Sunday, September 22, 2013

Holding Happiness and Struggle

"I am learning so much right now, about myself, about holding happiness and struggle both at the same time. I am learning about acting and letting go in synchrony. Wow."

The quote above was a recent Facebook post of mine. Quite a few people liked or commented on this and a few asked to me to teach them about this, so I decided to elaborate and get specific.

At the very heart of this powerful learning is struggle. I am struggling. The center-point of that struggle is a complex and tangled web of beliefs and questions about myself, my worth, and also about power and control.

I have circumstances in my life, as we all do, over which I have no power or control. Does that make me powerless? I have had moments where I have felt that it does, moments where I just want to lie down and give up, moments where I feel I am too afraid or weak to handle the challenges of my life. I have felt small and lost. I have questioned my value and worth.

The particulars of this experience or story are not as important as the feeling of it, the energy or loss of energy. The particulars are the "story" that is unique to me, the feelings and energies are essentially human. You have probably felt this way too, in some way at some time, maybe right now.

For the sake of understanding the learning I am in,  I will share some of the details of my current struggle, the story.  I live in China with my family, as my husband is on a work assignment here, meaning a new culture, new environment, a big learning curve. We have three children here with us, two of them are teenagers. Do I need to say more? Probably not, but I will. I am also teaching yoga at a studio. The environment and mindset are so foreign to the yoga world I have been in and I am swimming against the current.

My son, Mason, has ADD and a computer addiction, besides being a teenage boy.  I know. I am up against it with him. His grades are not so good, but worse are his attitude and bold disrespect right now. He is angry because his father and I have set some strong boundaries around school and computer use. He is railing against it. My other two, girls, almost 13 and 8, are also finding bumps and struggles in this new life in China. I love them all so much. It hurts me intensely to know they are and will have to go through their own trials and tribulations in this life. My mother instinct wants to fiercely protect them even from themselves. I thirst for a power and control that are impossible to have.

The yoga culture here is, again, a circumstance which I am operating under. It is what it is and I am who I am.  Many of the "beginning" students here have far surpassed my asana abilities, and deeper practices or spiritual practices are somewhere way in the background. I feel a bit like Alice down the rabbit hole, out of place, awkward and unsure.

It (the struggle) seems to be coming at me from all sides and I have found myself feeling paralyzed and breathless at times. Point to the exit sign, I want to run away!! I have felt this so deeply and agonizingly.Then, eventually, a breath comes and my wise and true self with whom I am reconnecting through yoga helps me to remember; pause and be. Be with it, open to it fully, let go. 

The despair, the loss of empowerment, the depth of the struggle live not in these details, the story, but how I am choosing to relate to it. I cannot control all these events and circumstances, I most certainly cannot control other people. I can control myself and myself alone. Even amid struggle there is this beautiful possibility of happiness and contentment. To hold happiness and struggle together, to allow them to coexist is such a powerful action. True happiness does not come from control of the external world it comes from a deep connection in the inner world. I feel this when I accept all parts of myself and trust my heart, trust life, trust grace. I pause into my sacred breath and feel abundance and gratitude for all I have and even these struggles, they are surely wise teachers helping me to evolve, helping others to do the same as well.

 I would do my children a deep disservice if I protected them from all hardship, from their mistakes and heartbreaks. I would cheat them in so may ways and on every level. I know that when I listen to my own life.

I would cheat the yoga community here if I tried to fit in, if I did not show up and offer my teaching in its unique expression. If I tried to do that I would really be lost. 

I do not have this mastered in any way. I have moments of success and many moments of forgetting. I am a student of this life, learning lessons as they come, finding more acceptance as it goes. In this way I can be in the action of my life, engaging with all the people and events, but in the moment not clinging to those actions or an expected result. I still become reactive, afraid, angry, more often than I would like, but I am understanding it more. I am learning about these aspects of myself and integrating and harmonizing my light and shadow sides slowly, diligently.

Yoga is about union, wholeness and completion. We are all yogis, maybe some don't use that terminology, but we are all seekers of this union, this deep knowing of ourselves. Yes, to marry that which seems so deeply separated over and over until illusion is stripped away and all is revealed as perfect and harmonious, life flowing from source. Happiness in the midst of struggle, action enjoined with surrender. The essence of life being love.

My children need to be who they are and I most powerfully guide them by loving them. I do the best I can as a mother and then I let go, the love is constant, the circumstances ever changing.

I show up in my teaching with what I have in my body, mind and spirit in that moment. It is an offering that I need not cling to or depend on for my sense of self. I act and surrender.

My own yoga teacher is currently focused on the concept of deliberate faith. I know that there can be no faith without surrender, no lasting happiness without letting go. To let go and step forward into the unknown deliberately and repeatedly is the fire of transformational practice, the light it creates is love. These serve as my guideposts, my pathway, and so I carry on.

"I am a pilgrim on the path of love." ~ Swami Kriplau


1 comment:

  1. Oh dear Sister Jean, this was indeed wise and beautiful. I am too on the path with teenagers. I may not be in China but some days I feel like I am in Mars. You are so wise-control and surrender, happiness and disappointment can coexist at the same time. I am reminded of Patanjali's sutra. (No idea which number of if my spelling is anywhere near correct) Stirha Sukha asanam. "May the pose be both steady and comfortable." Yes dear, somehow we gotta figure it out-how to be steady in our selves and be comfortable with that which is beyond our control. Jai.