Each week I open and close my yoga classes with a reading. I try to choose passages that have heart and meaning in my own life. I hope that if the words I share touch my emotional center then they may have resonance for others. It doesn’t matter to me where I find inspiration. Over the past month I’ve read quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Martha Graham and Albert Einstein. This past week, however, I was reading from The Pocket Pema Chödrön. Each day last week, sometimes several times each day, I heard myself deliver Pema’s thoughts on our desire for certainty and happiness. I heard myself, through Pema, encourage my students to touch the center of their pain and to be present with it. In that way, rather than becoming weaker through our endless craving for security we might be opened. We might find strength.
These are powerful ideas. Not only does she want us to sit in our own discomfort, she wants us to sit with the suffering of the person to our right and to our left. She wants us to take on all suffering so that we can learn to find a way to be at home in our own. Pema wants us to be still in the suffering.
Yet I can’t help but believe that we must also be still in the joy of each moment. I don’t know that it’s true we brush by suffering in order to find our happy. What I see in my life is this: I brush by everything (the joy and the sorrow) in order to tick one more “to do” off my daily list. I wrap myself in a façade of good intentioned optimism that functions as an emotional bypass. And so, while I fail to touch the center of my pain I also don’t touch the center of my joy.
This week I will hold space for both sorrow and joy. I will resolve to not rush by the sadness I feel for a friend’s suffering. Instead I will notice how it feels in my breath and my body. I will resolve to not rush by the joy I feel for life – for the birdsong outside my window or the sweet stubble of the nasturtiums seeds I planted that are just now beginning to break out of the soil.
There is suffering all around us. But there is joy, too. Take time for both.