Happy Monday YOGANONYMOUS! I Hope you guys had a great weekend! This week, I encourage you to stop resisting pain..
My legs are sore.
I went for a really fantastic bike ride on Saturday and followed it with an amazing 8.5 mile hike in Bear Mountain State Park yesterday. My booty has never been more ready for bikini season
As I sit on my cozy bed writing this piece, I have two giant ice packs resting on my knees. In about 10 minutes, they will migrate to my shins. And, if I can convince myself not to fall asleep while lying on my stomach, I will move them to my glutes a little later.
I used my legs a lot this weekend. They are tired. And sore. And swollen. And they frickin’ hurt.
But it’s a good hurt. It’s the type of pain that I invited in by working my leg muscles a lot in a short period of time. After a good long stretch of activity, this pain crawls into the deepest part of my muscles, dully aching it until I finally accept the hurt and then take some steps to soothe them (ice packs, reading NY Times online, and mint chocolate chip ice cream to be exact). And I know that this aching, awful pain? It really just means that I’ve torn some small muscle fibers, and they are growing back, quickly, and even stronger than before. I know that the pain will slowly go away over the next few days as I get back out there and run or bike.
And while this is an acceptable kind of pain for my quad muscles, it’s a kind of pain that I desperately avoid when it comes to my heart muscle. I invest my emotion into lots of things everyday. Into my job, into my friendships, into my conversations with my family. Even into a dinner that I’m cooking for my roommates.
A lot of times I get wrapped up in all of my emotional connections. I’ll be disappointed that I got passed up for a promotion, or that the boy I liked never called me back or that my roommates are allergic to the nuts in my cashew curry. And I will feel a knotty lump in my throat, try desperately to swallow it, then quickly push all of the hurt down my throat and back into my heart. Because it is easier to suppress the pain than it is to invite it in. To let it roll around in our very fragile chests. To ask it why it is so sharp and why is it hurting us so much. No. I’d rather just push it into the spaces between my fingers and toes and hope that it doesn’t creep up on me again.
But we all know that’s not how to do it. I am a very emotional human being, whether I try to control it or not. I get sad and lonely and pensive and worried. But every time I push the hurt away and ignore it, I don’t learn how to strengthen my heart muscle; I don’t learn how to let the pain dissipate naturally, like the pain in my legs dissipates after I put ice on them.
When I was doing my training, my teacher always told us during our satya sessions that we needed to feel our emotions. Literally. He encouraged us to invite difficult emotions into our conscious and sit with them. Let the hurt well up in our throats or the anxiety knot in our stomachs. It was only then could we really understand the physical relationships that our bodies have to our emotions.
But more importantly, what I got from this exercise, was that, in order to get through a tough stretch of your life, you have to invite it in. You have to let the hurt come into your heart, if only to let it roll around while you sit, patiently, on your bed, waiting for the swelling to go down.
And though it doesn’t feel like it at the time, these setbacks and disappointments are actually “good” hurts, though they may not feel like it. Our hearts are torn a little bit when we go through a tough emotional time, just like our leg muscles are torn a bit when we slog up a tough hill. But through all the pain, we come out on the other side, still whole, and a little bit stronger. Just like my aching leg muscles, the more I use my heart, the more I fall in love with reckless abandon and try new things at work, even if I’m not promoted, the more pain I may feel. But the more I exercise my heart muscle, and the more I get used to that feeling of hurt and disappointment. And when I invite the pain in, it feels familiar, and not shocking. And it doesn’t hurt quite as much as I think it is going to. Because eventually, my heart grows stronger than it.
This week, I want you to try to invite the pain in, instead of pushing it somewhere else, where the ache might be less painful, but will still be there for far longer than you think. Invite it in and sit with it. Notice it. Cry if you need to, punch pillows if you must, but remember that this is the toughest part. The ice packs will help and the healing will come over the next few days, but only if you try to invite the pain in and really feel it and stop trying to rationalize the pain, you may realize that maybe the hurt isn’t all that bad.
How do you guys deal with pain and emotion? Do you meditate? Go for a run? Lock yourself in your house with a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream?