Am I the only one that takes comfort in art and ideas typically labeled "depressing"? I guess that's a silly question--Radiohead would be out of a job if that were the case. Still, I can't help noticing that my favorite artists center on dark scenes and haunted souls: think Tom Waits singing "Misery's the River of the World," Joni Mitchell's "River." There's something tempting about sadness. Some days, it can feel like as comforting as a blanket wrapped around the shoulders.
My mood lately might have something to do with the weather. It's been beautiful out here in Socal. When I walk outside, flowers are blooming, bunnies are hopping, and my neighborhood is just teeming with life in general. I think I get this weird expectation: "Oh yeah, it's SPRING. Time to enjoy the outdoors, think of love and all that gooey stuff." But life and its challenges, they're still there. While I appreciate the various aspects of spring, I don't think that unrealistic expectations help anything. Hence, Tom Waits is getting a lot of iPod playing time.
The fascination for the dark extends beyond my taste in music. After reading The Dancing J's recommendations in reading, I picked up How Yoga Works. (Great read, by the way. Getting a lot out of it.) In it, the author quotes the Yoga Sutra, one of which that reads, "Truly, every part of our lives is suffering" (130). At this point in the book, the character takes refuge in this line, seemingly in the same way I do. But why, of all the wonderful lines in the book is that the one that stands out to me?
Why acknowledging that suffering is at least part of our lives can be comforting, I don't quite understand. Maybe there's something about pulling our heads out of delusion and acknowledging that there is gain and loss, happiness and tragedy, that plants our feet squarely on the ground and enables us to see the world as it really is and connect more deeply with others. Perhaps trying to deny the suffering and focus only on what we choose to label "good" actually compounds suffering. I remember my meditation teacher suggesting we think, "May I carry this burden so others don't have to" when faced with a tragic situation. Or, conversely, "May others experience this immense joy." It can be tough to pull ourselves out of the drama enough to think that way, but maybe it's something to aim for.
I don't think it's a smart idea to obsess over the moments of suffering--or cling too strongly to the moments of extreme joy. This is where yoga's balancing ability comes in. You walk in the room, stripped of almost everything on your body, and you do a mental disrobing act as well. I don't mean to suggest that a yoga practice isn't joyful, but I don't think being overly emotional is conducive to attaining deep concentration. Those emotional extremes are part of what gets set aside when we practice.
Yoga has been tough lately. It's been hard to get myself there, and while it always brings me a sense of peace and balance when they're over, classes have been a struggle.
Oh well. I am sure things will change direction and lift back on up. And in the meantime, I can always wrap myself up with that sweet springtime melancholy :-)