When I was 26, I had already spent nearly 7 years dedicating my life to the practice of yoga. There had been some major traumas in my teenage years that I had tried to shake off of my psyche through yoga as well as various forms of therapy. But, like many people with similar situations I was making little progress.
Seemed strange because I could bend like a pretzel and sit in marathon meditation sessions with the best of them, and I’d studied so many yogic texts they were oozing from my pores and had already begun leading kirtan, which all should have made me feel better.
But I was still miserable inside.
Sure, my mind had calmed down, and I’d learned to observe my suffering. At least I could put a name on it and detach from it slightly like a good little witness to my thoughts. The yoga did help to alleviate a chronic back issue that I’d had since being thrown from a horse. But, still, even after my diligence and fervor, every negative thought in my head continued to plague me and I couldn’t stop hearing the voice of my father telling me that:
I’d never be good enough.
It was right around this time that I took a trip to Sydney, Australia to teach yoga. I met lots of friends and one of them had a similar upbringing – a crazy father who imbued her with a lot of negative self-talk. But, she had found someone to help her through it. I was amazed and excited, and had to go. She gave me the number of the guy who helped her and I made an appointment for later that week.
She dropped me off at the office and walked in. What happened over the next 75 minutes was a blur. The therapist spoke fast, snapped his fingers, asked me questions, laid me on a table, asked if I was ready to truly get over my shit (I said yes) and then escorted me out the front door. “Well, that was lame,” I thought.
But as soon as I hit the sidewalk, I crumbled.
I literally could not stand up and it was like I’d been given new eyes to look at the world. Language failed me for a short time and I couldn’t feel my fingers. My legs started shaking and I just put my head in my hands. My friend came to pick me up, and luckily she recognized these signs. She helped me into the car and took me to the nearest cafe for some tea.
When she sat me down, she looked at me and said, “Okay, now tell me about your father.”
My mind went still. Completely still.
This was like a miracle. Normally, if anyone even mentioned the name of my father or brought him up in any way, my entire body would tense and I would immediately feel myself start to get angry and anxious. Never mind trying to talk about him. It would inevitably end in tears. Suddenly, though, it was gone. And, even to this day, I feel complete neutrality toward my father and am able to wish him the best.
There’s no emotional catch or hang up.
Years of yoga practice didn’t to that for me. 75 minutes of work on the unconscious did. The reason? The strict practices of yoga do not address the unconscious. The unconscious is something that we’ve only realized the importance of in the last century. It is the driver behind everything we do. Every decision we *think* we make has already been made moments prior by the unconscious. All of our habits, patterns, reactions, emotions, belief systems and thoughts arise from the depths of our psyche.
If we truly want to be free, we must have tools that allow us to work with and live in accord with our shadow.
Creating a bridge between unconscious and conscious is how we bring the darkness to the light. Carl Jung said, “until we make the unconscious conscious, it rules our life and we call it fate.” To enact our free will and be masters of our destiny, knowledge and communion with the unconscious is required. In order for this to happen as part of a yoga practice, well…
We have to update yoga.
We must make additions from disciplines like psychology and mythology in order to create a holistic practice that actually creates the changes we are looking for. Working with our dreams, developing our personal mythology, learning to undo our innate patterns all allows the practices of yoga to unfold even more brilliantly.
At 26, I’d hit an internal wall that I couldn’t get past without the help of that practitioner in Australia, but what he opened me up to was a whole new landscape within myself that was rich and worth exploring
It is time to dive deep, to lift our unconscious into the light so that we may be free of our doubts, misbeliefs, hangups, negative patterns, and tendencies…
So that we may be free.