A friend of mine was lamenting how "happy happy joy joy" all of her friends' Facebook posts are all of the time. No, she wasn't jealous of her friends or rooting for them to be unhappy. She simply said that being happy and uplifted all the time isn't real. All of the false joy was getting to her. Her desire is to have people be real.
I understand what she's saying. I also understand that it's common for folks to put their best foot forward on Facebook (and other social media platforms). I've certainly seen some smiling happy couple photos on Facebook only to find out that the couple divorced a few months later. With all of the sharing going on in cyber world, the question becomes where's the line between over sharing and authenticity? Being real means that we feel happiness, sadness, anger, depression and everything in between.
Do we feel pressure -- especially if we identify as spiritual -- to always be positive? After all, we've been told about how important gratitude is. We've been urged to look at what's happening in other parts of the world before we complain about our First World Problems. We've been taught that negative or bad feelings attract bad things.
We've gone so far as to label this tendency as spiritual bypassing. Despite the fact that we idolize the Yin Yang symbol and give lip service to balance, we shy away from dark, negative, or anything other than gratitude, happiness, bliss. Perhaps it's our way of sticking our mala bead wearing necks in the sand. Or maybe it's our version of positive thinking. The problem is that by hiding and convincing ourselves that everything is great and worthy of gratitude, we're denying ourselves the joy of living life fully, with the full range of emotions that privilege offers.
I tend to be one of those happy, happy, joy, joy people. I crank up happy tunes and do my little happy dances quite often. I look on the bright side of things. I see the gift in the shit. That's not to say that I don't have moments of not happy. I suppose that my happy moments last longer than my unhappy moments. I think that happens because I let the unhappy be there.
This is why I love the practice of yoga. For me, it's one way that I listen to my body and let it take the lead (as opposed to talking myself into or out of an emotion or feeling). Yesterday I spent a long time in Pigeon Pose and I could feel the tension. The body doesn't lie. Am I happy with my life? Hell yes. And right now I'm hitting on something deep with someone and I'm feeling a lot of different things ranging from anger to shame to frustration. Emotions tend to move pretty quickly for me, so I don't end up posting that on Facebook, but that doesn't mean that I'm not feeling them (yes people, it's real, even if it's not posted on Facebook).
So if you're what some would label a yoga person or a spiritual person and you're having a bad moment or a bad day or a bad week and someone snarkily says, "I thought you were all about being grateful and everything being love?" That's yoga privilege rearing it's ugly head. You're zen meditative chill yoga person therefore you feel nothing as human as annoyance, frustration, sadness, anger, impatience, or resentment. Here's an interesting little advice column on the topic of privilege that brings up some similar points.
Having a "bad" or "negative" feeling doesn't mean we're not grateful or aware of our privilege. It simply means we're human. I would even go so far as to say that it's the definition of balanced -- light/dark, up/down, humanity/divinity. Right now I'm struggling with something that's bringing up fear, frustration, and anger and I'm still happy and grateful and in love with my life. It's not an either/or proposition.
Here's your permission slip to feel what you feel, regardless of how spiritual you identify yourself as being. When you're on your yoga mat, notice what your body is telling you. The tightness, aches, pains, sensations are invitations to welcome and acknowledge those feelings.
P.S. If you've got some free time this weekend, Yoga International is sponsoring a Fall Digital Yoga Conference. You can find more about it here. Most of the conference is free October 23-25 and extended access is available beyond the weekend for under $100. Enjoy!