Typically, by the time we start asking ourselves whether we should let go of another, pretty significant issues and events have already arisen. When relationships are healthy and hard times arise good communication, personal responsibility and mutual effort can help us to grow both individually and as a couple - these kinds of partnerships are very much worth cultivating and then fighting like hell to maintain. When relationships are unhealthy they can become a source of depletion, by robbing of us of our precious time and energy without any benefit or possibility for change. It’s wonderful to be loved and cared for, but if this were really the case, it’s hard to imagine that you would be asking this question since most of us happily thrive under these conditions. We must seek positive relationships (and not necessarily romantic), since none of us can go-it-alone without great loneliness and isolation, but when relationships get stuck in unhealthy grooves it is time to separate, understand our own mistakes, find strength and wellbeing and move on.
These senseless and hateful killings are absolutely agonizing as is all racism and bigotry that still flourishes in 2016. As a white woman, I believe that it’s important to learn to empathically listen to the black voices of America and allow their collective soul to be heard. There is always a deeper understanding that I can cultivate towards those who have walked a different path than me. Secondly, I believe that we should all communicate our anger and demand for quick and effective change on a national level. In the wise words of Elie Wiesel, "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Finally, as a yogi I use each of these horrific events as a trigger to go deeper within myself and examine any remaining judgements and criticisms that I ignorantly possess towards others. For while I view all life as equally precious I am always able to find ever more subtle remnants of ideas and beliefs that create some kind of personal sense of superiority and entitlement. I believe that it is important to acknowledge and respond to our reactions so that these wasted lives can count for something. May all beings be free and may the black people of America find peace, justice and prosperity.
The reality is that our gut feelings are almost always colored by our past experiences, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t listen to them. A lot of people are scared to make the same mistakes again and again, and obviously this fear is warranted since many of us do experience life as an often-painful broken record. The purpose of yoga is to transform this samsara of cyclic suffering by applying awareness and yogic techniques that assist in harmonizing our small self with the Greater. In the meantime however, listening to our inner guides with compassion and awareness gives us continuous feedback of how our behaviors land in the world. Rather than being concerned that I am perpetuating any karma, I prefer to view life as one big lab experiment where I can continue to challenge myself to be the best version that I can in order to produce the most loving outcomes for myself and others.
We all have periods that feel almost impossible to bear and there are several things to keep in mind when they arrive. Firstly, they are normal! We are mistaken to think that life should always be fun and easy - while there are many blessings, life brings great struggle too. Secondly, it’s very important to have purpose in life for it is what keeps us motivated when the chips are down. If we’re not striving towards something meaningful then it is too easy to give up when life gets hard. Finally, we must have healthy tools in place to manage our emotional distress so that when tough times cycle through we can rely upon ourselves and our support systems to ride the wave. This can be everything from yoga, meditation and exercise to acupuncture, spending time in nature and perhaps most importantly working directly with our minds and energy. Life is in perpetual change; It is important to celebrate the pleasure and beauty and to gracefully pass through the dismal… Luckily and sadly, nothing lasts forever.
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Anger is the most destructive of emotions resulting in failed relationships, loss of employment, depression, self-hatred and even heart problems and physical decline. When working with our anger we have to first learn how to tolerate difficult thoughts and emotions so that we don’t feel the need to react every time we get triggered. This is done by practicing breathing, relaxation and different types of meditation in a controlled environment so that when anger comes up we have some effective resources. Next we have to challenge our thoughts, beliefs and triggers that make us angry to being with and finally learn how to directly work with our anger energy so that we may focus it towards more constructive endeavors. Underneath anger there is typically a lot of pain and suffering so we must proceed with the utmost compassion and understanding to support real growth and change.
From a yogic perspective a full life is a present life. It is not so much what we accomplish, but how we accomplish it. Yogic practice teaches us how to live from all 3 centers of being: body, mind and heart. When one or more of these centers is left out of the equation we are missing out on the fullness of experience. Yoga understands that being present means not always being comfortable and having to acknowledge what pains us. In doing so we are able to apply the correct action to continuously bring ourselves back to our deepest beliefs and values. When our 3 centers are aligned (meaning that there is no contradiction between our thoughts, feelings and actions) and we are using our energy consciously and purposefully we are living life to the fullest, the results of which are meaningful and satisfying (no matter how they measure up to society’s standards).
Since emotions provide us with the wisdom to understand ourselves, it is important to listen deeply in order to know how to best navigate our lives. When we ignore this information 2 main problems arise: Firstly, we make decisions based on mental constructs that often contradict what we’re actually feeling, leading us down a path of in-authenticity and suffering. Secondly, repressed emotions are not resolved emotions. When we stuff our feelings down they find ways to pop back up during inopportune times and perhaps even worse, they tend to run us subconsciously, meaning that we make decisions based upon them without even realizing it. Emotions are a very natural part of human life and while they can at times be disruptive to our routine, they are an important part of our mental and emotional health. The best way to manage them is to make time for their expression and understanding. This can be done in a myriad of ways, including: walks in nature, visits with friends, creative arts projects, sitting down for a good cry, scream, etc., taking a yoga class, seeing a therapist and the list goes on and on. Making friends with our emotions also allows us to learn how to regulate them so that we can become their masters, rather than their slaves.
Alcohol has a devious nature, which is why it can be known as “spirits”. It sneaks up on us and causes problems without us realizing that we are spiraling down an unhealthy path. Ask yourself these questions: Does drinking result in behaviors that I would not otherwise engage in? Does drinking impact my daily health through hangovers, lack of motivation, weakened immunity, poor diet choices? Does drinking negatively effect my relationships? Do I feel agitated when I don’t drink? Does drinking get in the way of meeting my life’s responsibilities including work, family and self-care? If you have answered yes to any of these questions then alcohol has become a problem. If you’re still unsure try a sobriety test for 30 days and see how you fare and if this is unimaginable then try to limit your drinking to one glass per day or less if possible. Through restraint you will begin to understand the power that the alcohol has over you. As yogis we seek freedom: Freedom to do and freedom NOT to do. Alcohol can bring great enhancement to food and a celebratory night out, but as soon as we start reaching for it to manage stress or other emotional difficulties it begins to edge into our health and freewill.