I have a tendency to take myself very seriously (except when it comes to blog giveaways). This serious-me has been happening lately. In order to do this I must ignore things that are really quite serious like illnesses, death, depression, genocide… the list is very long, now that I think about it, but somehow I manage to do this and in the process, I start to believe that I am probably the only one with real problems. I also distort or conveniently forget the yoga teachings that encourage balance, self-care and self-awareness and instead turn to a series of yoga-memes that say shit like, “make each day your masterpiece,” or “mind over matter” or “when I wake up in the morning, I never think of what I can’t do” and then I get annoyed because that stuff is annoying. Since yoga isn’t helping which really is serious, I conclude that there is no simple solution to my problems and therefore my distress is appropriate and necessary because what else am I to do with all the serious stuff that I have to deal with? I can’t just ignore it. So it festers and I slip it food under the table and it just grows and gets bigger.
When I am weighed down with my own personal serious problems, I really appreciate people who have a sense of humor. I like someone who acknowledges the how human it is to go through stuff and have reactions and then points out the relatable irreverent craziness of it all so I can laugh about it. I know some wonderful funny people and I’m so grateful for the humor they bring into my life.
My friend, Miranda is one of them. She has a great sense of humor, and once, she told me something cool about laughter. She said that laughter is one way that we humans are able to discharge difficult emotion. I’m going to say “over-serious” falls into this category. The following information comes from what I can remember from a conversation we had 3-years ago about a peer counseling support group she participated in. She said that in this modality* they describe 5 ways of discharging emotion from our human systems. It’s a little fuzzy and I could call her, but I don’t want to so I’ll allow memory (smrti) and imagination (vikalpa) to work together on this one. Here’s my list:
- moving the body
- making sound
Laughter is one on the list! Many of us have had the experience of laughing really hard at something that is actually quite serious. I’m not talking about jokes that demean a person or a group of people or that are gross-out jokes or jokes that are all about sex (my tendency to be serious does come up in this arena, too.) I’m talking about a clever, thoughtful and intelligent comedian who says something so true that I can relate, appreciate the humanity that s/he brings to the experience, and can’t help but laugh my ass off. Like Louis CK or Tig Notaro or John Mulaney. They are hilarious. Laughing does discharge “serious” from the system. It helps it to move on through.
We do this work of discharging in yoga, too. We can move our body and stir things up and breathe in ways that get things moving. We’ve got that agni at our center that we can fire up through asana and pranayama practice and agni helps us to burn stuff that we need to release. I have to admit that when I’m serious, I have to really pay attention to my asana practice so that I don’t get bogged down in alignment and vigilant effort and a struggle to achieve. Sometimes this happens. When I’m serious about problems I need music, spontaneous movement, loose clothes and pranayama. Pranayama is so great for making space, feeling into the interior Amanda-landscape and discharging the unhelpful. It’s also good for just sitting with the difficult and serious stuff. I also must keep up with the meditation. Though when serious strikes, all these other urgent matters arise and I find it difficult to sit and meditate at the end of my practice. Maybe it’s just difficult to sit with serious.
I’m going to try to chill out, and not in a lazy way that lets me ignore the stuff that’s bugging me, but in a way that allows me to have balance and release and laughter in the midst of the serious. There’s going to continue to be yoga and comedians (thank goodness for funny friends and youtube), blogging, time to dance and play with my girls. It’s a good time to set forth this intention because IT’S ALMOST MY BIRTHDAY!!!! This year is going to be great. I can feel it.
*I decided to look up Miranda’s thing. It’s actually called co-counseling and here’s how another writer describes the emotional discharge.
Catharsis is a way of releasing distress from the mind-body and it can release in the following ways:
Grief in tears and sobbing,
Fear in trembling,
Anger in loud sound and storming movement,
Certain core or primal pains in screaming,
False shame and embarrassment in laughter
This sounds a little more legit than what I wrote and it doesn’t really include the kind of laughter I described above. I guess this kind of laughter is that self-deprecating giggly laughter that we do when we don’t want anyone to ask more questions or look at us. Even so, I really like this list because it puts all of these expressions of emotion into a category that is about healing and moving things through which is valuable because these are things that we often try to suppress. We try to suppress them because it isn’t considered polite to do these things around very many people so we just don’t do them at all. But what if something really grief-worthy happened and we sobbed. Just like that. We call up our peer, that we trust—maybe our yoga teacher or our friend or our mom, and we just full-out sob? If we didn’t clamp down on the grief and hold all that shit in and let it fester and lay eggs and turn into a maggoty writhing clump of seriousness, then we’d be better off, for sure.
And trembling? How often do we tremble? Sometimes our nervous system gets a good tremble going, but I’m somewhat in touch with body things and self-expression and I can only think of one time that I was trembling uncontrollably from serious distress. It was crazy. There was nothing I could do about it. But I wanted to. There was part of me that wanted to shut it down because it was weird and scary.
Anger and yelling and storming around—I must admit, I suppress this less than the other things. I do yell and storm around sometimes, and it usually comes up when my children do something horrible or really annoying. But I always feel bad afterwards. It’s not like I get to say, “that was awesome that I just screamed and stomped. I just discharged a whole lot of stuff,” because my children are probably curled up in one little kitten-y ball crying and trembling their own mother-induced stress out. I think if you make your kids tremble you probably just lost major mothering points. On the final point, can we agree that we all could use more primal screaming? Perhaps this could become my go-to discharge mode. I bet the girls wouldn’t cry or be freaked out at all with that going on.
Enter my sweepstakes giveaway by commenting below. Woo-hoo! Haven’t you always wanted a tongue scraper and your own signed copy of “Heart of Yoga”? (It’s going to be signed by me.)