Pursuing the practice of Yoga as a lifestyle (not fitness, not fancy leggings or mats, and definitely NOT how much you sweat or the tone of your ass) is at once life-affirming and disconcerting. There are days when it brings me great joy and other days where I am frustrated with my lack of progress and irritated by my own thoughts. As I familiarize myself with the role of ego, the constant flow of random thoughts and my own fixed beliefs about myself and the world, I am confronted with aspects of myself that I really do not like very much.
The style of Yoga that I teach and practice, Kripalu Yoga, is known for its accessibility (anyone can do it!) as well as its focus on the mind/body connection. There are three stages to this form of Yoga: Willful practice (physical poses and alignment), Surrender and self-observation (holding poses longer, release of emotional blocks, meditation) and Meditation-In-Motion. The stages are not necessarily practiced in ‘order’ and you may flow back and forth between them as you grow.
As meditation has become an important part of my Yoga practice, I’ve been introduced to My Inner Brat. She’s always been there but now, I notice ‘her reactions’, ‘her desires’ and ‘her anger’ when she doesn’t get things her way. She occupies a big part of the workings of my mind and ego. Her voice is pretty darn loud in my head. She screams inside when I keep quiet on the outside. She stomps around like a child when I practice self-control in the world of Adults. By the way, she HATES meditation…and makes sure to distract me as much as possible when I am practicing.
My inner brat is my shadow self. These are the darker aspects of any personality: selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, bitterness and other ‘less than desirable’ human traits – traits we ALL possess in one degree or another. Ranging from the benign (geez, this is boring) to the profane (I hate everyone!), these traits are like spices in the human soup of the mind. The soup wouldn’t have any taste without the spices. The sky doesn’t have stars without the backdrop of dark matter to put them on full display. We need the sun and the moon to light the sky just as we need the rain and sunshine to balance all life on earth. Negative emotions or thoughts can propel us to change and transform or to simply see truth. In fact, I am beginning to see that when I embrace the negative thoughts or emotions or even negative ‘stuff’ happening, it’s an opportunity to clear the way and make room for more productive ways of being.
So, what have I learned from my Inner Brat? She’s impatient. She’s angry …OFTEN. She yells. She’s SO inappropriate and immature. As I practice this self-study, I dig in and find out what’s underneath these feelings. If I totally reject these feelings, then I learn nothing. First, I accept them as valid. Second, I seek to understand their true meaning, so they don’t take up SO much space in the real estate of my mind.
Impatience: I relate impatience to a need to be more mindful. If I am in such a hurry to get to the next ‘thing’, I am missing a BIG part of real living.
Anger: Deeply embedded in anger is actual emotional pain. When we push away pain, it doesn’t go away. It sits and waits. When we are triggered by rejection or frustration, it will jump out in unexpected ways.
Judgment: Judgment is like a mirror- we hold it up to show what is ‘wrong’ with someone else. Yet, when we gaze into the mirror, we can see that it is really a reflection of something we do not like about ourselves. We project into the world what we reject within ourselves. When I am strongly repelled by someone’s behavior, I know I need to look at myself to see why I feel this way.
At the heart of it all, I find my whole self. I work on acceptance and compassion for where I am on the ‘path’ at any given moment and know that while I do not ‘like’ my Inner Brat, she’s an important part of me. Without her, I wouldn’t speak up when I am being mistreated. I wouldn’t understand what I really want and boldly insist on going for it! I laugh with her when she’s being ridiculous and I cry with her when she’s feeling alone and unappreciated.
Without her, meditation WOULD be boring!
Now, I sit silently and watch as her teachings unfold…grateful for the inner wisdom that allows me to listen and learn.
STILL loves goats
Still a bit of a brat
bonus photo of the early stages of the Inner Brat…