“when we push aside our emotions to embrace false positivity, we lose our capacity to develop skills to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be”- Susan David
I thought I would make this first blog post one that is raw and personal. I do not always share my personal life with my students, or on the Internet for that matter, but with this name change, re-branding and new website, I wanted to shed light on a bit of my inner process. In no way is this post meant to hand off my baggage, but rather to admit to my struggles and share some insights that have grown out of them.
This fall my husband and I decided to separate. I became one of the 50 percent in the well-known divorce statistic. The reasons aren’t relevant because loss is loss. Pain is pain. Major changes always test our capacity, and mine was indeed tested.
With all the years of yoga practice, study, meditation and time spent in therapy I thought that I would cope better, but night after night I found myself crying with a glass of wine in hand, tears on my face, surfing the internet and basking in my own sob story. The feeling of being a failure and alone was, at times, too much to bear.
After some time spent on silent retreat, and in Taiwan studying Zen and tea ceremony, I realized that “my” situation of divorce, and how I coped, is just life unfolding. We don’t have all that much control over what happens – “success” and “failure” are just labels we put on our goals, careers, or relationships that are always in flux. Our life is like a river and we don’t know what direction it’s going. The more we fight where we end up, the more we suffer.
There is a Tibetan Buddhist teaching that states: “bring all obstacles onto the path of practice”. So why not turn our “failures” into fuel for self-exploration? Success doesn’t last forever, and it is usually quickly forgotten and replaced with another goal or desire – it is like a bucket that never fills up. Failures, on the other hand, are much more valuable. While they are also impermanent and entirely conceptual, they can at least have a lasting impact. Failures highlight our shortcomings and help us to pause and reflect how our actions influence our life and the lives of others. The pain, guilt or loneliness that often accompanies failure has the power to develop greater compassion and empathy for others. When we really feel our difficult emotions, we begin to understand that we are not alone in our pain- that all humans experience these states. Rather than letting our emotions define us, we can use them as a path towards a greater connection with humanity.
The fact is, we will fail. And no matter how “yogi” we (think) we are, sometimes we need to drink wine and cry. And then when the time comes, we pick ourselves back up- sit on the cushion, pick up that dharma book and start our morning with sun salutations. Trying to live up to some sort of ideal, instead of embracing ourselves as we are, is a subtle act of violence that can actually mute our development. The point of this post is to suggest that what we label as “failure” is actually ok. It is better than ok, it is beautiful. If we can embrace our failures and the emotions that come with them with a compassionate heart, then when the time comes to humbly start over, we can do so with more love, wisdom, and clarity.
Below is a poem I wrote reflecting on this theme of failure (and the mundane, yet sacred, act of making tea)
You can’t fail
If what you failed at
Is not the same color
As who you really are.
Life will reveal our sacred misalignments
Through the loss of kisses and hurt blue eyes
or ones that tell lies.
Like the reservoir in the alcohol burner,
this pain keeps evolution
The life you could have had
You cannot have
Because it is not you
The dusty furniture is gone
And the blinds are open
You are in this moment now
and so is She
And it is all such beautiful failure,