Emotions: Friends or Foes?
Daily we find ourselves in situations, conversations and thoughts, all of which evoke a certain emotive response. With the wink of an eye we may become happy, angry or grief stricken. Like it or not, we are emotional beings. When we choose to let the emotions move through us in tears or shared conversation, their intensity naturally dissipates. However, when we choose to hide them, the emotions seep deep into our being, awaiting the perfect moment to explode.
Out of fear or pure negligence, we oftentimes bury our emotions. In response to rejection or hurtful words, it is natural to feel the sting. In the same way, when faced with challenge or uncertainty, we naturally feel fear. Our emotions are a powerful part of our inner guidance – a blessed gift of our humanity- so long as we acknowledge, honor and release them. It is when we fear these emotions that they cause us suffering.
While beautiful, life will always throw us curve balls; obstacles when we already feel weakened by challenge, loss when we feel as though we can lose no more. In such cases, it is tempting to shove our emotions aside, choosing instead to busy ourselves with distractions, like seeking external validation of a prestigious job or aiming only for perfection. In truth, our current society is a fertile breeding ground for living a life dictated by constant busyness and distractions.
As a yogi, I propose an alternative solution: what would happen if we chose to befriend our emotions instead of ignoring them? How could our lives look and feel if we chose to experience our emotions, instead of avoid them through distraction? What would happen if we used our yoga practice as a vessel? A healing modality?
In his book Living Without Regret, Buddhist scholar Arnaud Maitland suggests that we can reduce suffering. He shares that suffering is a choice. One way to do so is to ”treat an emotion as a guardian or spiritual friend, instead of a foe.” In truth, our yoga practice serves as a wonderful opportunity to sit with our emotions, allow them to move through us and to be fully present. Through asana, pranayama and moving meditation, we are offered a rare opportunity, to embrace instead of avoid; what a lovely gift.
In your yoga practice, how can you befriend your emotions? What does your anger, sadness or grief have to teach you?
By Erin Walton