A few months ago, one of our student friends sent me this e-mail describing an experience she had after a yoga class (when we went for our after class ritual to have breakie). She gave me permission to put it on the blog adding a few words to it. Her message read:
Today I cried, like a child might cry when a stranger greets them. It came from nowhere, for no reason or no purpose. My feelings at the time were happiness, chatting with friends, laughing and surrounded by love, nothing was going on to make me sad. Within the group a shoulder massage was taking place, I was kindly asked to receive a massage. This is when I cried. My reaction disturbed me, I felt overtaken with grief. On the surface I would say I am an emotionally controlled person and have been from a young age, especially in public, I can honestly say this revealing emotion shook my core. Feelings of vulnerability, weakness and losing control caused my mind and body to recoil in disbelief. Once I had gathered my thoughts and composure, akin to lifting a heavy load from the floor, I returned to some normality, though still floating above my head for the rest of the day was the niggling disbelief at what had happened.
While searching for the logic to justify the outpour of emotion, my thoughts were drawn to the last six months. This has been a massive turning point in my life, I have surrendered to a vast amount of un-conditioning and recognition of ego, endeavouring to relinquish the controls of life that have kept me in a state of unhappiness. Although many personal barriers have come down, some are still raw and painful; a result of life’s dramas perpetually grinding me down over a long period of time has had a forceful effect. Though I believe l have opened my heart significantly in communication and participation, I have yet to open fully to the intimacy of touch. For me to be touched especially with kindness automatically presents fear, the fear my body will fully expose the depths of pain that have never been expressed and remain wedged between a rock and a hard place. While I am aware this will be a good release with cathartic benefits, regrettably the emotion of fear has more power over me.
I know the day will come, I will have no choice but to let go. I look forward to it.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be
Our friend is not the first who experienced uncontrollable tears after yoga/meditation. Many have shared similar experiences during or after such activities and been taken aback by the uncontrollable nature of their tears. Although in some cases there is relief, some experience panic as they don’t understand what is happening.
I read that in the Academy Award-winning animated film Spirited Away, a little girl gets lost in an abandoned theme park. She is befriended by a boy who gives her a cake and says it will give her back her strength. When she eats it, she starts crying. Yoga and meditation are similar to that cake in that they are meant to give you your power back, your power being your breath! When you feel that inner strength bubbling up, finding freedom in breathing – before recognizing what’s happening, your armours are down and tears / memories that were held back, released. It is in the inner safety that is deeply felt that the tears are allowed to show. It is also a sign of great relief after holding on to lots of tension inside. Unless it’s understood, the intensity of the release and the letting go of the guard can bring out fear and panic – is it safe to feel safe?
In our friend’s case, yoga and meditation had already relaxed the armour. The prospect of an affectionate touch through massage that said ‘it’s OK’, ‘it’s all OK’, ‘you are loved and understood’, deepened the experience and released long held tears and fears. Tears that further melted the hard shield protecting deep vulnerability and sense weakness.
Can we really expect to discover our true strength without allowing our vulnerability, weakness and fear to surface? Would courage be called courage if fear wasn’t in the equation. As long as we’re spending our energy hiding our own vulnerability, weakness and fear we won’t have the energy to face and rise above them. The ability to cry, to recognize fear and weakness are the first steps towards remembering inner courage and strength.
We fear showing and having to face a sadness we have spent a long time pushing away, unaware that the monster we have made of it has no real substance. It only takes the willingness to look straight in its eyes to turn it into a guru that guides us to light. The sadness is what carries us to the world beyond the personal Me and the tears are what is needed to wash clear the eyes so they can SEE.
Why fear tears, when they are the soul’s ally that help it fly?!
P.s. It is now Feb 2018, I have seen many more students shed tears on the mat and I often cry during my dance meditations. I feel this topic deserves more attention than it is currently getting. Perhaps, more people need to know the benefits of it and ‘warned’ before class. I say ‘warned’ in case the person coming to yoga shares the views of someone I recently talked with about this matter.
In a recent conversation, this person who is very dear to me told me that she believes tears should be blocked and stayed where they belonged. The topic came up after I said how light I feel after crying during meditation and how I believe that physical pain can manifest due to the huge amount of tension needed to hold tears back. As we started chatting about it, the reason she resisted tears became obvious. She felt that constantly going over sad stories of our life and complaining about them would put a grey cloud over us and we might run the risk of being miserable all the time. I couldn’t agree more. There is however a difference between indulging in the negative emotion of sadness and building our personal story and identity around them by talking/thinking about them non-stop and shedding tears when they need to be released every now and again or, offloading to a trusted friend.
The Buddhist have a practice called ‘holding the tender heart’. It is when you give yourself time and permission to listen to the heart, to hold space for it by allowing it to express itself. These practices are time bound. We don’t do yoga and meditation 24 hours a day, we set a time limit to do it. After the time has passed, we can wipe our tears and get on with our life (possibly lighter and more opened than before). Of course, we all want to be joyous and positive. Many of us would like to take load off people instead of adding to it but, I don’t think this means shoving the deep sadness under the carpet of our being, hoping it will never show. It shows! It always shows and it comes out in ways we don’t appreciate nor approve.
Although she didn’t agree with me, the same person who believes tears are to be blocked, reminded me of a Persian proverb:: ‘Crying is the medicine of all pains’. Now I’m not sure how convinced she was of her conviction, if her last argument ended in my favour! 🙂