Modern society frowns upon us expressing any extreme emotion in the public eye (and let’s face it, sometimes in the private one too). Weeping is interpreted as “weak.” Ranting is interpreted as “aggressive.” Screaming is interpreted as “psychotic.” The list goes on and on. Instead, we are expected to internalize all of that expression, all of the stresses we feel, and bottle them up and turn them into something productive. But that’s not actually how it works.
Forcing all of that sad, angry, fearful, stressed out energy into the depths of our bodies hardens us. It hardens our minds and it hardens our hearts. It steals the light from our eyes and leaves us walking down city streets with scowls on our faces and an automatic annoyance with the strangers surrounding us. It robs us of our abilities to connect with our true selves and the truths of others.
Why don’t we grant ourselves permission to cry? To feel the depths of the challenges we face? To empathize with others around us with our entire body? This more feminine energy of the human form is something I’ve always struggled with, something I’ve felt is inaccessible and inappropriate by default. But today (and on International Women’s Day no less) I had the painful pleasure of reconnecting with it alongside 20 other amazing individuals, and it was nothing shy of enlightening.
As my teacher training instructor, my classmates and I gathered together in a circle facing one another, we shared how we’re all feeling about the training up to this point and what challenges we’re facing. I went first.
My response began with a positive reaction to the course, but then as I continued, I inadvertently left the realm of the yoga studio and rooted my challenges in my personal life. I explained, through immediate and spontaneous tears, how hard it is to embark on this overwhelmingly selfish journey when you’re used to serving others first. It’s also hard to justify your actions with an explanation that the people you usually serve don’t quite understand. And it’s hard to navigate every relationship you have with others when it’s your behavior that’s suddenly changing, not theirs. Spending this much time looking inward uncovers a lot of beautiful but also painful things, and you feel so much all at once that you don’t have any other option but to let yourself cry.
Maybe those who weren’t there can’t fully understand why I spontaneously cried in front of people I’ve only known for three days or why many of them did the same in front of me or why we all felt entirely comfortable and supportive of each other in that time together. But that’s the beauty of this experience. This is just one of the many little secrets we will share with each other, united through honesty, vulnerability, and peace.
This genuine compassion for one another is easily one of my favorite things about my training experience so far. I love serving others and I believe that many other humans out there enjoy doing the same. Recently, I was talking with someone I love dearly, and they said to me (I’m paraphrasing here) that people who aren’t my friends don’t care about what I’m doing or how they are impacting me with their actions. They only care about themselves and how they can help themselves.
And that sentiment filled me with an intense sadness I don’t remember ever feeling before. They had just described a world in which I have previously lived and a world to which I hope I never return. It is one of my greatest fears currently that this tragically cold world could be forced upon me again when my training ends. That I’ll get to spend this month with this group of amazing people who see and feel and know how compassion nurtures the soul, and then leave the safety of this space to be surrounded by people who don’t share this value.
So as I continue to seek meaning and connect with my vulnerability and share space with my wonderful teacher and classmates, I want to nurture this quality of compassion in myself. I want to imprint this feeling in my memory now so I know how to find it again once April begins. And when the time comes, I want to be strong enough to accept nothing less.