I am going to be vulnerable and intimate with you for a moment.
I have been “up against it” for the last two weeks. What I am trying to express is that I have been completely pressed by everything in and outside of myself, like a pressure cooker.
The good news is that I can easily see the mirror—that all of my experiences in the world are a reflection of my inner state of being. How I treat myself is reflected. What I stuff down is reflected; dealing with this is no joke.
Needless to say, I have needed some tools. I usually meditate daily anyway—do yoga, juice, light candles, pray, think “happy” thoughts—all of it, but none of it these last weeks was “working”. By working, I mean bringing some semblance of peace and sanity to my life.
Hello, edge—how are you doing?
Basically, if there were a camera hidden in my room yesterday you would have seen me going completely psycho, hitting my red couch with a fur-covered pillow that looks something like one of the monsters from the book “Where The Wild Things Are”. At first, I was grunting like a piglet and then I got me some Rarr out—to say the least.
PIllow-hitting-session take one? I started pretty intensely, Wham, wham wham!
Then I was like, “Man, this feels f*ckin’ great, this is better than any yoga class I have ever been to!” Wham wham, wham!
After a little while, because of my amazement at how great this release was, of contained yet reckless abandonment, I set my timer for 15 minutes. Wham, wham, wham, wham!
No core engagement cues needed here. It was totally liberating.
All of the muscles in my usually floppy little flexible yoga body engaged. I was sinking deeper and deeper into my power. All of the bullies of the past, the obstacles—Wham, wham, wham, wham!
“That’s right, bully. I am attacking you on the astral level, you dense-matterf*cker. I will show you. Let’s see if your subtle body can take that! ” and with that in all honesty I went a little mad. Wham, wham, wham!
I am no stranger to hitting therapy.
My dad has been a psychologist for a long time, specializing in couples therapy, gestalt therapy and mindfulness. I am proud of my papa because he was one of the first to weave Zen and psychotherapy: now “mindfulness”is a buzz word, but he never created a commodity out of it, which I also really respect.
My father’s teacher teacher was Seung Sahn. For a long time, our family’s retreat center was affiliated with the Kwan Um School of Zen based in Providence, Rhode Island. Around 1999, the retreat broke away, partly because they wanted to incorporate less eastern rituals and partly because they were beginning to weave Krishnamurti’s teachings on dialogue.
When we were kids, my brother and I would hit each other with these big red foam rollers. This is perhaps not something you would typically imagine from Buddhist, macrobiotic, sensitive, creative-Montessori-going, inquiring children, but we loved to whack the sh*t out of each other.
It of course never hurt and usually we didn’t pull each others hair— I feel really privileged to have someone that I was that close to, whom I could both love and love to hate—(bwahahahah, evil sister laugh). The good news is that we turned into sane adults who know that we are crazy.
I am going to air my dirty laundry even more and just go out and say it: I hate New Age spirituality.
Yes, I hate it. I hate it with a passion. I am hitting it with my foam roller right now.
I am sorry—please forgive me, but I do. What I hate about it is that it is “lite”—as in not light but something fat-free from the early 90’s, before we knew our brains needed fat to function. Recently, I read this really awesome quote by Danielle LaPorte where she made that distinction, between lite and light. Halle-f*ckin-lujah! I am totally going to use that from now on, Danielle, thank you. Welcome to being woven into my stories.
Yes, if anything, as you go deeper into your heart you are forced to find your true grit. It takes grit, it takes endurance, it takes a whole lot of personal work and accountability to live a life beyond mediocrity.
Being my unveiled-tender-sweet-fierce-animal-skin-self is the only thing I really care about. Animal-skin is a Maggie original, by the way—please cite me. It is what I use to describe that palpably pleasurable feeling when I am totally in the intelligence of my body—it’s pleasure even when it’s work, it is real, it is shadow and it is light, real light. I guess you could just call it being full, but I like animal-skin— it came to me when I was in the bath-tub.
Mediocrity is like banging our head against the wall, except we don’t know we are doing it—everyone sees that we are being a lame a** but we just keep at it over and over and over. The only thing I will give mediocrity credit for is that it’s safe for the ego, but not for the soul.
Last February I did my first children’s yoga teacher training through the Asheville Yoga Center and part of my readings included a handout on a school called the Namaste Charter School in Chicago.
They are apparently a publicly financed school that offers yoga to children within the normal academic setting. The classroom is set up in such a way that the children can take yoga breaks throughout the day and “step on the mat”.
When they are feeling frustrated, as a way of channeling their aggression and energy, they have pillows and pieces of paper they can rip up. I thought that that was brilliant. I need a work-environment like this! Anyone want to start a Fortune 500 company, with a pillow-hitting break room and a yoga room? Well, if you do, you know where to find me!
A lot of times in polite society (which is actually repressed society) we don’t have any room for big emotion, or our intuition. Weird vibes and encounters get “stuffed down” and unaddressed. This is something we have seriously got to resolve as humane beings.
While I am not claiming to be a psychologist (just the daughter of two, which is worse, but also arguably better and way cheaper than a Ph.D.), I believe that repression is why people go postal and bring guns into work.
That kind of behavior, while it disrupts our lives when we see it being reported in the media, is not something that is completely out of the blue. What was the need that that person never took responsibility for? What insanity lead them to think that that was the only way to resolve anything?
I know that this is a simplistic understanding of violence but I do believe that insanity in the world can be reduced to a basic lack of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence seems to be what standardized educational systems like to beat out of children—”don’t have needs; don’t have feelings; if you are open and vulnerable, bullies will attack you”. Things that are unnatural will cause a person to go ballistic and get off balance.
Apart from a very small percentage of the population who are actually sociopathic and consciously want to harm people, I am going to bet (and am open to being challenged about data) that most crimes are committed with one or more of the following: abusive history where needs were not met; mental-disorder involving lack of empathy; and drugs (both pharmaceutical and illegal).
I am not going to say yoga can solve the problems of the world, I think that that is naive. Obviously a lot of yoga masters are totally f*cked up—but I do however know that fostering emotional intelligence in children who have the mental flexibility to grow into self-responsible adults is a start.
Not being able to address aggression and frustration with healthy tools is not natural for a mammal. When an animal senses an attack or violence, its teeth start to show and it growls.
My dog teaches me this all of the time: there can be a f*cking bug around and she starts growling.
Again, I am not suggesting that I know the secrets to the universe, but I do think I have enough evidence to say that this is worth looking at.
Do I need to have a dissertation to say that it is not healthy to repress emotions, but it is healthy to have tools that address frustration in constructive ways?
I think we could use some serious reflection on our animal friends. Do you know of any animals that kills out of anything but survival from attack or a need for food?
Massacres are not part of the animal kingdom, I googled it.
This is a human-created problem.
Let’s get back to natural— create opportunities for our wild animal selves and then come back to calm. So much in spiritual jargon is pretend. I know you know what I am talking about, the seemingly “enlightened intellectual” who is just seething with anger and resentment underneath.
We need to stop making it wrong to feel frustration. We need to make it okay, a part of our self-care beyond green drinks, asana and a couple of cleansing breaths, to just go and throw some f*cking pillows some time.
It may not be the complete answer to world peace, but I know for myself, it certainly got to the root of
my perceived external agitation.
I was a lot kinder afterwards. I felt like I needed to at least pass the suggestion on.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Bronwyn Petry
Photos: Karen Ho, Flickr Creative Commons