As a kid, I was a firecracker. If someone poked me, they would get poked back, or sent up in flames. I wasn’t afraid of a fight. I even got into fistfights on occasion—amusing when you consider that I was the smallest (or next to smallest) kid in my class every single year. And a girl.
But these days, I hardly get in to fights at all. After 12 years of practicing yoga, I have learned to quell my temper considerably and talk about things in a reasonable way. I take responsibility for problems even when I’m not sure they are my fault because I know I play some part in every conflict. I’ve become a no-holds-barred peacemaker.
For the most part, I think the changes I’ve implemented in my relational strategies have been good ones. The truth is I never liked getting into a fight—I just knew how to do it. Life is a lot more pleasant without the four-letter-word exchanges and after-school rages I knew so well growing up as a teenager in Brooklyn. But … fights are so foreign to me these days that they actually scare me a little. Sometimes I find it hard to take a stand on issues I care about because I am trying to be compassionate and create peace rather than friction. I see my friends and fellow practitioners also doing their best to keep things on the level, and stay mellow. But it’s hard to deny that there’s a lot of pent-up emotion under the surface. Sometimes a friend will smile at me when I know she is hurting or a teacher in class will put on a poker face that won’t relay any emotion at all. Or worse, someone will lie and give a false reason for canceling plans/bailing on a project/not returning a call so as not to create waves. I know we’re all trying to be equanamous and all, but are we sitting our highly skilled yoga butts on our feelings? (And when they do come out, it’s like a tourniquet’s come loose–the fallout puts my grade school spars to shame.)
The avoidance or denial of ugly feelings in the name of a spiritual path, like yoga or meditation, is often known as spiritual bypassing. The idea is that we stay so committed to our spiritual philosophies or goals, that we sweep real emotions under the yoga mat. It’s a slippery slope, to be sure. A world in which we all walk around exuding unsightly outpourings of emotion without self-awareness or control is not a world I’d like to visit—much less live in. That said, a healthy argument between friends or coworkers every now and then is good for the soul. It can be very healing to know that someone saw you at your least civilized—and still loves you.
So, I wonder if I should be getting into more fights–if all of us yogis should be getting into more fights. What do you think? Do you ever find yourself spiritually bypassing? (If you said “no,” is that maybe a form of spiritual bypass?) As a yogi or meditator, what’s it like to wrestle with the fine line between mindful action and repression? Write in and offer your view!