There is a story about the Tibetan saint Milarepa who was meditating one day in his cave when three menacing demons appeared. They entered the cave howling and rattling skulls and bloody swords.  Milarepa with a great smile invited them to sit by the fire and have some tea.  “But aren’t you scared of us?” asked the demons.  “Not at all”, replied Milarepa, “It is in moments like this, when the demons of fear, desire and anger appear, that I am the most grateful to be a yogi on the path of healing.  Your ugly faces only remind me to be aware and have mercy.  So make yourselves comfortable and have some tea”.

Awareness simply means to acknowledge what is happening right now. Awareness does not attempt to color or control the ever changing movements of the mind, ugly or beautiful.  As Milarepa knew, the only way to deal with emotions is to greet them as a kind host greets a visitor.  I have tried unsuccessfully to block the entrance of the cave with big boulders and I have also kept dangerous company with them by following their games but in both cases I have not been completely successful in sending them away.

These demons, known in Yoga as klesas – desire, greed, anger, envy, delusion or ignorance and their many variants – are powerful visitors:  reject them and they’ll stay with renewed vigor; allow them in and they’ll take over.  Will we ever get to know them to free ourselves from their hold? Very few beings have the courage to take tea with their deepest demons.  Few are those that take the responsibility to look into them eye to eye and examine them for what they are: very deeply ingrained patterns of reactivity, long time embraced, ignored or denied.

We all want to be good and do good.  We apply standards of morality to everybody, including ourselves, and it is hard to admit that we can be “bad”.  So we push the dirt to the very bottom where it festers and explodes eventually. But is it possible to see emotions for what they are, a charge of energy that is felt in body and mind? Emotions are the basis of creativity and art. They also help us read other people’s signs so we can protect ourselves or handle relationships better.  Emotions are clues and lessons for re-integration and healing and so they should be greeted with gratitude. The same energy that fires anger or hate, for example, can be transmuted and transformed into its opposite, empathy and compassion.

So when the fire of an emotion surges can be stay with it, watching its effect on our irregular breath, our heart beat, our clenched teeth or fists or our lack of energy, our shallow breath and the heaviness in our chest? Emotions dwell in the past or the future, so can we come to the immediacy of the present and trust the healing power of becoming one with this moment?  Breathing anger in, breathing anger out…  Breathing sadness in, breathing sadness out…  In and out, allowing the energy to come and go, not pushing it away, not holding on to it.

When  we feel an emotion, that feeling is also a sensation in the body.  Intense emotional and mental states (sanskaras) are always accompanied by physical feelings of agitation or constriction that leave an imprint in our bodies and cause damage to our muscles, organs and cells. This is why in Yoga we work with the body as well as the mind.  Every time we hold a pose (asana) we become aware of our bodily sensations, our physical blockages and limitations and we learn to accept and work with them.  As we watch our breath we become aware of our fears, our resistance and we learn to let them go with the next long exhalation. And every time we practice relaxation we learn to surrender and trust the innate wisdom of the body/mind to heal. Among the many qualities we develop in Yoga is the quality of exploration, of scanning our body as well as our mind. We observe their changing  nature and we learn not to identify with  them. And as we develop the ability of watching the ups and downs of their movements, our emotional load becomes lighter and its solidity dissolves.

Then we are finally able to enjoy the lila, the divine play.


About suryasanmiguel

I'm a Yoga teacher and educator. I was born in Madrid, Spain and came to Canada in the 70's to study but remained here. I received a degree in Education from McGill University. In my student's years I had the good fortune of meeting my Zen teacher, Roshi Phillip Kapleau and I studied with him for 15 years attending numerous retreats. In 1988 I was also very fortunate to meet Swami Vishnudevananda at the Sivananda Yoga Camp in Quebec where I became a certified Yoga teacher My interest in Budhism and Hinduism also led me to meet several Tibetan Lamas and study their teachings and traditions. I live presently in Montreal, Canada but travel frequently teaching Yoga and giving workshops and lectures on spiritual related topics.
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  1. says:

    Quel beau texte pour commencer l’anne! Merci, Sylvia, et Bonne Anne 2014! Sylvie xx Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2013 12:28:35 +0000 To:

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