There is no panacea, no magical salve, no balm strong enough to heal the wounds you carry around with you. Not yoga, not a healthy diet, not shop-therapy, not talk-therapy. Nada. Zip. Not going to work. There, I said it.
If you want to solve your problems, you’ve got to face them. Just because you just did 108 sun salutations or figured out how to handstand doesn’t mean you’re cured of all your ills. You may be stronger and more patient, which is indubitably helpful, but let’s face it – you’ve still got that thing gnawing at you from the inside. That thing you regret saying, that dead person, that sense of failure, that unmet need. Whatever it is, there’s no workaround. Yoga is, in my opinion, the supreme method of lightening our proverbial loads by enlightening our hearts, but you still have to do the hard work of unblocking yourself of all the shit you’ve been clinging to that no longer has any relevance to the holy instant – the be-here-now and let-it-go of this very moment.
I’m a huge proponent of psychotherapy. In college and after my brother’s death, I went straight to the couch and talked through my feelings with a qualified professional. I’m sure one day I’ll even waste my time on yet another college degree and study mental health counseling. I’ve got a knack for talking other people down from their ledges and – thank god – down from my own more often than not. But any good therapist is going to point you back to yourself. It’s like a nice way of rubbing a dog’s nose in its own pee on your new carpet. You did this – learn.
Learning not to repeat your mistakes is the first half of resolving your problems. Every time you say something hurtful and then feel regret about it, you’re just compounding that original fracture inside of you from the first time you did it or it happened to you, deepening it, and making it harder to fill. So step one is to stop. Stop dating the same kind of person. Stop relying on your grief to motivate you. Stop eating a twinkie at midnight. Stop. Full-stop, cold turkey, abrupt halt. If you can win this battle, you’ve won the war.
Step two is being completely honest with yourself about the things you’ve done or experienced that are the source of your fear and pain. This is why buying a new pair of shoes only has a temporary effect at alleviating our feelings – it’s not the real issue! The only way to alleviate our feelings is to alleviate them! Alleviate – defined as “to make suffering or a problem less severe” – by owning up to them. By sitting still in the middle of the storm and, instead of disassociating with a handbag or a hot dog, observing the feelings and following their paths of destruction back to the root of the problem.
Don’t be surprised, when you do get down to the root of your problems, to see yourself there, hammer in hand, hammering away at your own head.
Which brings me to step three: Forgive. Forgive whatever or whomever it was that caused your pain. Forgive yourself. Forgive the dead. Forgive that twinkie.
Pain lingers because we don’t forgive it. We cling to it and give it more meaning than it’s worth because that’s what we’re all taught to do but I beg to differ. Forgiveness is liberation. Forgiveness requires looking your problems square in the eye and saying “I forgive you” – and it will be at that moment that the solution presents itself. It could be as simple as a feeling of being set free, or maybe a determination to eat better, to treat your body and heart better. Maybe it’s a moment of insight and inspiration that was previously blocked by the shadows you were putting up between you and the source of the problem.
Purify your problems by learning not to repeat them, being honest about your complicity in perpetuating them, and forgiving all parties involved. Definitely support this process with yoga and spiritual awareness, treating your body like a temple, and surrounding yourself with people who uplift you – but rely on yourself most of all to own your problems and convert them into opportunities for growth.