I recently read a statement describing yoga postures as “containers for experience.” Immediately my mind went to the possibility of seeing our bodies themselves as containers for all of human experience. What a radical way of viewing ourselves! Gone would be the need to live up to a cultural standard of what and who the body is for. Gone would be criticism and judgment around its look or shape. Gone also would be the need to reduce ourselves down to a container, forgetting that it is what is inside the container that is most important and precious. The truth is, whether we view our bodies with tenderness or scorn, they allow us to be here and to experience, everything. Without them we would not know joy, beauty, suffering, loss, pain, love, accomplishment, or failure. We would not know the wind, movement, or loving touch. What if we could see our lives as containers for an all-inclusive package of experiences while being less picky about the particular experience, and more focused on experiencing what it had to offer?
Practice being a container for experience by saying “yes” when feelings and sensations arise. Allow yourself to feel whatever is there for no other reason than because it is there. Even if you are afraid, don’t want it or don’t know what to do with it, just say yes to its presence, to the fact and to the truth, that it is there. We begin strengthening our container by acknowledging what is real about our experience in any given moment. When we deny pieces and parts, we deny the full range of what it means and what it takes to be human. Seeing ourselves to be containers of all experience is to be fully aligned with the reality of the present moment. And when we can do that, tension subsides and wholeness prevails.
Fear is a powerful motivator. From a yogic perspective, fear, along with anger and lust, are considered to be the most powerful energies in the body. They are associated with our animal nature and are beyond the rational mind. The enormity and wildness of this level of power terrifies us. One yogic tradition, however, saw the value in harnessing this energy by calling fear and God by the same name, believing that the ability to ride and transmute fear was the directest route back to God. In shamanic traditions, power coming towards you is understood to initially manifest as fear. In order to claim the next level in your work or personal growth, you had to find a way to work with fear in a way that did not overpower you, but instead fueled, focused and enlivened you.
In this culture, there is no end to the amounts of distorted, manipulated and imagined reserves of fear being generated all around us. And there is no end to the ways in which we can call these fears unto ourselves. As the technologies advance, this scenario increases exponentially. We must learn to recognize when fear is being sold to us in the form of “news”, entertainment and “public service information” which comes to us as de-contextualized and hyped-up information. To be in the presence of this type of information puts us in chronic states of arousal where we can only see the world in black and white; me vs. you, survival at any cost. This is a dangerous state to put the body in as it promotes imbalance and disease. Believing the enemy to be everywhere, it destroys the healing power of our relationships. And it robs us of ourselves and our ability to live life fully and wholeheartedly, at peace in the world.
Consumed by fear, we cannot manifest the gifts that are ours to bring to the world. Bound tightly in tension and protection, we are driven to overwhelm and despair, to playing victim or violator. We wind up afraid of everything. Afraid of life itself. Afraid of the workings of our own bodies. Afraid of the differences between us and and our differences of opinion. Under the sway of survival mentality, we are destined to obsessively check the weather, crave safety notifications, seek out unhelpful amounts of health testing and procedures, and all the while, we ruminate about ISIS. We long to put a safety helmet on everything we value and scrub it all down with antibacterial soap.
If we desire another existence, it will require us to do the unthinkable; to look squarely in the face of our fears and see them for what they are. It will require us to take responsibility for our experience as opposed to projecting our terrors out into the world and onto other people. It will require us to know the ways that the animal fear helps to keep us safe and alive while the distorted and made-up ones keep us from living. It will require us to say no to disturbing and terrifying content. It will require us to become more animal-like; trusting the instincts and intuitions that all mammals possess and rely on without thought or question. All those, of course, but us.
I have yet to meet a parent who in some way is not worried about how the technologies are using their children. Why then are we so afraid to say no? Why is it so difficult to set appropriate and protective limits? Some of this inability on our part can be understood by examining the brainwashing that we live with on a daily basis. “Brainwashing” is a very, very strong word to use here, and yet if we look closely at how the technologies are taking our children away from us and away from themselves, that word becomes an accurate descriptor of the way our brains are being washed clean of the truth. For something to be so powerful as to keep parents from acting on behalf of their own children says everything about what we are up against.
Daily, we receive the message that doing it all, wanting it all and having access to it all are the hallmarks of what makes us valuable, important and lovable. Worse yet, we have been conditioned to believe that it is our own idea to want it all, when in fact this belief is being sold to us daily through various media outlets. And so, we drive ourselves relentlessly with the technologies exacerbating and accelerating our wantings. We have passed this on to our children, and in so doing we have bypassed the importance of “No.” We have forgotten that to say no is to say yes. We have forgotten that to protect something precious we must learn to say no, a lot. We have forgotten that “no” creates the container out of which “yes” is born.
One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves and for our children, is to get very, very good at saying “No.” And while this flies in the face of the cultural message that “we can have it all”, it is the very thing we need to do to insure our children stay human. We can refuse to have this conversation, but the truth is, it will go on with or without us. And what we refuse to address will be become our children’s burden to bear..
I attended a yoga class right before January 1st, where the focus was decidedly and unusually not on our New Year’s resolutions, but instead on appreciating what it is that we have been and done over the past year. No goals to be had. No diets to be tried. No personality quirks to work on. It was amazing! The appreciation that ran through me had a palpable effect on the fluidity and grace of my body. And as for my mood? Ease, lightness and joy were in abundance.
In New Age circles, there is a body of work known as the Abraham Teachings. Underlying it all is the belief that appreciation is the closest vibration we humans have to Divine Love. This flies in the face of the attitude that says we must keep ourselves under our own thumbs with our noses to the grindstone. What if it were true that appreciating who we are and what we have done, as is, was the path to Love, Truth and Connection to All That Is? What if we were not supposed to be beating ourselves up?