The Urban Yoga Den

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Not Love: Anger February 13, 2013

LOVE: Brief (and maybe not so brief) explorations for our February class focus.  (Or maybe not.)

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MinimalChairI am sooooo tired of my brain right now.

Tired of flip-flopping between compassion/anger, yoga/rawness, awakened/avoidance, should/shouldn’t.  Yesterday afternoon I was verbally attacked by someone who was obviously stressed before our encounter, poised to pounce and way out of line.  I was yelled at, insulted and shamed in public.  The person was in such a state that she could not and would not hear any reasoning or response.  Thankfully I walked away from the situation; but I headed home in a traumatized cloud.  And today I am plagued by a pinball machine of mixed emotions.

My immediate response was the correct one: Anger.  A feeling of being harmed, a sense of injustice, a high-adrenaline buzz.

I quickly collapsed into my 2nd response: Depression.  A feeling of being harmed, a sense of futility and hopelessness, a soul-sucking energy drain.

And then it returned: Anger.  A feeling of being harmed, an overwhelming sense of “F*** them,” a hardening shell.

All of this flip-flopping within 30 minutes of the attack.  When I arrived home, I mindfully addressed my imbalanced emotions.  I practiced calming Pranayama, took Bach’s Rescue Remedy and drank Relaxed Mind tea to soothe my shocked nerves.  I shared on Facebook, drafting the post and re-reading for accuracy and fairness before publishing.  I listened to friends’ opinions, expressed frustrations and absorbed support.  I gained perspective on the attack, cultivated compassion for my attacker and normalized a bit.

After teaching an evening class, celebrating Mardi Gras with awesome yogis and offering to be of service to a non-profit organization, I evolved into my next response: OK-ness.  Forgetting the feeling of being harmed, a sense of being useful, a gentle embrace of community.

But by the time I went to bed, I was restless, depressed and back in “F*** them” mode.

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I awoke with my next emotional response: “Don’t F*** With Me.”  A feeling of being harmed, a sense of being threatened, toughening up like the scrappy little punk that I can become.  A great disposition for someone preparing to teach Sunrise Flow & Meditation at 7am!  Before leaving home, I resolved to get right back into bed after class.

The pre-dawn walk to the studio was hyper-vigilant with my heart center protected.  Yet when I arrived to greet our amazing group of dedicated yogis, I softened.  The energy in the room was sleepy and silly and sweet.  Together we centered, breathed deeply, set intentions, awakened with the sun and greeted a new day.  After class I had rich conversations with two students about their inspiring work and lives.

And again, here arose: OK-ness.  An undoing of the feeling of being harmed, a sense of presence, celebrating the beauty of humanity.

Each Wednesday morning, after the students leave, I stay to chant.  Today I repeated “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”  (may the entire universe and all of its beings realize freedom from suffering) 108 times.  It seemed like the appropriate meditation in response to yesterday’s encounter.  During the practice, these visions arose: writing a letter to the person who harmed me yesterday, apologizing for any suffering I may have caused to incite her upset with me; writing the same letter to all the people who have harmed me; telling the person who harmed me yesterday how angry I am; telling all the people who have harmed me the same thing.  Hmmmm…

The whole way home from the studio my brain was a ping pong table, bouncing from one emotion to the next.  I wanted to crawl into bed, cancel my evening service commitment, hide from the world.

Sinking again: Depression.  An overwhelming feeling of being harmed; frustration and anger and futility; and feeling exhausted.  After writing the first half of this blog, I listened to a Yoga Nidra CD then slept for a couple of hours.

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My “normal” response to being harmed can manifest in any shade of these emotional ups and downs.  Thankfully, I have an amazing toolbox for regaining balance.  For instance, mentioned above: Rescue Remedy, soothing tea, Pranayama, sharing, gaining compassion, showing up to be of service, and so on.  At the same time, anger is only calmed with these tools.  It is not addressed, processed and released.

I’d like to improve my ability to respond appropriately, healthily and immediately to harmful situations and the related emotions.

I want to revisit my first response:  Anger.  A feeling of being harmed, a sense of injustice, a high-adrenaline buzz.  That would have been the time to wholeheartedly express my emotion.  But it’s hard for me to know how to constructively express anger.  In childhood I was conditioned to do one of two things with anger: express it inappropriately (physical or verbal rage); or deny it completely (stuffing it wayyyy down).

I have a recent instance of constructively expressing anger.  Last summer, a man I was dating revealed that he was married.  In a text message.  (!)  Response: Anger.  A feeling of being harmed; a sense of injustice; a high-adrenaline buzz.  After about two hours, I texted that I don’t want any apologies unless he is ready to tell me – in person – the whole story.  He asked me to meet him in two days.  In those 48 hours, I talked to friends and I talked to myself.  I got clear about my feelings – hurt and anger – and I got firm with my response – never to see him again.  When we met, I simply said, “Start talking.”  I listened to his story, his excuses, his apologies.  And then I let him know, strongly and frankly – yet without rage, without raising my voice and without dwelling on his faults – that I felt extremely angry, that I was horribly hurt, that our entire relationship was a lie to me and that I would never see him again.  I walked away from that encounter free and clear of anger.  Really.  Although I can recall the anger when I recall the situation, I have never felt a drop of anger toward that man since.

I addressed, processed and released my anger rather than storing it for potential misdirection or residual depression later.

As for yesterday.  Where did that adrenaline go?  I stuffed it.  I stuffed it because of that old pattern of internalizing.  So no wonder today my mind is ping-ponging between polar emotions today.

I am at a loss.  What do I do with this anger now?

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Just after the New Year, I wrote that I would like to share less of my internal process and start writing about the solution more often.  Well, lookee here – back to my old ways!  And y’know what – I am glad.  After all, this blog’s purpose is to describe my journey honestly, and to share yoga and related resources, tools and solutions for addressing the challenges of everyday life.

I’d rather openly share my process in hopes to decrease the separation that many of us feel when our imperfect humanness baffles us, dangerously hardening our hearts and annoyingly exhausting our brains.

I’d rather reveal my messy, processing insides than project that I am beyond problems and have total command of the perfect fix-it list.  “10 Solutions for Conquering Anger and Living a Joyful Life,” by perfectly liberated Holly Meyers just doesn’t sound authentic coming from me!

I’d rather ask what works for you.  Because I don’t have all the answers.

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Where am I now?  I am still angry.  At the same time, I am hopeful for cultivating healthy responses and emotions.  Preparing to go out for my evening service commitment.  Listening to uplifting music.  In the face of inner conflict, I must manage it.  I must show up for and offer my best to life.  Because despite periodic unrest, I still have a lot to offer.

So tell me, dear readers – how do you acknowledge, process and release anger?  Thanks for reading (and responding)!  OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.  Peace Peace Peace.

(P.S. – Thanks to The Minimalists for this powerful photo that, to me, portrays the separation felt when strong emotions challenge us.)

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How do we recognize and trust our hearts’ desires?  How can we harness the impulses tugging at our hearts, and shape them into a deeper purpose?  Join me on Saturday, February 23rd, 3-5:30pm at Quiet Mind Yoga in Washington, DC for “Follow Your Heart.”  In this Sankalpa Vinyasa practice, Holly facilitates heart-centered Asana, self-inquiry and journeying, so students can tap into the flow of their deepest intentions. Re-ignite your 2013 resolutions – or, discover a completely new direction.