Breaking Through

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Via Flickr User bradleygee

Last week, I realized that my dissociation on my yoga mat reflected the way I’ve been handling life: numbing and avoiding unpleasant emotions.

It’s something we all do at least sometimes. In fact, our culture often teaches us that we should numb our emotions, that stoicism is heroic, that denying our emotions is a sign of strength. A “real man” is one who never cries, a strong woman is one who suffers silently and never admits her pain.

But this quest for “strength” is what weakens us. By repressing the parts of ourselves we’re afraid of, we cage ourselves in with our demons. Then we do whatever we can to try to forget that they’re there.

The things we do to numb ourselves are not always inherently bad things. Some of them even have the potential to help us feel joy. 

Perhaps that’s why we often end up demonizing things like sex, food, entertainment: they’re wonderful things with the potential to enrich our lives (or even create and sustain life itself), but it’s unfortunately easy to use them in unhealthy ways. These things, and any other means of numbing ourselves, are not demons; they’re the methods we abuse to try to escape our demons. 

But we can’t escape what is already a part of us. The more we try, the more we damage our sense of wholeness, the union of our minds, bodies, and spirits. 

So I’ve been trying to break through some of this numbness I’ve created to try to escape. Since I’ve been dissociating during physical asana practices, I decided to do something I can hardly stand doing: meditation. 

The simple act of being still and breathing terrifies me. That is of course because I know that doing so will force me to sit with my own emotions and see them without being able to look away. 

I had some experiences during a meditation the other night that were too personal to even write about on here, but they surprised the hell out of me. I had no idea that sitting on my yoga mat watching some incense burn (yes, incense–a regular yoga practice seems to awaken all of my previously dormant hippie tendencies) and paying attention to my breath would make for such a perplexingly intense experience.

And it seems to be having its intended effect, though naturally when we begin to break through numbness, our first impulse is to want to bury ourselves back into it. 

But a place of comfort isn’t always the place we need to be. 

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