I hate being depressed. I know, doesn’t everyone? But I mean I really hate it. When I am depressed I feel trapped in my own skin, like I’ll never be released, like I’ll never return to me. It feels profoundly unnatural and when I’m there all I want is out. It doesn’t happen to me very often, and I’m truly grateful for its infrequency. Part of why I hate being depressed is the unnaturalness-I’m the very embodied type and when I’m depressed I feel possessed by the depression, like it has taken up residency without a green card. It almost feels like a violation. I also think that my revulsion stems from impatience. I am impatient. I have even been called impetuous, as a little girl and right up through this very moment, I have been accused of being impetuous. There is a delightful energy about being impetuous, it’s fun. Although it’s also quite often proved to be a recipe for mistakes, and even a few mild disasters.
From my yoga practice I am learning to be with what is. About 8 years ago I learned how to do crow pose (bakasana). I had been trying for a long time. I lacked sufficient upper body strength but mostly I was in fear of being upside down. I really longed to be able to balance there, perched like a beautiful eagle on my own elbows. So every week I went to yoga a few times and every class I tied to balance. I contended with slippery knees, bruised and aching triceps, shaking arms. With each failed attempt I found myself squatting in happy frustration. This kind of ‘failure’ off the mat, if I managed to keep at it, would surely have me depressed. On the mat I felt fine, I even felt amused at my predicament, amused at my desire and my drive to achieve these few moments of balanced repose. One day, my teacher said ‘crow pose is about your abs. you must engage the core’. I listened in the blank but fully present way we listen to the teacher in yoga, a sort of soft, open focus. And up I went. It was a delight! Ever since then crow has been easy and every time I go into it I remember the thrill of that first time and sometimes I remember how long it took to get there, and who I had to be for all those years on the mat, when I couldn’t yet do the pose.
Off the mat I find myself coming out the other end a mild depression, a little slump. I hated being in it, of course. Now that I am on the outside, looking back, I see the value of that slump. Being ‘down’ allowed me to understand what wanted to shift in my life. In the slump I was questioning whether I could stick it out, keep trying to balance. Was I too scared to metaphorically go upside down? Was I too scared to stretch beyond what I thought possible for myself? I waited it out, unhappily. And what emerged was a huge YES. Yes, I want it. Yes, I can do it. Yes, I am willing to keep at it.
Just as I am now completely comfortable in crow and even fully upside down in hand stand (adho mukha vrksasana), I know I am entering a new and courageous phase of life where I am comfortable with discomfort, with the unknown, with turning my world upside down for the sake of fully expressing my spirit. The impetuous one in me is making room for the discipline, strength, perseverance and vision required to step into something new, something bigger, something scary. And just like headstand, it is totally invigorating.