The third Monday in January, known as Blue Monday, is said to be the most depressing day of the year. That’s understandable. Lack of sunshine, the worrisome cost of living and coming out of a historically stressful couple of years, it’s no wonder one-quarter of Canadians reported suffering from anxiety in a survey by Mental Health Research Canada.
In yoga, we call this suffering duhkha and it refers to the discomfort and suffering within our heart-mind–citta. Citta is the space within us that can't be measured, yet is an expansive and true consciousness. It’s our inner light and the place where information from our outer world meets our inner self to be translated. Here, we make sense and peace with all of our encounters. Our experiences, reactions, emotions and memories all play a part in keeping our citta burning bright and clear but the veil of duhkha can separate us from freely knowing it. Duhkha is the worry, anxiety, longing, depression, frustration, negativity and distractions we suffer.
It’s ‘the blues’. And they don’t always have to be the ‘deep-blue-sea’ types to be disruptive. Sometimes the mid-range-blues like annoyances and worries are enough to tip us into a state of feeling ‘off’. The same with the baby blues, mild irritations that creep into our thoughts and hijack our happiness for the present moment.
But, how we choose to view anything, including something unpleasant, affects our relationship to it. If we choose to see duhkha as an opportunity for self-understanding, we broaden our awareness of our reactions and this can guide us to more pleasant future interactions with self and others. By compassionately opening up to ourselves, valuable insight arises and brings us closer to citta. Intimately understanding ourselves leads to self-acceptance which brings us back to our steadfast inner light.
“Though the gold of your true nature can get buried beneath fear, judgment, and confusion, the more you trust this loving presence as the truth of who we are, the more you will call it forth in yourself and in all those you touch.”
Another way to compassionately understand duhkha is to visualize all of our sufferings as bubbles that form and arise from within. And just like bubbles in a stream, they seemingly appear from nothing. They form, grow and then dissolve back into the source. This recurs naturally and without disruption and is accepted as the natural process of life. The theory is that just like bubbles, our inner disturbances have a lifespan and eventually make their way through. If we can meet and greet them, without judgement and tend to their presence with curiosity, the bubbles of our blues can freely express themselves and reveal their lessons to us before dissolving back into our consciousness.
“The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
Join me in Sarnia for two new, in-person yoga classes where we’ll practice holistic movement and mindfulness:
Embodied Yoga, Fridays 10-11 @ Grace United Church. Register here.
Self-care Yoga for Stress Relief , Fridays 1-2 @ Strangway Center. Register here.