By Neeti Narula
We are born into this world crying and screaming. And in our very first moments on Earth we are shushed, and taught to calm down. Our primal instincts to express emotion are suppressed at our very first breath. So, it’s no mystery to me why many of us have trouble facing our emotions.
This was a year in which we had to be still, alone, and look directly at uncomfortable realities many of us wish we didn’t have to see. It was a year of overflowing emotions, new and old, with plenty of time to feel them. Desperate to move on, the gleam of 2021 becomes more promising each day it approaches.
For some, a new year brings a pressure filled list of resolutions, intentions, new habits, and goals. This year, the added steam of 2020 amplifies the eager await of the new year.
I am by no means above this. I of course want to reset in the new year, I always do. I want to be a better human, do more karma work, cook more, hug more, take more workout classes, read more, learn more. I want to give 2020 a big dramatic kiss goodbye – the tears, the loneliness, zoom, sourdough, endless hours of home fixer upper shows that I wouldn’t have watched in a normal year.
But, what if instead of clearing the slate for the new year, we let ourselves acknowledge the hardship of the past year? What if we take time to see and honor the challenges faced on an individual level, a community level, and the macro level? And instead of shaking them off, we take these challenges forward with a sense of trust for all they have taught us. So that as we enter 2021, we are not some new improved version of ourselves, rather more seasoned and appreciative because of what we have experienced.
What if we replace intention setting with honoring and accepting who we already are, instead of trying to become who we think we should be? If we enter every year with the mindset that the person we were last year isn’t good enough, how can we ever expect to be happy with who we are, exactly as we are?
2020 was a year of grief. Whether you lost someone, know someone who did, are grieving for black lives, or are sickened by the social injustice in our world—this was a year of grief. And, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own personal losses, it’s that grief cannot be rushed.
They say there are 5 phases of grief. I believe there are at least 100. You have to sit with it, be still with it, deny it, get angry at it, cry about it, laugh about it, be appalled by it, offended by it, hysterical over it, defend it, protect it, and then repeat it all over and over again.
The thing is, grief is not bad. And grief does not mean someone is weak. Grief is a process. And from every process there is something to be learned and taken forward. When shattered glass rides along the ocean’s tumultuous waves, jagged edges are turned beautifully smooth. Each piece of sea glass has an abundance of journey, a unique mysterious story. You can pick it up in the palm of your hand and cherish it as a treasure. From fractured pieces of a whole, and from riots of the ocean, beauty is born.
As students of yoga, when we step off our mats, the practice does not end. In fact, I argue that this is when our true practice begins. It may not be clear in the beginning, but over time each moment of struggle on our mats— self-doubt, shortness of breath, loss of focus, sweat, sore muscles, uneasiness in postures, annoyance with teachers, frustration with self, ego, and at times even pain, teaches us a new lesson in being with discomfort. As we experience these small moments, these transformations, like a shard of glass tumbling across the ocean, our wisdom blooms from turmoil.
So, instead of shushing the challenges of 2020, I invite you to cradle them with a sense of honor as you carry your whole self into the new year. I ask you to reflect on your year in entirety. Specifically, I ask you to look carefully at the moments you consider your darkest. And recount how you managed to bring your light through these moments. These moments, as much as we don’t want to face them, give us treasures of appreciation. These moments teach us gratitude. These moments are ours and only ours. These are moments where the practice begins.