Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So others don't have to

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 :-)


ariella said...


I loves me some Joni. It's very easy for me to be a wallower in sadness. There comes a point when you are beyond "feeling your feelings" and I at least let them sort of suck me down. I have to fight to get out of it when life attacks. The nice thing for me is that the outdoorsy stuff like manual labor/yard work totally pulls me out of my wallowing brain and into labor brain... then when I'm done I'm like magically at least back to neutral. However it doesn't sound like you want to pull out of it, so enjoy :) I find that knowing that suffering is such an essential part of life - comforts me most when I am experiencing perfectionist tendencies and tearing myself down because I'm not ______ enough.

hannahjustbreathe said...

I am a big believer in feeling whatever feeling you have, in that moment, and working your way through it, whether it's pain, sadness, joy, irritation, etc. The moment we start burying our emotions is...well, a bad moment!!

Yoga has taught me that it's fine to acknowledge how I feel (hot, overwhelmed, exhausted, miserable, elated)---if anything, that acknowledgment is necessary if we are truly trying to stay present and aware. But, the trick, I suppose, is to understand that it's equally important to let that feeling go. How else do we keep moving forward, staying present, living in this moment rather than any other?

Great post, lady, as always. :)

Laura said...

I know that my way of coping is to bitch- a lot. You know me, and I'm sure you have made this observation before. I don't have the quiet contemplative spirit that compels me to sit quietly and ponder. However, the flip side of that bitching is when I am happy, I am ecstatic! :)

I can see how you would be drawn to that quote-it reminds me that there is always room for improvement and that is a good lesson to carry with you. There is not only room for improvement within us, but in the world that we are a part of. There is such potential. :)

Lady J said...

I've been feeling down lately too. And over the top, not normal for me. I snapped out of it the other day for no specific reason.

But back to the quote in How Yoga Works (which I still need to read!)"Truly, every part of our lives is suffering" I think those times that we suffer, that we struggle are the times we learn the most. We take those moments and figure out what or what not to do in the future. We acknowledge our weaknesses and out strengths. We often come out of a really hard yoga class with a renewed feeling. Those experiences in everyday life where we suffer are often like those brutal classes that we walk away from and feel better for after.

Wonderful post E!

Yolk E said...

Great point, Lady J. You know, Marcel Proust supposedly thought the same thing. He said, "to hell with the great times in my life! It's the suffering where we learn the most." And that's where we are able to make progress.

Ariella: yeah, we gotta resist the wallowing. Must resist wallowing.

Laura: Hi! :-) I'm not so much a bitcher, but I can definitely see how that could get ya through the moment. Thanks for stopping by.

Thanks for the positive energy and support, y'all :-) I always feel so uplifted by the bloggin community.