Is swearing allowed in this yoga class?
Meditation and yoga are lovely. They’re super helpful in helping us find a time to slow down and take a moment to breathe.
When practiced enough, they can also bleed over into the rest of our lives and help us feel more calm in certain situations that freak us out or make our blood boil.
They’re not a bypass for getting into the messiness of life.
If you read my last post, you know that I’m a fan of learning to embrace all of ourselves – including the parts we love and adore and the parts we routinely try to hide or remove and put out with the trash.
There is gold and wisdom in every last corner of our emotions.
When we hang out on the meditation or yoga mat with the intention of becoming the calmest person we’ve ever met, who never gets upset at anything or anyone, we’re missing the boat.
We’re also living in delusion and busying ourselves for an endless cycle of self-loathing when we inevitably fail at this impossible task.
For the past several years, when I would come across a meditation or yoga group for moms, I would think, “That’s great – really. But I already sort of know how to get calm when the kids aren’t around me. I want someone to teach me how to get calm in the eye of the storm – when I have three children hanging from me, my husband and I are arguing, and I haven’t showered in two days.”
Because I couldn’t find anything like this, I kinda just ended up creating it myself.
First and foremost, the way to peace when you’re losing your marbles and screaming at your children is to recognize that anger and stress are energies to be respected.
Let’s start with anger.
Almost no one in our culture teaches that anger is a loving, useful emotion.
I know. Stay with me for a moment.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that trying to change or get rid of any single emotion in the moment is as useless as demanding that the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl next year.
It ain’t gonna happen. Or at least not because you say so (sorry, Dad).
Emotions are in our world by design. They are incredibly useful in their ability to provide us with clues about what we need in any given moment.
This doesn’t just apply to the emotions we love to love, like joy and happiness and, well, love.
This also applies to hate, anger, jealousy, etc.
Anger in particular exists to let us know when our boundaries have been crossed – it’s self-protective!
This is a pretty cool tool for navigating life. Boundary crossing isn’t good for either party, ever.
The problem is that so many of us – especially women – are taught that anger “isn’t nice.” So we learn to put it away and ignore it at the risk of appearing like a bitch. This leads to lots of consequences, like stress, unhealthy relationships, addiction, etc. It can also, in the case of sexual assault, be dangerous.
So, let’s say you have a co-worker who keeps coming into your office and taking things from your desk when you’re not there – a stapler here, a pen there, the copy of US Weekly you have hidden in the back of your drawer. You are annoyed. That’s your desk and she shouldn’t be in there.
You want to say something. But you don’t, because, well, you don’t want to seem petty and small and besides, you hate conflict.
So instead, you spend the next six months bitching about your co-worker to just about everyone who will listen and building up a wall of hate against her in your mind. The arguments you carry on with her in the space between your ears are endless.
All because you were not able to listen to and honor your anger in the first place, which was telling you that your boundary had been crossed and it wasn’t ok.
This happens in myriad ways to so many of us every day.
The next time you find yourself in any moment of anger, try this instead:
First, STOP. Breathe. Try as much as you can, without feeling insane, to say hello to the anger and allow its presence. You can even say in your mind or out loud, “I feel angry.” Anger, like all emotions, is simply asking to flow through you and then leave.
Second, in whatever way you are able to, be still. Sometimes, in the middle of a crazy outbreak of tantrums at my house, I become mannequin-like (and not just because it’s trendy). I freeze, breathe, and do nothing. It’s weird at first, but also incredibly freeing, because I am allowing the anger to flow around me, without adding to it or trying to control it. (Things also tend to dissipate a lot more quickly when I do this.)
Third, ask the anger (either at the moment, or later in a quieter space), what it is trying to tell you. Really listen and trust that the anger has a message for you. What boundary has been broken? Where are you misplacing anger (as is so often the case with parenting)? What is it asking you to see?
Finally, name an action that needs to be taken as a result of the anger’s message. Take the action if you can. If you are not able to (e.g., you still can’t say anything to your co-worker), just note that and let it be okay. Calling it what it is can go a long way toward stopping the endless cycle.
This is not a complex process, although it is hard at times. This is because you’re trying to change a cycle that is working hard to keep you safe by not making you engage in conflict, direct communication, boundary setting, etc. – whatever it is that you learned to be afraid of a long time ago.
The problem is that that cycle also makes you miserable.
So today, try some of the steps outlined above. Or just try to remember that we need anger and our kids need it, too. Make some space for it, in any way you can.
And when you do, let me know how it goes. I’m still learning.
To sign up for a free consultation and receive personal advice on how to tell a coworker to back off, visit www.gailcowan.com/schedule.