Everything is here to awaken us.
This is the hot fudge banana split sundae of yoga teachings: sticky and sweet, cold and warm, dark mixed with light. Tastes exquisite going down… but might give you a headache at any moment.
Why the headache?
As yogis we’re asked not to work just with the good as a means to awakening, but with the poison (difficulties) as well. Let’s be honest, it’s painful to work with difficulties. That’s why we sometimes would rather launch a flame email or post than let ourselves feel our own pain and heartbreak. Or avoid our pain by glossing over it in the “spiritual bypass” Darcy Lyon mentioned in last week’s post.
In keeping with yoga’s alchemical roots, we can transform the poison into medicine, but first we need to spend some time examining the poison.
Imagine someone slips out from a dark alleyway and places into your palm a dark purple glass vial with an embellished silver cap on it, and then disappears into the shadows.
Recovering from the shock, you hold it up to the light. You shake it, you tap it, you feel its weight, you watch how it moves in the bottle to determine its viscosity, perhaps you tentatively open it and give it a sniff. You might even pour out a bit to check its color and texture. You get to know it and you compare it to other substances you’ve seen before. You get curious about it and about your own observations and reactions to it.
What’s in the bottle?
Suddenly you know: it’s the Essence of the Anusara Scandal, distilled down to a potent spirit.
You sense the vial contains a familiar mixture of ingredients, some of which may be poisonous to you, and some not. Some may be missing from the list below, but the main ones include:
- John’s actions, “the allegations”
- The lack of transparency
- The apology, or lack thereof
- The resignations
- The dissolution of the community as we once knew it
- Revelations about additional misuse of power, both business and sexual
- More resignations
- Release of pent up anger and frustration from many sides
- Attempt at restructuring
- Even more resignations
When you take a sip of this “elixir,” your emotional reactions to it are as individual as you are, shaped by how close you were to John, how much your identity is (or was) tied to him and the community, the past harm or benefit you’ve received from John or other members of the community, and how much you value the teachings and practice… among other things.
For example, when I take a sip, John’s actions and apology have a bitter, sour taste, buffered by my appreciation for the Anusara system and community and the good I know John has done for people I respect and care for. To me, the resignations taste completely neutral and the attempt at restructuring feels right on the edge of saccharine. Others experience the complete opposite… for them the resignations are Tabasco mixed with burnt coffee, and the attempt at restructuring is a raspberry sorbet palate cleanser. Or the other way around. Everyone tastes something different.
The question then becomes, what do we do with the poison once we’ve tasted it?
- We spit it out, spewing more poison into the world.
- We swallow it whole and let it poison us from the inside out.
Then there’s the third option, or the Shiva option, from the ancient story when the gods and demons attempted to churn amrit (the nectar of immortality) from the ocean, but first ended up with a life-annihilating poison. Shiva took the poison into his mouth, and rather than swallowing or spitting it out, held it in his throat, dyeing his throat its famous blue color, and transforming the poison into courage, steadfastness, and equanimity.
“Holding it” in this case means having the courage to look honestly at the poison and take responsibility for our reactions to it.
Even just saying to yourself, “I’m pissed about this!” Or, “I’m pissed at how pissed other people are about this!” is a good start. We let ourselves feel whatever is there, as fully as possible. We get curious about our feelings, our reactivity, and look at them openly and without judgment. Then we steady our impulse to react from impatience or anger or fear, and empathize with others about how hard it is to do so. ‘Cause it is so hard not to push the send/post button or make the vitriolic phone call.
Finally, our equanimity helps us avoid the pitfall of wishing everyone would react the same way we do.
Why isn’t everyone doing what I’m doing? Oh yeah, they’re not me. We allow other people to make their own choices about how to deal with the poison they’ve swallowed… and not spew more poison out at them because we disagree with their reaction to it.
As Albert Camus put it:
“We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves and in others.”
Once we’ve really sat with the poison (nope, you can’t skip that part), we can work on transforming it. Pema Chodron asks, “Are we willing to make the commitment that when we suffer we say, ‘This will transform me if I let it.’?” How can we change this poison into the path of our awakening?
Now things get interesting… and the way you transform the distilled Essence of the Anusara Scandal will be different than anyone else.
Use the insight you’ve reached by sitting with the pain and knowing your heart to transform the energy of the poison from something harmful into something that profoundly serves you. Will the transformation deepen your compassion for all of us flawed yet perfect beings out there, will it inspire your creativity to explore unknown caves of your heart, or will it increase your fearlessness in moving forward with your dreams? I’m not sure which direction the transformation will lead me yet, but I’m excited about the possibilities.
Like the joy in life, the poison is here to awaken us, too.
That purple vial placed in your hand by a stranger is magic, if you use it wisely. It’s the yogic path, turning the poison into medicine, pain into compassion, injury into healing. If we don’t transform it, the poison stays poisonous, and we miss our opportunity to be challenged and changed from the inside out. This is one opportunity I don’t plan to miss. Do you?
For a more complete overview on what’s been happening, please visit: Anusara Controversy: Overview and Timeline