I have my own projection, of course. I like to hold on to the identity that I’m the first Jivamukti teacher in the Philippines, that I became vegan before it was trendy, that when I speak in front of a crowd, people listen. I like this little box that I’ve put myself in. The problem though, is that life happens, which means depending on various circumstances outside of my control, certain emotions and tendencies come up that don’t quite fit this perfect image. And because what I put out there doesn’t quite match what I feel in here, I suffer.
What emotion or reaction or tendency do you push away? What is it that you’re unwilling to admit exists in you? It took me a long time to come to terms with my jealousy. After all, jealousy doesn’t quite fit with the perfect image I’ve created. It’s also very easy to push away jealousy and make up stories in my mind about what’s going on. When a fellow yogi posts an asana photo, it’s all too easy for me to say someone is showing off, instead of admitting that I am jealous that I don’t have the “typical yoga body”. When someone buys expensive things, I hide behind judging this person to be materialistic instead of admitting that I am jealous of the material ease. When an ex makes a connection with someone new, I could focus on seeing the fault in this person I don’t know instead of admitting that this is tugging at my sense of unworthiness. Because I try to push away how I truly feel, I end up being unkind in my thoughts and words, towards myself and towards others. Eventually, this catches up and I feel the shame. Thus is the cycle.
What are we supposed to do then with the emotions we are unwilling to admit? There are many self-help books and training programs telling us how to be more of this and less of that, how to fix this part and change that part. This is not what I’m suggesting. I am offering a complete opposite way of looking at it— a total inversion of this “fixing” mentality— which is simply to accept. Yes, to accept all of those parts of ourselves, even and especially the ones we try to push away or deny or hide or change. It may seem counterintuitive. We may shudder at the thought of accepting what we deem to be negative or shameful about ourselves. Consider this, though. When you reject this emotion that has been calling out at you repeatedly, who is it that you are rejecting? When you deny that your tendencies to feel a certain way or act a certain way exist, who are you denying? When you try to fix a part of you that you find shameful, who are you shaming?
Instead of pushing away your emotions and tendencies, practice giving it space. Acknowledge it, listen to it, observe it, accept it. Wholeness means wholeness. It means it has room for opposites— the light and the dark, the left and the right, the masculine and the feminine etc. That part that you usually deny in yourself is not meant to be fixed or to be tamed. It is only meant to be acknowledged, understood, and ultimately accepted.
With compassion and gentleness, bring back the earliest memory you have of feeling this emotion that you’ve come to push away. What was happening then? How did you express this emotion? Were you told that this emotion is wrong? Were you led to believe you have to hide it or fix it or change it? Now observe this child that you were. What did he or she need at that time? What was he or she looking for? Can you now give this child the reassurance that he or she needs. Perhaps it’s simply saying: It’s ok. To feel that way is normal. To feel that emotion is acceptable. You are loved just the same.
Again, with compassion and gentleness, with no judgment, bring back the most recent situation wherein this emotion came up. What was happening? How did you push it away? What was the story and the excuse you created? How did you truly feel? How similar was it from the feeling that you had as a child feeling the same emotion? Investigate the nature and characteristic of the emotion. Maybe even identify where in the physical body it originates. Sit with it. Observe it. Listen to it. Befriend it. Accept it. As uncomfortable as it is to feel this emotion, invite it up. Be kind to it. Be gentle to it. Be compassionate to it.
Surrender yourself to the emotion that you are unwilling to feel. It may mean that by doing so, your perfect projection starts to fall apart. Let it fall apart. We will find so much more freedom in inverting the mindset that there’s something to fix. Accept yourself unconditionally. Love yourself completely. If you are not sure how to love yourself, then love that part of yourself that is not sure how to do it. If you think there’s something you need to do more or less of, then love that part of yourself that thinks you need to do more or less of something. If you think you are unable to do it, then love that part of yourself that thinks you are unable to do it. Love all of the parts that make up who you are. There is nothing broken; and there is nothing to fix. You are whole.
This essay (and the classes taught this week) was inspired by the wise words of my dear friend Marcin Paszkowski.