by Una Hubbard, Meditation and Yoga with Una
I used to be a perfectionist living life in black and white, ‘either/or’. My understanding of the depression I experienced, for instance, was to find a way to be happy. If sad, be happy. I mean, simple really.
I also had a real beef with anger. And that beef was simply this: I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like it when someone raised their voice or showed displeasure. I wanted it all to go away. I wanted calm instead. If angry, be calm. Easy peasy.
This made me at best a peacemaker, and at worst an avoider. I’d go out of my way to make sure all was well in the world just to sidestep the discomfort of being with another’s anger. It was prickly and unsettling. And after bottling it all up, I might even find myself getting mad at the person expressing their anger because I didn’t like how it all felt. Sound familiar?
It might not be anger that presses your buttons, but another’s sadness, depression or negativity. It could even be someone’s success or happiness that makes you feel uncomfortable in some way. Maybe it’s their grief, their hurt, their anxiety. And the normal human reaction to all that’s unsettling is to make it go away. We want the pain and the tears to stop. We want our friends to be happy if they’re depressed. We might even want that guy at the office to fail for once so we can feel better about ourselves. We want to take away our own hurt, another’s hurt, or sometimes project onto our nearest and dearest so that we don’t have to feel it ourselves.
It may all seem twisted, but it’s also all a normal part of being human.
At the heart of the matter, isn’t this at least partly because we’re uncomfortable with sensations of discomfort? Ultimately I don’t like how another’s anger makes me feel. I might want to take their pain or sadness away because I don’t like how this discomfort expresses within me. So we try to make our own or another’s anger, fear, grief, depression or discomfort go away. But life continually shows us that this doesn’t work. As hard as I try to make depression leave, or wish the world would be at peace, the world is not at peace and depression is still here. Avoidance doesn’t work – but certainly not for lack of trying.
Everything we deny, run away from or despise comes back to bite us in the end. So the question becomes: Can I make friends with discomfort? Can I learn to be comfortable with what makes me squirm – build up antibodies to the “discomfort virus”, so to speak, and learn to be ok with it as just another sensation arising within me? Can I learn to accept life unquestioningly, no matter what it brings?
Here’s where iRest® Yoga Nidra and the practice of opposites (Patanjali’s Pratipaksha Bhavanam) is a powerful ally.
When stuck in the one-way highway – in ‘either/or’ thinking looking for perfection, we’re invited to open to another point of view. To practice feeling into both this and that, so life becomes an experience of ‘AND THIS’ too.
As human beings we all get caught in recursive patterns of thinking, emoting and behaving. Whether it’s avoidance that’s your constant companion, anger, doubt, self-hatred or, or, or…. (take your pick, we each have our own), iRest allows us to navigate life with all these visitors here. One of the first stages of the practice is to cultivate a felt sense of safety in the body – to arrive at a knowing that there actually is an essential okayness within that we can turn to as well. This is the inner resource.
If you’ve experienced trauma or live with depression and anxiety, safety can feel like an alien landscape as out of reach as Mars itself. With iRest we re-learn that the self-doubt or anxiety we’ve been velcroed to is not the only possibility here. That there’s more to the story than just this that seems to have cleverly ensnared me – there is a reliable ground here too.
Orienting to this basic inner resource of okayness, or even the vibrant Beingness of the body, for many can feel like first contact with a sense of true Home.
And for me, this is at the heart of working with opposites. Learning how we are actually safe/ok in the world might be the first ‘opposite’ we acquaint ourselves with when all we’ve been previously oriented to is some form of ill-at-ease-ness. Coming into this felt sense of safety can provide a way to allow a whole host of other possibilities into our lived experience. Feeling grounded, I might also be able to feel into this anger too, into this thing that presses my buttons, and let it be here as part of truly meeting life as it is. Nothing left behind. The comfort, and the discomfort – both true. And then see past all possibilities, all opposites, to what is unchanging here – the ground of Being itself.
Making friends with discomfort by grounding in comfort/safety doesn’t mean we don’t set boundaries and say no to abusive or inappropriate behaviour (after all, sometimes discomfort is a messenger telling us that we need to act to help ourselves out). But as we meditate in this somatically present way – tuned into the felt sense of ease and essential nature in the body – we naturally learn to discriminate between the need to set appropriate boundaries versus the use of avoidance strategies. We can get very familiar with our own reactions to life and how we act in all our relationships – with ourselves and others. We might discover we’ve been unconsciously engaging in patterns of behaviour that push away the people in our lives – sending signals like “I can’t accept you when you’re angry, depressed, or overwhelmed because I don’t like the sensation of discomfort it creates for me.” Or maybe it’s that we deny aspects of our own selves. ‘Either/or’ breeds nothing but judgement after all. Fosters a sense of this is right and this is wrong. Eventually engendering ‘only this’ thinking.
Isn’t it the case that sometimes we need to feel sad and sometimes we might even need to get angry.
Life happens in waves and ups and downs, never stationary. It can be a real roller coaster ride we didn’t ask to get on. But, if we sit in meditation, inviting in all the visitors here that breeze their way through, opposites popcorning their way in and out of existence, we can also feel into this deeper ground of Being that is always the same, always welcoming and at home with everything that can possibly arise.
This deep ground of Loving Stillness is the forever ground that comfort arises from, even when discomfort is present. We can nourish a greater capacity to be with unease – to turn up unconditionally for ourselves and the people we share our lives with – when we move from this centred, grounded place and see discomfort as another movement within the unchanging field of Being that we are.
To make this real-life-practical, next time you find yourself mired in the muck of that emotion or belief, or trying to magically repel something uncomfortable, try orienting to what’s ok here too. You don’t have to conjure it up out of thin air – just let your attention land on the little ways you already feel ok in the world. The feeling of your hands on your lap, the sun on your face, that curled-up book-reading feeling of warmth and cosiness. Not denying or pushing away the muddiness, but orienting to okayness. To how Beingness is living in you and is something true too. Feel it as sensation in your body – permeating every nook and cranny, every cell. Open to openness itself. There’s room to breathe freely here. There’s room for all of it from here.
And this too.
Una Hubbard has been teaching yoga in fitness and corporate environments throughout Wellington for over 12 years. She discovered iRest® Yoga Nidra Meditation in 2013 and completed Levels I and II training directly with iRest founder, Dr. Richard Miller. In 2015 she became the first certified iRest Yoga Nidra teacher in NZ. Since then she has regularly been assisting at the iRest Institute teacher trainings and immersions held in Australia and NZ. Una is passionate about helping clients and students meet life’s challenges through this meditation practice. She offers one-on-one iRest sessions, workshops and group classes from the Ngaio Natural Health Centre. She co-hosts iRest Australasia events under “iRest Yoga Nidra NZ”, and has served on the iRest Australasia management team for several years. She was also a Hauora Yoga Conference presenter in 2019.