In life we experience the most diverse situations and things. Sometimes they make life more enjoyable, sometime unbearable. Especially, when we become a toy of our emotions and the whims of life. Rarely do we really look at and investigate our feelings – whether it’s frustration at work or the joy about a promotion. In our asana practice, the frustration of having to stay for three more breaths in utkatasana, or the joyful relief of a deep backbend.
In the yoga sutras Patanjali differentiates between two reactions that we have towards external circumstances. We respond with desire (Raga) or with rejection (Dvesha). When we assume, that an outward situation leads to happiness, we respond with desire. When we assume, that an outward situation leads to grief, we respond with rejection. He says we need to overcome both of these burdens (Kleshas) of desire and rejection.
I find rejection specifically interesting. In rejecting situations we have two appraoches: We either avoid them or we hate them. It’s the same in regards to frustration on the job. We complain about our boss endlessly or we just quit. We grimmace in utkatasana or we leave the pose. We avoid discomfort by distracting ourselves and by pretending the situation is not so bad. Or we respond with frustration in the face of challenges. Both, avoidance and aggression, are not exactly productive ways to deal with the emotion or the situation.
But there is a third way to deal with uncomfortable situations and emotions. We can meet them with interest and curiosity. By going through them, we can use them more productively. Patanjali calls this Dhyana, immersion.
What keeps us from immersing ourselves in an uncomfortable situation is the fear, that it might be unbearable. We fear that we may not have control. But it can be done. We are capable of more than we think. And when we face our feelings head on, we see that we can grow from it. You can tell when people have gone through difficult challenges. I can’t tell you what will meet you there. I can’t tell you where the journey will take you. But every now and then it’s worth entering the dark hole, to find an exit on the other side.
Why do you avoid a specific situation? Why are you frustrated? Stay three more breaths in utkatasana, breath deeply and calmy observe what happens.