This past weekend I spent a good chunk of time planting new flowers and shrubs, as well as potting some beautiful arrangments.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t help but reflect on how therapeutic it is for me to garden.  Although it can be hard work, there is something about digging in the dirt that just brings about a very grounding effect to my soul.  All this digging around encouraged me to reflect on how this is exactly what we aspire to do in our yoga practice.

Digging Deep

Demons.  We’ve all got them.  They are those lovely thoughts and emotions we’ve buried deep down inside ourselves in hopes we won’t have to deal with them.  And why would we?  Nobody likes to experience and feel what we perceive as negative.  You know those feelings…anger, hatred, jealousy, insecurity, fear, depression and anxiety to name a few.  But you know what?  We came wired with those feelings for a reason.

I often like to share a particular movie scene with my students in my yoga classes.  (You are going to laugh probably, but hey it gets the message across.)  Remember the first Shrek movie?  Donkey, in his curious attempt to get to know Shrek a little better asks Shrek what ogres are really all about.  Shrek answers, “Ogres are like onions.”  Shrek elaborates on the fact that onions exist in layers, much like ogres.  Donkey doesn’t get it.

In yoga, it is believed the combination of both our physical and psychological components exists in layers.  These layers are called koshas, and like a veil they hide the true self which exists at the core.  In yoga philosophy, it is believed we need to penetrate all the koshas before we can reconnect with the true self.   So we have to face our demons and acknowledge them.  We have to learn to stay with these emotions, observe and question their origins.  Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun who teaches at Gampo Abbey in CA states:

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times

 So next time something comes up in your life that causes those not-so-fun emotions to arise, stop.  Seep in it.  Ponder on the reaction…ask why.  You might just get the answer you need to hear.

This week, when an emotion arises that makes you want to act on it, try to stay.  Wait.  Maybe even understand.  What did you learn about yourself?