Foreword — As we celebrate love all over the world today, it may be odd to read a post about heartbreak. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in love and wish we would actually celebrate it every day of the year 🙂 But I also believe life is a string of lessons, some more difficult to learn than others. Through love we become vulnerable and we inevitably expose ourselves to the possibility of getting wounded and hurt, but more importantly to the possibility of uncovering profound lessons for and about ourselves. Love allows us to grow, even when it breaks us…
On the outside, many see me as a well-balanced, healthy, issue-free yoga teacher who seems to have it all figured out. Truth is, I chose to practice and eventually teach yoga because I am, like many on this path, a wounded soul. I also curse, make huge mistakes, often regret past decisions, feel guilty about things I’ve said or done, get angry… And I’ve been through heartbreak more than I care to admit. I’m human, and life brings its share of ups and downs regardless of whether or not we meditate, pray, twist into postures or do handstands. Sh** happens (I warned you about the cursing… !)
What I find fascinating is that each road-bump in life is an actual opportunity for growth; if we choose to grow from it that is… Many of us just shrug it off, and blame others for our misfortunes, or simply don’t have the will or power to dig deep. I’ve been there, and I get it. But where there is pain, there is a signal; one that can push us to face our own demons.
I’m still getting to know myself, and that, I feel, is the primary goal of yoga: to seek and find our true human nature. To do so, we often make many many mistakes and poor choices, sometimes resulting in bouts of tears, days spent eating non-vegan, non-gluten free pizzas on the couch, and going back to the old belief that the world is just made of pain and always will be. A thought which, once we’re done turning it up and down for hours, days, weeks, or months eventually becomes the reason why we get back up from that couch, and back on the healthy diet that actually helped us feel emotionally balanced (the stomach is our second brain, whatever we chose to put into it inevitably affects our emotions….). The struggle lies in acknowledging and fighting through that pain, which I believe to be in all of us, heartbroken or not.
There are TWO major things each and every one of us want : to be loved, and to be happy. Even the angry dude who says he’s happier on his own is really just burying down an (at times ancestral) desire to be held, and often mothered that he rarely or never experienced as a child. He also just probably doesn’t really want to be held by you… But that’s yours to figure out.
Heartbreak is no news to anyone; everyone’s been through it, from a childhood crush suddenly turning cold and going for the more popular girl/boy with blond hair who smelled like vanilla/apple, to actual grown up relationships that can undergo tremendous amounts of drama, sadness and eventually grief that seems to never ever end.
The older I get, and the more situations I find myself facing personally, the more I realize many of us have the unfortunate tendency to oversee some deeply anchored wounds, usually stemming from childhood, and by doing so, we inevitably end up repeating the same old mistakes until the lessons are learned, digested and resolved for good. Which can take a very long, painstaking time to happen. And for the most part, we won’t learn until we’re ready to or willing to do the work. Fantastic.
Love is at the core of many, if not all, art forms. Painting, music, performing arts of all kind help us express the pain and sorrow many, if not all, have once (or twenty times) been through. Artists who have managed to channel their emotional pain transparently into their art are some of the most recognized and appreciated. Because they touch that wounded part residing in all of us.
Of course there are many happy songs, paintings that inspire joy, dance performances that make us feel alive, but my point here is to address the issue of our seemingly incessant inability to find happiness in love and life, unless we’ve truly faced our sh**.
« Confronting problems is painful. To willingly confront a problem early before we are forced by circumstances, means to put aside something pleasant or less painful for something more painful. It’s choosing to suffer now in the hope of future gratification rather than choosing to continue present gratification in the hope that future suffering will not be necessary. » **
There’s our inherent need for love, but there’s most of all our need to defend ourselves from getting hurt, which is usually due to the circumstances in which we were brought up. Something about our dad, or our mum, or both, and/or events of our past that have unconsciously hardwired us into acting a certain way and most of all attract certain people into our lives to help us learn and get over it all or in the worst cases, feed our wounds and beliefs that « life/love just sucks ».
« When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy. Pride leads to violence and evil. The truly good gaze upon everything with love and understanding. »
Trouble is, we view heartbreak as a state of victimhood, where someone else has done us wrong, not loved us enough or at all, wounded us to our core, and thus we aren’t really turning in to try to understand what WE did, or WHY we did it, but we are blaming someone outside of ourselves. Even blaming an abusive father or a cold mother doesn’t really solve the issue. Facing those facts, revisiting our past and especially HOW these events have conditioned us to act/react/attract what we are now struggling with in life will open us up to growth. This goes for all of our relationships. But we’re usually too lazy, or stuffed on too much pizza, or drunk on too many love songs to even bother. Too much pain to face more pain. So we eventually lick our wounds, stop ordering the pizza, add Pharell’s « Happy » onto our playlist, and pretend like all is back to normal.
Until… It all begins again, in the form of a new partner or friend, and an inevitable series of arguments, battles, issues that will only come knocking right back at that inner door we’ve kept locked and bolted forever. It can take years for us to realize that we’ve been playing mind games on ourselves for a good part of our lives, at times even going as far as having children who end up suffering from even more emotional baggage than we grew up with… Heavy stuff.
« The problem of distinguishing between what we are and what we are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems of human existence. We must possess the willingness and capacity to suffer continual self-examination. » **
I have done a lot of searching, analyzing, and reading over the years, and I actually find the whole process (although at times gruesome) quite fascinating. Some epiphanies just don’t come until we’re ready to receive them!
Practicing yoga made me realize how complicated we actually make our lives. Yoga teaches us to go back to primordial instincts we purposely interrupt, such as breathing… That’s incredible. We all know that if we felt we were getting angry for example, we’d need to take a few deep breaths, perhaps even go for a walk, get some fresh air, cool down and then come back to face the reason for our anger calmly. But most of us just explode (guilty as charged).
Too often, we sabotage our own ability at being happy. And more often than not, when we finally realize what we’ve been putting ourselves through, we’re so deep in it that we decide « f**k it, it’s too late, too much stuff to deal with already ». And it gets passed on to someone else, hippie-flower-power-believing-person or not, those behaviors are transferred onto others around us, and most of all our children; and it can also make us sick.
If anything, we all know our world isn’t going too well. There are wars, economical crashes, terrorist attacks, tensions, diseases, the overall well being of our planet and all living creatures struggling to survive on it is at stake… If the ONLY WAY to change any of it is to first change ourselves, then we need to stop lying to ourselves and face the pain that we all carry around like it’s no big deal. We need to stop burying guilt and anger, stop ignoring sadness, and give ourselves the chance of being happy and passing that conditioning of searching for our true content nature to our offspring as well as inspire people around us to do the same. Perhaps if enough of us do this work, eventually the world will slowly re-populate with people who understand that communicating, cultivating compassion for ourselves and others, and stopping the enabling of suffering EVERYWHERE, we’ll manage to rekindle the harmony and peace we all so dream of.
« Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them? It is in this process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity of suffering and the value thereof, the need to face problems directly and to experience the pain involved. » **
Because as of right now, pain is everywhere, in many different forms. Mine sometimes feels like it’s rooted beyond my own existence. But I am learning about myself, pretty much constantly (it can at times get exhausting). My father once told me that people don’t chose their paths by accident. Doctors become doctors because they fear death, my father chose painting because of his fear of not being able to see beauty in the world, and I chose to teach yoga because of my need to heal others as well as my inner little girl who still cries about her parents divorcing. The thought of having to deal with difficult, angry, sad people who don’t want to face their issues my whole life is what sends me right back to the couch; because I now know that somewhere inside of me lies a NEED to have people like that in my own life. But I get back up each time, even when I think it’s for the last time. Because eventually, I’m going to have to face the fact that I need to « fix » people and that in reality I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FIX ANYONE, until I truly begin focusing on fixing myself first. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s true : you can’t hope to find true love unless you love yourself first. And loving yourself isn’t about stroking the ego, it’s about facing your all, good and bad, sorting through it, learning from your mistakes and accepting yourself for who you are.
Taking a hard long look within is never useless and it is never too late to do so. It can help us be happy. Yes, of course painkillers and vodka do this much faster but it doesn’t last long and it makes the pain even greater the next day or worse the next decades if it becomes a habit.
« The only true end of love is spiritual growth or human evolution. It is the will to extend ourselves for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. It is not something that overwhelms. It is a committed, thoughtful decision. » **
At times, the best thing to do is indeed to let go, at the risk of suffering loss and separation. It’s not about renouncing love, harboring guilt or anger, but simply accepting that what once was, no longer is, and sending out a compassionate wish for happiness to those who we’ve had to part with, in gratitude for the lessons they have indirectly taught us about ourselves.
We need to realize that we are all in the same boat, perhaps not with the same issues or fears, but with the same, identical desire to be happy and loved. Enough said. Let’s.
* * Quoted from « The Road Less Travelled » by M. Scott Peck, which I highly recommend.