There seems to be this striving for happiness that I see all the time in my life, in the media, with friends and family, throughout social networks. Books are written. Songs, sermons and strategies are meant to lift us up. Broaden our smiles. Engage our happy muscles.
It’s like we’re all meant to be on this wonderful, blissed out, peaceful journey with nothing but goodness and satisfaction along the way.
If only it were so.
Unfortunately, life’s not quite like that. I always remember the opening line from M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult.” Why do we expect it to be all nicey-nice?
And when it isn’t – we think there must be something wrong with our life or with us.
I can only speak from my own experience, but there have certainly been many ups and downs, struggles and hardships along the way.
Even when digging through warm and wonderful memories of grandparents, Christmas, school days, water-skiing and many more, they are all dotted with broken promises, childhood teasing, let alone the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Then there is more serious stuff like abusive relationships, alcoholic rages, addictions, cancers and death.
There are times filled with wonderful experiences, moments of extreme fullness. Love. Joy. Happiness. Peace.
There are both. For each of us.
How do we learn to appreciate the joys unless there are the struggles? How do we learn to love unless we experience apathy?
A gift I am receiving from the practice of yoga is the ability to feel it all. Where once I seemed closed off from the ups and downs of life, ignoring the signs in my body that were trying to guide me along the way, I am now slowly, ever so slowly, opening up to all that resides within me. And it is all worthy of my attention.
I can feel sad and lonely, upset or down, or even afraid and just sit with that. Or I can feel elated, excited, loved, fantastic, or majestic. And sit with that.
We are not obligated to feel happy in order to be successful in this life. The point is to feel it all, to experience it all, to love, to lose, to learn, to live, to wonder and to eventually … let it all go.
Something I heard about a year ago made so much sense to me. It was a TedTalk given by Dr. Brene Brown on vulnerability. She spoke of how we tend to numb emotions when it comes to negative experiences. The problem is, it’s difficult to just close down or deaden some of our feelings, some of the time. So what tends to happen is we numb all of them. The good and the bad.
So if you see me and I am not hyped-up positive, exuding nothing but light and joy and happiness in my day, perhaps it’s because I don’t feel that in this moment. And maybe you can lift me up. Or maybe I can just be that, for the time being. Tomorrow I may feel the same, or may be experiencing joy in my life and both you and I can be accepting of that as well.
My hope is to experience and acknowledge all emotions, for that is what makes us human.
It is not all good. It is not all bad. It just is.
Jody Ryan completed her Yoga Training in June 2011 and is currently teaching Intro to Yoga classes at Yama Yoga Studios, Doha Qatar. Being fairly new to yoga but older in life, she hopes to inspire those around her to dive deep into yoga and themselves no matter where they’re at along their journey.