Don't Fake it 'Till You Make It

Teaching yoga around Thanksgiving time, there’s a weight of expectation that you will theme your classes around gratitude and love.

In theory this sounds appealing, in practice I find it difficult to stomach.

I’m not a believer in manufacturing “good” feelings. Yes, you can cultivate love and gratitude, and this is a worthwhile practice, but you can’t fake them. 

Love and gratitude are not cognitive or willful acts. 

They are feelings, their very essence is visceral. This means you actually have to feel them for them to resonate in a way that holds any power for you or for those around you. 

And sometimes, my dears, it can feel like these feelings are smothered under layers of lots of different feelings…the kind of feelings that would never be set as an intention in a yoga class.

This seems an important reminder at this time of year, one that is either perennially challenging for people or particularly painful simply because it seems any uncomfortable event grows in potency when timed between the end of November and the beginning of the new year.

I share this because the themes from last week in my personal life and work were:

Everything is always changing.

No one wants to suffer, but we do.

Spiritual bypassing is just a big fat way of numbing.

Sometimes the greatest feelings of gratitude and love come in the midst of the most awful awfulness.

And so, from my tender heart to yours, I feel compelled to say:

If you’re hurting, just hurt, sweetheart.

If you’re longing for something, long with everything you have.

If you’re scared, sit in the black well of your own fear.

If you’re angry, drop the hardness of righteousness and just feel the power of your own anger.

If you feel joy, let it spill over.

If you feel loved and loving, let it swell in your whole being.

If you feel grateful, feel it so intensely that you sense your intimacy with everyone and everything around you.

Whatever you do, don’t hold to your mind’s affirmations that everything is ultimately ok, that everything is just as it should be and so you wholeheartedly accept it, that everything is light and love and that we are all connected.

Not because these things aren’t true in the way that deserves a capital T. But because these things are only capital-T true if you feel them. 

If it’s just a conceptualization, rationalization or spiritualization, it doesn’t convince your heart. Or anyone else’s.

So here are my holiday wishes for us all:

That we move through this time undefended and tenderhearted.

That we stay solidly ourselves in our connections to strangers and loved ones alike.

That there are moments when all the crap burns away and you feel the capital versions of Love, Joy and Gratitude.

owen keturah