When a man is discontented with himself, it has one advantage: that it puts him in an excellent frame of mind for making a bargain. ~Laurence Sterne
Amid October’s brisk promise, a tepid funk descended on me like fog when my car unceremoniously expired. I pouted about my prolonged misfortune during the hunt for a replacement. Agitated, I skulked about in the slums of my mind. Slipping into a warm bath of resistance, I distracted myself with movies, novels and friends; yet I puzzled over my persistently sour mood, for in the scope of things my petulance was disproportionate to the reality of my circumstance. From my car’s final day until the day I found another, I was never without a car to drive. Despite the time and expense, the reality of losing my car had gone rather smoothly. What then, would explain my nagging discontent and the inability to snap out of it?
Situational depression can conceal an unwillingness to take action, even if that action is only to consider one’s situation differently. There was a time in my history when living in the unrelenting shadow of vexation was perfectly acceptable. Yet yoga and meditation have taught me to inspect chronic uneasiness and employ alternatives born of yielding rather than strategy. In the case of my lifeless car, examining my mood unearthed a subterranean and pre-existing restlessness, and once I relinquished my resistance, I could begin addressing my disquiet.
When life is challenging, we are presented with two choices: we can cave into wretchedness, in which case we surrender any power we might have had in the situation; or we can take up the gauntlet and avail ourselves to the possibility that there is something to be learned. In Native American folklore, Coyote brings playfulness and jocularity to otherwise somber occurrences. My car’s fatal sputtering could be attributed to Coyote’s meddling, an attempt to jostle me out of a spiritual stupor. Hardship refines our self-concept and advances our world view. Samuel Beckett tells us “laughing wild amid severest woe” attenuates weighty experience, while mental slumming pilfers joy. Satire is more effective than melodramatic gloom. An easy, secure life might seem preferable, yet friction galvanizes wakefulness from unchallenged quiescence. In this fable of automotive anguish, moodiness pays the ransom and delivers me into the dulcifying arms of guileless awareness.
This article was prepared by Sheri McCord in support of the Elephant Yoga Editorial Staff.