Master yoga teachers caution against taking on others’ baggage. When a person is empathic and able to share another’s emotional experience, it’s tempting to want to take pain away, especially if the person is someone you care about. At the end of every class she teaches, Seane Corn presses her hands to the earth, transmitting any negative energy she picked up from her students back into the ground. Ana Forrest flicks the negative energy away with her fingers as she moves from student to student. She is able to feel their emotions but lets them flow through her body like water through a sieve.
I don’t suffer from these problems, because I’m relatively dense. In classes, I can usually sense when a student is in some type of distress, but my empathic skills aren’t honed enough to detect subtle negative energy from old or hidden injuries. And I’m glad, because I have trouble releasing it.
Over the past few years, I’ve had a number of friends come to me with problems. To put it bluntly, they’ve dumped their shit in my lap, sobbed it out, and walked away feeling better. And while it’s an honor and a blessing to be a good enough friend and to offer a safe enough haven for them to give up these deep secrets, I’m still left holding a pile of shit in my lap, not knowing what to do. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I eat. And sometimes, like today, I take on their pain.
I was spinning out a story for a friend yesterday, spouting off about how sharing your truth, however awful it may be, will take away its power to harm you. I pulled an example out of thin air, one of the most awful truths I ever heard someone share, to demonstrate what I’d been privy to at a yoga circle. It was a hypothetical, an example, a worst possible case… until my friend said, “Yeah, well, that’s kind of what happened.”
And now my sieve is blocked.
My friend and I have walked similar paths in our lives. I don’t want her to feel the pain I’ve felt, even though I know she must, and I want her to be able to resolve other issues in her life the way I’ve been able to. But her courageous act of sharing with me leaves me at a loss. I’m carrying her secret now and I’m not sure how to put it down. Somehow, pressing my hands into the earth or making little flicking motions with my fingers doesn’t seem like enough.
And so I’m here. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and I wanted to remind myself of one of my favorite passages from a film, one that always brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear the words spoken, or even just read them:
“[I]t’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”
This is what yoga is teaching me, or trying to teach me–to let things flow through me like rain. To experience the feelings–good ones and terrible ones–and then to let them go. I can be a conduit for my friend’s sorrow, and I can depend on her to be one for mine.
And by writing this, by reminding myself to unclog my sieve, perhaps I can let go of a little of what I’ve taken on.
d it’sMy sieve is clogged.