Today’s guest blog is by Karen Janowsky. Karen is a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner with over 1000 hours of yoga teaching experience. Yoga has brought Karen to a place of deep gratitude and compassion in her life. It also has made her realize life’s intention, to help guide others out of the darkness that is depression and anxiety through the life-enhancing gifts yoga has to offer. Karen’s blogs and information about her offerings may be found at www.bluelotusyogafordepression.com.
We each have an ego—an identity based on our personal stories, our beliefs, and our surroundings. When we are in emotional or mental pain, the ego will say everything it can in order to help distract you from the situation that is hurting you. When you hold onto anger at a person, then your heart closes down each time you think of her or him. Imagine your heart as a palace with infinite rooms. Each closed door in the heart’s mind blocks the flow of prana, your lifeforce, to some emotion and some experience. The longer you keep that door closed, the thicker and more seemingly impenetrable the seal around that experience or person or emotion becomes. Judgment, grudges, stories that we formulate and take as “the truth” all block forgiveness. Your ego wants to protect you by sealing up the door to this room in your heart’s mind.
Our egos, however, are fragile. We decide which life experiences to include in the story of our lives. Our beliefs change as we experience new challenges and expose ourselves to other ideas. Our environments, our bodies, and our moods all change. Egos build themselves upon slippery foundations. So while our egos can try to feel important, protect us from our pain through self righteousness and superiority, they cannot succeed in the long run.
Sometimes anger feels good for a while. When you are angry, and when you hold a grudge, you feel like you are right. You are right, you have the higher moral or spiritual ground; the other person is wrong, is less worthy of love. Perhaps you even entertain the idea that the person deserves something negative in her or his life. The more tightly you weave these judgments and angry emotions into your story, the more you believe it. The door seals up. You carry the anger in your heart everywhere you go.
It takes excessive energy to carry anger with you all the time. Each moment spent holding onto anger uses your prana, your vital life energy, and redirects its flow against wholeness and connection with the Universe. Anger is your heart and mind’s way of saying “No.” It says “no” to emotion. It says “no” to the flow of your life force through this aspect of your existence. The closed door in your heart says “no” and disallows the Universe to heal you and bring you closer to a state of wholeness. “No” makes you separate, and being separate from your own life’s energy is very painful indeed. Without access to your prana, you feel exhausted. Each “no” in your life depletes you.
The solution is let go and practice the opposite. The inclination we often have is to “talk things over,” or “work it out” with the person to whom we’ve closed our heart’s door. Sometimes talking is useful; many times, it simply strengthens the same story our egos have constructed. When we have the same conversation over and over, actual communication stops. When we state our side of the story multiple times, it often means we’ve stopped listening. Our egos have found a new way to strengthen the lock on the heart’s door. What happens if you let go of the story altogether? Even if your relationship remains negatively changed—even if you are never close to this person again, what happens if you drop the justifications, let the story dissolve? What happens if you allow “yes” to seep into the space between you and your story? What if you say “yes” to the painful things behind the door your ego has locked shut?
In all likelihood, it hurt terribly at first. Anger will well up in you. Your whole body may shake and sweat with rage as your ego clings to its constructs. Then you’ll feel the original wound. It may gape and bleed and leave you drained. The saying goes, though, that Nature abhors a vacuum. Something else will fill that void. Your prana will flow into that space. The solution to letting go of anger is feeling. Let the Universe sustain you as every emotion and physical sensation flows into and out of that space that anger had closed off for so long. Breathe deeply into each emotion as it comes and goes. Get curious. Let the pain, joy, sadness and gratitude stay as long as they need to and then let them go. Tell each sensation, I am making space for you. I am infinite. Take what you need.
Ram Das says, “[Anger] costs more than it’s worth. Even though you are right, righteousness ultimately starves you to death. “Righteousness is not liberation. It is known as the golden chain. You’re wonderful and you’re absolutely right, but you’re dead. I mean you’re dead to the living spirit. And finally, you want to be free more than you want to be right. And you have to forgive somebody not because they deserve forgiveness within your [ego’s] model, in a righteous sense.”
Ultimately, each person’s natural state is love. I truly believe this. When we are alive, and the Universe flows through our infinite hearts without obstruction, we are all the same. No one has to be right or wrong anymore, and there is nothing to forgive. You do not forgive the Universe for its existence; you do not forgive rain for getting you wet. Life happens, and sometimes problems arise. Throughout it all we are connected. Keeping the heart’s open connection to the Universe is a practice. When you have been hurt by another person, even after time has passed, sometimes the ego continues the process of sealing off the room to that relationship. As a conscious, precious being, actively loosen your grip on the anger when you notice it. The process can go on for a long time. There is room in your heart for you, the pain you feel, the person involved, and for the bliss and connection you share with them. The heart always has room.
You can find a very effective practice for letting go of pain by Amy Weintraub here: http://yogafordepression.com/painasapathwaytopeaceanondualpractice/