own breathing and posture. We learn to look at ourselves, as we are today, in the context of the goal in hand. We realise (eventually!) it’s pointless to be cross with ourselves for any perceived shortcomings. And if it’s pointless to be cross with myself for my own shortcomings, then what’s the point in being cross with anyone else for theirs? We really are all just trying to get along; no matter how much damage some unwittingly do on the way.

Teacher trainee being assisted with headstand.

It runs deeper than this. In a physical practice, we’ll pay close attention to our spines, the central line through our bodies. We look to extend, flex and open along this path. We don’t stop just because the body is a little tight. Through extension, openness comes. It’s as if tension falls out of the body as light and air pour in to areas closed and dormant for long periods. Aspirational growth – upward movement in physical terms – means that problems can no longer stick to us, can no longer own part of us. The example I found myself giving lately was of a plant growing from mud. As it insists on moving toward the sun, it breaks through and the dirt cannot hold it back.

Of course plants have roots, and we need roots too. When it comes to our problems then whatever we have on has to be dealt with. But through mindful attention to how we feel in the context of the task at hand, situations won’t stick to us, won’t own any part of us. Back to the plant example – the mud is of course essential; it’s the raw material for the plant’s aspirational growth toward the sun. So it is with our issues – they’re the emotional link back to our own human nature, and the fuel to seek further than today’s pain.

Teacher trainee working with blocks under back, arms streched above head.

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