On one particularly devastating day during my treatment for infertility, my father used that famous line: “If this is the worst problem you have, you’re doing better than 90 percent of the people out there.” I felt superfluously unheard and painfully misunderstood. Sure, I had a roof over my head, clothes on my body, the security of a stable society, and all the benefits of a first-world life. I was, as I so often think, not one of the 65 million people displaced by refugee crises.
But I was hopelessly lonely. I would sit out in my yard in the evening waiting for my husband to get home from work listening to our neighbors. They lived three generations in a two-bedroom home, with sheds built out back to house some of the members of the family. They didn’t have work, their home was in shambles, and they fought all the time. But when I sat there listening to them play cards or speak to one another in their native language, their kids causing trouble all around, I felt a profoundly aching type of jealousy. Would I ever have that?
I knew right then that the worst suffering humans could endure was not actually hunger, physical pain, or the cold of a long night without shelter. The worst suffering we endure is loneliness, hopelessness, and a sense of isolation.
We are far more emotionally complicated than physically complicated.
When students come to yoga, if they request “hip opening,” I know just what to prescribe. Yet, though they’ll never say it publicly, I often know what students want to request.
“Yes, could you offer some type of peace for my broken heart?”
“Could you listen compassionately while I tell you my worst fears?”
“Can you take away my crippling fear that nothing I’m doing matters?”
“Um, will you please make me feel like I belong?”
That’s what we really need. That’s what I need.
Yesterday, I felt rejected. And nothing about the positive trend of my life situation could help me recover from the pain of that feeling. No amount of hamstring stretches can get me from Point A – questioning myself and everything I do – to Point B – feeling whole again.
The bad news is this: none of our yoga or meditation tools keep you happily ever after at Point B. You may get to a place where you spend more time there or where you can find your way there a bit more quickly when you’re lost. While your hips may feel better after a 75-minute yoga class, it takes a lifetime of practice to quickly recover the distance from Point A to Point B.
When you come to class, what if your intention was just to address one, small obstacle between Point A and Point B? And, if you can’t remove that obstacle, what if your intention was to just be a little more okay with it being there? By virtue of living in a first-world country, your obstacles will likely be more emotional than physical. (Though, as someone who has spent the last 7 months barfing every day, I know the obstacle may very well be physical.)
Whatever obstacle is in your way, whatever you need to transition from loneliness to wholeness, making space for movement, breath, and silence will help. You may even make a list of other things that help and use all the tools you can.
Things that also help me: coffee, dogs, cats, hugs, writing, singing, dancing, the ocean, breakfast burritos, a warm bath, sisters, and gangster rap in my headphones with a soccer ball at my feet.
So, for now, I’m taking my dog to the ocean to enjoy coffee and a breakfast burrito. My destination? Point A, station 3, a few notches closer to wholeness.