What Does Emotional Wellness Mean to Me?
Most of my “yoga” practice has evolved into an emotional wellness practice.
I put yoga in quotations there because I’m not exactly practicing the poses which is what we, including myself, associate with a yoga practice. My practice has moved into what is known in yoga philosophy as self-study, or svadhyaya.
Over the course of about a year and a half, I began to observe parts of myself that are pretty painful. Parts of my childhood that have formed my personality and the outer image people see me as.
I remember very clearly being about 4 or 5 years old, I was at the ice skating rink with my family. At one point I couldn’t keep up with the older kids so I walked back up the steps where my aunt was and began to cry. I wanted to belong and skate with the other humans I associated my belonging to. As my little self cried I remember my aunt scolding me for crying, asking me to tell her what was wrong but without crying. It was the hardest thing to hold back the tears, to feel the lump in my throat, and to say I just want to hang out with the other kids. This is just one moment of the many similar childhood and teenage scenarios in my life.
I am so grateful for all my caretakers, and I know they are humans working with the tools they had at that time.
But this is my story and moments like this have shaped my emotional anatomy. Being a child is hard because we have no control over our vulnerability, our caretakers, where we live, the food we eat and so forth. Being an adult-child is even harder because we don’t realize we can take our power back.
I came to an epiphany the other day that so much of my personal growth and personal work is on tending to my childhood needs that weren’t met. Then I randomly was listening to a podcast with Iyala Vanzant and Oprah and she said the exact same thing. So, I thought, ok I must be on to something.
Perhaps I was an extra sensitive child. Perhaps I needed more nurturing or care than other kids, who knows. But the process of “stuffing” my own feeling down until I no longer felt them was so common all the way into my adult life. And if I’m honest, probably still now.
At an early age, I would turn to my diary.
My journal was safe.
No one would know the billion thoughts and emotions that fluttered my mind.
I wrote consistently into my teenage years.
Until my teenage narcissist boyfriend decided to read through all the pages of my journal.
I was mortified. I stopped writing for a very long time, even after we broke up.
Every now and then I would write poems because I could write in code.
It wasn’t until I took my trip to India where I discovered introspective writing. And the similarities it has to seated meditation.
I later discovered that journaling has been around for thousands of years.
The Daily Stoic has summed it up in my favorite way:
“Think of journaling as a brush for your own soul, just like brushing your teeth each morning and each evening. It clarifies the mind, provides room for quiet, private reflection and gives one a record of their thoughts over time”
In this small group we were led into a very interesting prompt around our death. I’m not sure if it was the best first prompt but it definitely got me thinking and going inward.
A few weeks later I worked one on one to work on a method that really got me inquiring about my feelings, why I felt them, and how to tend and nurture them. In this process, I was never asked to not feel my true feelings, it was simply asking me to observe them, and then to find a comforting solution for them.
Sometimes (or a lot of the times) it means to let myself cry, without “stuffing” them down. Or other times it means to feel really fucking angry. Either side of the spectrum, I try my best to find a comforting solution for that moment. Many times it’s not easy because I go back to the biggest imprint in my emotional anatomy- don’t show your initial feelings. Emotions are bad. Crying is wrong and shameful.