February 16, 23, and 26, 2019
A few weeks ago a student confided in me after class that she gets all open and good feeling in class, and then she leaves and goes out into the world and basically gets slammed down by the world. That might resonate with some of you, and yes, this happens and it’s real. I also have had plenty of experience with that.
I imagine that anyone who has done any kind of inner work, any purposeful opening and softening of some of the walls, has experienced this phenomenon. I never noticed it from yoga classes that I took but definitely noticed it occurring after yoga retreats, especially for the first years of my learning and teaching. Coming back to “real life” after my month-long yoga teacher training was particularly horrible, very painful, and at that point I had a VERY chill life and work situation!
Around that same time, through my yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices, I also found myself becoming more and more sensitive to other people’s energies. There were a couple times that stand out even now, decades later, when I was in public and could see/feel people’s pain through their body language. It was terrible, like I had no boundaries— but in a bad way. I didn’t want to be in public places with a lot of people. Once I had a client whose physical pain I unknowingly and unconsciously took into my body before I learned how to adequately protect myself. I walked around hunched over like her, in pain, for a couple days after that. Not good.
Years later, I was in NYC, traveling with Amma, my teacher. Having been with her for the two days prior and being all opened up, I was walking around the program hall and “should” have been feeling great but feeling really yucky. I noticed that I felt this way and looked in for a moment to get clear on what was happening. Very quickly I realized that I was wide open and feeling a lot of the “surround” and that I just needed to contract my energy body a bit. I did that, bringing it to about 2 inches out from my body and then felt immediately better and happy and content. I didn’t realize then, but in NYC, people have to live closed down a good bit purely for survival. Here in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, we are blessed that we can potentially live in a more open state of being than there, but still, each individual will have to learn their own limits of “happy openness,” and it’s a work in progress.
Even after many years of practice, when Nikki and I had young children, I would struggle with this. For some years my yoga room was in a separate building from the house, and over and over and over and over again, I’d come in to the house from my practice, all at peace and open and be met with VERY LOUD CHAOS and earth-shattering family drama that I would immediately get sucked into and lose the peace that I had previously felt. It was always one thing or another. (If you have younger kids, I imagine you know what I’m talking about.) It got to be SO regular that I simply began to expect it and after a short while even became so amused that I had a conversation with the Divine along the lines of, “Come on. Can’t you be original. It’s always the same old thing. Try to be a little creative with it.” After that realization and internal shift, coming into the house was not ALWAYS met with the same amount of noise and strife, but the process had helped me become stronger and more able to be with what IS and remain grounded in my deeper Self. Sometimes it’s just a matter of repetition, a different kind than just repeating and learning poses in a deeper way, and sometimes it’s as uncomfortable as our least favorite yoga pose, but it’s still a kind of learning by repetition.
Fortunately for us, the physical practices of yoga along with meditation help us to strengthen the container, our body and mind, as well as to clear out those things that are draining our energy and to build the amount of Life energy available to us. For me the most powerful practice over the long-run that has helped in all that is mantra japa (repetition). More on that in a later blog, and you can get a small dose of info on that if you read past blogs on Lakshmi mantra, kirtan, another on kirtan, and “I love you.” It can be as simple as repeating some word or phrase that reminds you of, or connects you with, the Higher Power or your Highest aspiration. It could be “OM” or “Love” or “OM Namah Shivaya” or any of the Christian prayers or the Hare Krishna mantra or… The thing is that number of repetitions/amount of time is a factor and the more the better on that. One thousand repetitions (or higher) per day is a good amount to shoot for, done anytime and anywhere. It’s not as impossible as it may initially seem.
There are additional energetic self-protection techniques that I have employed on purpose at various times. One of my favorites is a visualization. It’s good to do this sitting or standing alone in a quiet place, but it can even done when you are out in the world. Visualize, but also FEEL as fully as you can, that you are surrounded by, or are surrounding your body, with a “shell” or an “egg” of white light. Have it at least a foot out from your body all around. While doing that visualization/feeling, have the understanding and intention that that “shell” of light protects you from what would be harmful to you while simultaneously letting in only what is for your good. It’s not up to you to decide which is which. The Light will do that for you. It ONLY lets in the Good. You can do this visualization daily or hourly or constantly, or even just when you feel you need a boost of safety or confidence.
For protection, or ANYTHING, let’s also not forget the power of prayer, ever, but especially in this regard. One of the first prayers that I was taught on my Path was simply, “Please, God, help me.” It’s still a great one. Or we can have a little conversation with ourself before leaving the safety of the yoga studio or our yoga space: “OK, (your name), you’ve done some opening and strengthening and deepening of your awareness. Now it’s time to see about taking all that out into the world. I know you/I can do it, and it’s quite possible that there will be some difficulty or challenge to it, but it’s OK. Keep trying. Keep coming back to loving yourself and endeavoring to hold onto the Highest. AND ‘Please, God, help me!” In this, if you have a connection with or conception of the Divine, you can also imagine or feel that you are being held in the lap of the Divine or the Divine Mother or Divine Father, whatever resonates. Stay there as long as you need, maybe forever.
Part of what we are learning in all the Yoga practices is to live in a higher energy state than what we had been in, which is of course a higher energy state than most of the world is in, and the world will naturally resist. Peace, Love, Joy are higher energy states than most people aspire to, strangely. It’s natural that we will meet with some friction in the process. On one level, that is the “outward” manifestation of inertia, the force that is trying to keep the change from happening and “reset” us to our previous level, but from another perspective, we can take it as a test of how committed we are to keeping it and moving forward in a powerful and positive way in our life. If we keep coming back to our yoga mat or meditation cushion again and again, relentlessly, daily or as often as we’re able, then the positive change HAS to and will definitely manifest. It’s either choose to change and grow in a positive way, or don’t make a choice and have the Universe naturally tend us toward degeneration and decay. The growth, or decay, is a little by little thing, of course, and the “results” are most easily seen over years, but even just months should suffice to see things shifting in meaningful and powerful ways. We just need to “keep going,” have faith that the practices work and be with people who uplift your Spirit as much as possible.
May your practices bear sweet fruit very quickly!