Tuesday, December 20, 2011
If you look closely, the picture reads: "Keep your heart open NO matter what." It reminded me of a Krishna Das kirtan I attended a few years back in Vermont. At the end of an ecstatic chant, in the resounding silence, he simply said: "May we open and never close." Tears streamed down my face as I felt the openness in that moment while simultaneously recognizing the great feat and immense courage it takes to keep the heart open. I bowed in humility knowing that the task of such a request is impossible, and yet the intention holds the light when the dark cold doors of the heart unexpectedly close.
I was walking down the street with my boyfriend Doug a couple of weeks ago when he pointed out to me a tag of an unknown Brooklyn graffiti artist on a black garage door (above). I was in a tizzy over something he had said or didn't say earlier that day. I don’t remember. What I remember is that my heart was closed, my body was tense, and I was breathing shallowly. When I read the words my first response was actually an increase of anger. I was clinging to the comfort of my bad mood. I was rolling around in it. You know how it is, something triggers you and you can't let it go and nothing anybody says or does can make you let it go. Somehow, being mad is sometimes easier than opening to the discomfort of what is right before you. I attempted to smile, but it was meager.
Less than an hour later we were having breakfast at the Willburg Cafe laughing and talking and drinking coffee and eating really good food. Whatever it was that had made me angry I left on the sidewalk somewhere along the way. It all changes. Everything. "The only constant is change." It's been said by lots of people, written in books on spirituality, and elaborated on in many blogs. It's even a song title by a band called As I Lay Dying, which I don't recommend unless you want to thrash your head to some death metal, which I am sometimes known to do.
The point is to try not to cling to your moods and emotions. They are temporary states. They rotate on the axis of our experience, and we have the ability to influence our experience just by simply remembering that we are not defined by your emotions. They change. The next time you are gripped with emotion, any emotion, remember that you will not always feel this way. Then take a breath, and allow yourself to really lean into your experience. It's the same with our joy, as well. We have an ecstatic moment and we think it's always going to be like this. Then it isn't and we crash. We are in a constant state of expanding and contracting. It's the basic law of the universe. It's our breath; it's the seasons, the waves of the ocean, the wind, the clouds.
Yoga and meditation are practices which can influence our mood fluctuations. The second of Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras reads: "yoga chitta vritti nirodha," which translates as “yoga is the stilling of the thought-waves of the mind,” or (my translation): practice yoga and get a grip on your crazy mind! These practices work because in yoga and meditation you are asked to focus the mind in some way, to be in the present moment, to experience thoughts and emotions and feelings as fleeting. The stilling of the mind doesn't happen in your first class or second or even after 10 years of practice, but over time the fluctuations become less and less. All of a sudden we are able to recover from emotional distress faster and live more fully in the present moment without denying that "shit happens." Yoga and meditation are tools to help us enjoy life and to cope with the stresses of living in an over-stimulated world full of chaos.
Alan Watts says, "As muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone, it could be argued that those who sit quietly and do nothing are making one of the best possible contributions to a world in turmoil.”