“The sweeter you are to yourself, the sweeter you will be to the world.” Sharon Pope
A few months ago, I read a life coaching inquiry by someone named Amy that said, “I’ve tried yoga, but I found myself crying at the end of each yoga practice, so I don’t want to do that anymore.” When you get in touch with your breath – the way you do in yoga, the way a singer loosens up their vocal cords, the way dancers or actors do before going on stage – you cannot hide your emotions. Breathing brings all of your emotions to the surface and that gives us a choice. We can either suppress them, as Amy wanted to do, or we can face them. One will feel like a weight, the other will feel like freedom.
More than likely, most of us are a lot like Amy. If breathing or yoga or whatever is going to make me feel all the stuff that I don’t want to feel or even acknowledge is present, then I’m going to avoid it like the plague. I will suck it up and move on. Maybe I’ll feed myself some positive self-talk. I certainly won’t put myself in that situation again – maybe I’ll just go for a run on the treadmill. Here’s the problem: just because you refuse to acknowledge that emotion does not mean that it doesn’t exist and running from it doesn’t make it go away. As a matter of fact, emotions that are suppressed will only serve to continue to subdue the progress and forward momentum in your life. Quite simply, it means you stay stuck longer.
Our alternative – albeit a frightening one – is to allow those feelings and emotions to come to the surface and exist without judgment (“I shouldn’t be feeling that way”) and without all the stories we create (“If I’m feeling that way, I must be weak / unworthy / insecure”). This would allow us to feel what we feel until we don’t feel it anymore. It may be a few hours a few days or longer. Leaning into the emotions you’re feeling and giving them permission to run their course allows you to acknowledge them in a gentle way, giving those feelings the space to find their way through you and ultimately to be released. Life Coach Martha Beck calls this, “saying yes to the mess.” Although it may feel uncomfortable for a short time, it is the healthiest and quickest way to freedom.
The key to this working, however, is our ability to be gentle with ourselves. It requires patience, authenticity, vulnerability and a healthy dose of self-love. It requires us to lower the expectations we have for ourselves for a moment, giving ourselves the luxury of a safe space without all the answers. Many people will never have the courage to do this; but those people will also not experience the benefits either: