March 22, 2016

Lessons to Roar.


Every once in a while, I need to roar.

I need to let it all out, like a lioness stretches her paws and opens her jaws wide to release whatever is raging inside. I tend to hold my anger and frustration inside, until it builds into a simmering rage that makes my belly grumble. Anger does not come naturally to me—it is an emotion that scares me, not one that I care to portray—so I hold it in, and eventually it gets the better of me, or my insides twist and turn, and I ache with this madness I hold inside.

A month ago, I took a Hatha yoga class for the first time. At the beginning of the class, the instructed asked us to stand tall, interlace our fingers, and place the backs of our connected hands under our chin as our elbows jutted out wide. Then she asked us to press the backs of our hands under our chin using them to press our head back upwards toward the sky. After we did a few rhythmic motions, she asked us to roar. “Just let it all out,” she said,“Like a big lioness roar.”

Even though we were asked to do this as a group, I still felt silly. I was shy and timid about letting out my loud roar. I wished I could find it in me to let it all out of my belly, as the others seamed to do so easily, this loud belly roar.

No matter how hard I tried, mine still felt fake and inauthentic, and all I could do was laugh.

I cannot take my own anger seriously. I am a pleaser. I am composed. I am a nice girl. I do not get angry, I just agree. By expressing my anger, I feel others will be disappointed—or even worse yet—imply dismiss it, since I am not the type to get angry. I have invalidated my own feelings of anger for so long, I don’t know how to set them free.

Roger Dalet, a famous illustrator of lionesses once said: “…to look at nature with empathy not to lose touch with our own sensitivity and ability to feel emotions.”  When I saw this quote at a museum, it resonated with me.

I just don’t know what to do with my anger.

It’s not just that I don’t want to get mad, but I feel guilty for drawing so much attention to myself. I don’t feel like I have earned the right to roar. But the anger still resides within me, it festers, and it tortures me as it claws to be free.

And when it comes over me like a looming cloud, it is as unfamiliar as it is scary—I feel so out of control. As I try to find the words to express it, the more I feel trapped in this conflagration of swirling rage. I wish I could just go into that roar of a lioness freely, and let it all out. I am so calm, so quiet and so composed that I cannot take my own anger seriously.

What if someone doesn’t like my roar?

As I thought back to that day in yoga class—when we were told to roar, and all I could do was laugh and pretend—I realized that maybe I just need to let it rip the next time I am angry.

This happened one day, when I was sculpting pieces out of clay for an upcoming show. No matter how I tried to mold them, I just couldn’t get the shape the way I wanted. I spent hours trying, until my eyes were bleary and my fingers were tired, and finally—I just started throwing the clay at the wall as hard as I could, and I found myself yelling out of frustration. As I threw more of the clay against the wall—without even realizing it or paying attention—my voice rose louder, and I was screaming.

There it was—the release I was looking for—the one that I could not create in yoga class that day. Maybe because I had no reason to be angry, I just couldn’t find that roar in my belly. But when I did have a reason—and I was alone, with no one to watch me, judge me or pay attention to me—I just let my guard down, and I roared.

Every once in a while, I need to give myself permission to stand in front of the mirror and roar, just like I did that day I threw the clay. I just need to get it out, and I can save the thinking for later.


Author: Jane CoCo Cowles

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/samuelrodgers752

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