I know I’m not alone when I say the great uncertainties that we now face have manifested in lots of less-than-pleasant emotions. Said simply and personally, I’m a little bit depressed. Others may be handling this differently. Maybe for you it looks like denial, indignation, anxiety or a return to escapist activities that you previously abandoned. Maybe the emotions are stronger, closer to rage and terror. Maybe, like me, you cycle through all of them.
I want to acknowledge that the election results might not be hard for everyone. The president-elect has millions of supporters, some of whom may even do yoga. And there are lots of people who aren’t happy but aren’t unhappy either. They have the sense that ultimately everything will be okay. If this is you, I applaud you.
For the rest of us, somehow we have to keep marching on. For one, there are practical actions to take to be sure we are heard. And we also need to continue to experience positive emotions in the face of very troubling times. We need a little spark of optimism or the pull of nihilism will collapse us. We must keep going, but not on a death march. We need our hearts to be warm and full, and we need to continue to find joy in our daily lives.
Your positive emotions are the medicines the world needs. Yoga may or may not heal the world. My guess is stronger medicine is required. But without it (or without whatever it is you do to care for yourself) we will not be able to do our part at all.
Last night, I taught my regular class and the theme was friendliness, particularly toward ourselves. And then the sequence that I designed got away from me. I repeatedly said right when I meant left. I lost my ability to mirror the class. I skipped a side. My students were confused, and it went on for what felt like forever. If you’re not a yoga teacher, these mistakes might not mean much to you. Imagine yourself at work doing something you’ve done hundreds of times before yet over and over you make various rookie mistakes. Imagine doing that with an audience. That was me last night.
I was embarrassed and remorseful. But when I remembered I was teaching maitri, the Sanskrit work for friendliness, I almost laughed aloud. The icky feelings and negative self talk didn’t go away, they're pretty sticky, but they coexisted with some hard-earned self love and the understanding that even with mistakes, I have lots to offer. The friendliness toward myself held me up and allowed to keep going and give what I had available, which is all anyone can ever do.
I believe that we have to be able to handle ourselves with love and care before we can do it for others. Yes, it’s true that we can be nice to others and unkind to ourselves. That happens all the time. But is “nice” the medicine we need? Superficial pleasantries are important but insufficient. We have to cozy up to our own suffering and joy before we can do that for others.
So now more than ever, we must not, as a friend put it, surrender our own well being. We must be our own best friend. We must be willing to care for ourselves so that those of us who are privileged enough to be safe and fed and healthy will be well enough to show up for those who aren’t safe or healthy or fed. Self care has become a moral imperative.
Please, today, be your own best friend. Be your top ally. Be on your own side. If we become firmly established in that, we will be ready for what comes.