Where does rain come from? It comes from all the dirty water that evaporates from the earth, like urine and the water you throw out after washing your feet. Isn’t it wonderful how the sky can take that dirty water and change it into pure, clean water? Your mind can do the same with your defilements if you let it.
– Ajahn Chah
Have you ever wanted to bring some balance to your heart? Sometimes we close ourselves down to protect ourselves, resulting in isolation and loneliness – and sometimes we are so wide open that we can’t differentiate ourselves from others and we need to put in some boundaries. I wanted to do a yoga practice to release some fears and open my heart – so I chose a heart kriya or sequence, and I chose to do it using a 40 day commitment – because as emotions arise, we can often find excuses not to do it, when all we really need to do is stick with it and come out the other side.
I’ve done it before, too: I first came across the heart kriya through the Yoga Lunchbox – it’s a simple commitment in terms of time and the physical ability needed to do it, and I liked it – I felt strong and disciplined during the process. The heart kriya (you access it here at the end of the article) is a deceptively simple set of 4 arm movements. The whole thing takes 7 minutes. I do it every morning, as soon as I wake up, no negotiations.
Silly me, I wasn’t expecting anything too life changing :)
Do you want to hear what’s happened so far?
Day 3. I am mysteriously and completely overwhelmed with jealousy, envy and another emotion that I have no name for, but can only describe it as a ‘dog in the manger’ feeling. Never having been a jealous or envious person, this is almost more than I can bear. All day, my thoughts circle and whine, like a cloud of mosquitoes, until I feel quite demented. A friend pays a visit and he listens patiently and non-judgmentally to my feelings – and when he goes, the feelings have gone. Evaporated, just like that.
Day 4. All is calm. Phew :)
Day 5. It all started again. Not jealousy this time, but her cousins, anger, rage, judgment and disappointment. At least I was in familiar territory ;). This time, they settled in for a lengthier stay. By Day 6, the Bear and I weren’t talking to each other, and my heart felt like a receptacle for all of the world’s troubles. My heart was open alright, in the way that a lanced boil is open – and the pus and poison seemed never ending. I woke up with this poem in my head:
When my heart crack’d open like pandora’s box,
Out came all the world’s sorrows.
All of its darkness, anger, grief and sadness,
Out there for all to see.
And underneath, a fire glowed -
First a coal, then a flicker and then a burning flame…
I know that all of this stuff has to come up and out, and I know that it’s just a process – but the fact that all of this anger was inside of me in the first place was disorienting. Where had it come from? I decide that the only way to get through this process alive is to up my self-care. As well as the heart kriya, I add other practices to my routine: a simple, nourishing yoga sequence, meditation and breathing. This is early, 5am or before. When the kids go to school, I go for a brisk walk with my dog, and I write, and write some more. I wake up with poems in my head like the Pandora’s Box poem, or the one that I wrote here. And I battle with my demons :)
Day 7. A reprieve in the form of a big, long day at home, alone – doing all of my self-care stuff. I feel good, calm and relaxed. I cook dinner for a friend and enjoy the evening.
Day 8. After a days reprieve, they’re back – anger, judgment, disappointment and now sadness. Self-care. I go to my weekly yoga class, and after an hour, I feel quite transformed. All of my demons are still with me, but I can feel my transcendent self as well, shining away. I have a beautician’s appointment afterwards – a monthly torture by wax :) On impulse I ask if I can skip the torture session and have a facial instead. On the table in the darkened room with soft music playing and a pleasant fragrance wafting through the air, I realised that I had not treated myself to a facial since I was pregnant with my daughter. That was 7 years ago. Tsk. The wonderful thing about a facial is that nobody is trying to fix anything. It’s just about nourishment. I floated off that table an hour and half later, convinced I had just had a spiritual experience :)
Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself- if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself- it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it’s clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice. – Thich Nhat Hahn
Another insight came to me that night. I wanted to know: where was all of this coming from? Why was I so damned angry? And then the Universe sent me a scenario. I messaged a friend to confirm an arrangement that she had organised with me a week before. She messaged back that she had made other arrangements. I immediately felt a gush of hurt feelings and then anger at her inconsiderateness – she had made the arrangement with me! Normally, if my heart wasn’t fountaining pain, I would become the diplomat – I would make it okay for her, I would smooth it over and swallow the anger and irritation.
OMG. That’s where all the anger is coming from – from not acknowledging the upset from these types of situations – all while simultaneously trying to make it okay for everyone – including trying to make it okay for me.
The funny thing is, being a diplomat is not my core nature (I have 5 planets in taurus and an aries rising lol :) ). I had forgotten (until now), but some time ago I decided that I needed to practice my skills of diplomacy. I had been known for my straight talking, no nonsense approach to communication – but not everyone can cope with it :) and there are situations that benefit from a less confrontational approach. And what do you know, when I started practicing diplomacy, I found that I was very good at it (I have a libran moon). People brought their tricky communication and conflict problems to me, and I would help them find a win-win situation, or at least help them to see it from the other person’s point of view. I liked being the diplomat so much I never stopped.
Excuses, excuses! I make excuses all the time for people’s behaviour! I cut people slack, I give them the benefit of the doubt, because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. And I never acknowledge the hurt and the anger that I feel – that was just a sensation that I didn’t put a name to. But with my newly lanced heart, I was incapable of doing anything but acknowledging my own pain. It was right there in my face. At the moment, I am literally unable to stuff negative emotions into my heart. It’s like pushing the water back into an opened flood gate. It is physically impossible!
I resolved then and there to stop making it okay for people to hurt me and inconvenience me. I resolved to stop making it okay inside me, as well as outside me. I resolved to only use my diplomat’s hat when it was appropriate. And thanking the Universe for sending me this insight, as well as an opportunity to practice – I messaged my friend back. I told her that I was disappointed that the plans had changed and asked her if she had forgotten.
And you know, when I sent that message to my friend (who is very dear to me) she replied back, apologising for having forgotten and switching the arrangements back to how they were. All was well, nobody got hurt or offended in the process.
So, thank you diplomat hat, I’m hanging you up for the moment. I like knowing that I can be diplomatic when I need to be, but for now, I need to practice emotional honesty.
I’ll let you know how I go :)