Oneness Approach Interview with Amy Weintraub

I don’t believe that suffering is always redemptive, that we always get a significant and potentially healing take away. Some losses are irredeemable. Certainly the Nazi Holocaust did not have a “bright side,” nor did suffering In Rwanda or Aleppo or the abduction of 276 school girls in Nigeria. Kenneth Lonergan’s profoundly moving new film, “Manchester by the Sea,” depicts a tragedy and the guilt and remorse that follow that give nothing back to the protagonist Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck.

And yet…

For meaningful life to continue after tragedy for a Primo Levi or a Nelson Mandela, or for you and me, we wrap our minds around the worst that has happened and seek meaning from it. If we can’t do that, then, like Affleck’s character, we are doomed to remain disconnected, isolated and alone.

What does it take then to move forward from tragedy, to “Keep your gaze on the bandaged place,” as Rumi has written, so the rest of his line, “That’s where the light enters you,” is realized? What does it take to have the kind of faith after the loss of a child that you can believe Leonard Cohen when he sang, “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”

I believe, and research backs me up, that our practice, be it meditation, yoga, dance, or the creation of art, cultivates within us the ability to bear witness to all that’s arising. Not only does practice—say a heart chant like “Atma Hridaye” or a simple alternate nostril breath self-soothe by calming the hyper-aroused limbic system and by activating the cooling, calming side of the autonomic nervous system, but when in such a state, we are offered moments that transcend the story or the mood. Such moments of connection begin to accumulate. They teach us to step back from the constricting circumstances of our lives and to know ourselves as whole.

In this interview with psychiatrist Dr. Michael Seng, host of the Oneness Summit, I talk about suffering, and how, when I began my own spiritual practice, my personal story of traumas and losses became a portal into a deeper experience of Yoga, of Union, of ultimate Oneness.

Listen now: Oneness Approach Interview

A warm namaste,
Amy Weintraub

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

9 thoughts on “Oneness Approach Interview with Amy Weintraub”

  1. Margaret Lunevitz says:

    Having just seen “Manchester by the Sea”, completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training in Integrative Yoga Therapy and as a former mental health attorney with bipolar illness I share your experience of suffering as a portal into the deeper experience of yoga or ultimate Oneness.

    For some of us this happens quickly, some slowly and some seem doomed to a lfe of pain and remorse. “Manchester by the Sea” is so painful that one can fail to miss the incredibly powerful nuances of healing and hope depicted there. Remember the movie symbolically closes with Patrick and Lee tossing a tennis ball back and forth to eachother. It might not be the fairytale connection we hoped for, but its as meaningful and realistic a connection as one might hope for with one’s adolescent nephew…sometimes its the small steps that open up greater portals eventually.

    One of the songs I used for my final praticum on hip-hop yoga for healing trauma was Leonard Cohen’s “Boogie Street”. In fact Boogie Street in the song is a place in Hong Kong where a lot of prostitution occurs. In hip-hop it is a metaphor for life or one’s activities.

    The lyrics so clearly describe the path, the journey of life and the practice of yoga:

    Oh crown of light
    Oh darkened one
    I never thought we’d meet
    You kiss my lips
    And then it’s done
    I’m back on Boogie Street.

    So come my friends
    Be not afraid
    We are so lightly here
    It is in love that we are made
    In love we disappear
    Though all the maps of blood and flesh
    Are posted on the door
    Thers’s no one yet that can tell us
    What Boogie Street is for.”

    Yogah Chitta Vritti Nirodaha

    1. Amy Weintraub says:

      Margaret, what an articulate and thoughtful response! Thank you. I sense that we are like-hearted, like-minded beings. Perhaps we will meet on the yoga path or back on Boogie Street.

  2. Barbara Gauthier says:

    We just went to see Manchester By The Sea and we were disappointed by the ending. We anticipated Lee to embrace the fishing business, engage in raising his nephew. Hoping to see Lee put the pictures of his three children in the drawer and let go of his self hate and move forward.

    1. Amy Weintraub says:

      I know what you mean, Barbara. We so want Lee to heal. But his trauma has been untreated. There are small signs of connection–as Margaret mentioned, the ball toss, and there are more, but I don’t want to say too much for those who have not yet seen this movie. Those limited signs can lead to more connection and some healing. But trauma needs treatment, and it is treatable. Someone like Lee may never find himself in a therapist’s office, unless he is court mandated to do so because of his acting out behavior. There is EMDR, there is IFS and so many therapeutic interventions that can help. And there is yoga.

  3. Ruth Heal says:

    I think we decide how to react to the tough stuff that happens in our lives. It is our choice of reaction that brings transformation or not. It takes time and experience to develop the wisdom to understand what choice we must make in order to be transformed by suffering. It takes differing amounts of time for each person to achieve this understanding and only then can we move through the tough experiences.

    In the face of challenging situations we can choose to feel our feelings but only if we understand that they will not be with us unchanging for ever, that this too shall pass. Then we can look for ways to support ourselves through the challenge, such as a gratitude practice or yoga.
    Most challenges will leave us forever changed, but not damaged just different.

    1. Amy Weintraub says:

      Thank you for responding, Ruth! Yes, I think that it takes time and practice to be able to receive the gift of transformation from life’s serious challenges. Biologically, we are programmed so that our limbic system brain (emotional center) goes into gear first, before our prefrontal cortex (executive functioning) comes on line. So when trauma occurs, and I talk about this in the interview with psychiatrist Dr. Michael Seng, the feelings can be so chaotic and fraught that we often numb out. We may have an out of body experience. It’s how we protect ourselves, and yet it can build the muscle of our ability to transcend. For many of us, that part is not a choice. But through our spiritual practices–as you say, “such as a gratitude practice or yoga,”–we can slowly bring our witness (prefrontal cortex) on board. We learn that we do have a choice. We can stay present, because who we are is more than what is happening in this moment, more than our stories and our moods. In the podcast I talk about a few of these practices.

  4. Lonnie says:

    Beautiful post, poignant replies. Thank you, Amy and friends! I have listened to the podcast, but not seen the movie.

    I have seen many movies that don’t have “Hollywood” happily-ever-after endings; after all, isn’t that one of the hallmarks of Canadian film making and literature? (Slight ha-ha)

    Seriously, I find one of my growing edges in working with people is my desire for them to transform their trauma faster, more significantly, or differently from what is in them to do. Perhaps a ball passing between two people has some transformative effect on others who watch.

    On a slightly different note, I agree with non-dual Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, who has been known to say that pain that is not transformed is transmitted. Not wanting to transmit pain and also knowing that a caring, nonjudgmental listener and my embodied practice have the capacity to transform it are what keepme returning to yoga, movement, meditation, and spiritual direction again and again.

    1. Amy Weintraub says:

      I love this quote, Lonnie, from the non-dual Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, “pain that is not transformed is transmitted.” Thank you for sharing it with us.It’s what underlies our legacy burdens, I think–trauma passed from one generation to another. So we who are yoga therapists or other healing professionals, walk that fine line between offering people the tools to transform without trying to fix. I heard Richard Miller say, “as soon as we try to fix someone, we fixate them in their issues.” It’s about our own growing self-awareness first, and then supporting others in clearing the constrictions in the koshas–emotionally, mentally, physically, energetically–so that they can more clearly see their own healing path.

      1. Lonnie says:

        You reveal yet another layer, another dimension, Amy. I am so fortunate and appreciative to have you to guide me through the challenges. <3

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