Rehabilitation of a Yogi: Fantasy vs. Reality
May 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning, waters rising and I’m flailing about, working so hard to keep my head above water. Feeling overwhelmed. Anxiety. Excitement. Fear. Aggravation. The future is one big unknown.
Us humans, we are totally screwed because the more we try to guess how something will turn out – the more wrong we usually are. Every thought in my overheated brain is loud as a fire-truck but is just a thought and has little to no effect on reality. The thing with reality is that it’s way hotter, more breathtaking, more appealing, more heart wrenching, and more devastating than any passing thought could ever hope to be. So why bother thinking at all then?!?
What if everything goes awry? What if everything feels awful and sad and lost? What if I hate it?
What if I love it? What if everything goes great and then ends? All good things come to an end. I’ll be sad when it’s over. If you get a taste of some delicious new ice cream flavor and then suddenly you can’t have it anymore… well, that sucks. And maybe you’ll dedicate your entire life to dreaming up and making fantastical ice cream flavors. Or maybe you’ll end up ruining your life as you search far and wide for that one particular flavor which you liked so much. As long as we’re mixing metaphors, I like mine coffee flavored with dark chocolate chips and hazelnuts. They don’t have anything like that at my local East Harlem supermarket. I’ve checked.
All this simmering in emotions is supposed to be good for the practice. Well, my practice is all floating glimpses of heaven or hyperventilating punches of hell. There is nothing in between. Ok, maybe the breath. Maybe for a moment I notice my breath before I spin out on another trip down fantasy lane. Thoughts are so repetitive. It’s the same things over and over again. Pretty boring! But I can’t stop. There are anxious thoughts about work and anxious thoughts about romance. There are hopeful thoughts about work and hopeful thoughts about romance. It’s like a broken record up in here. And I’m really pretty sick of it. I also do not appreciate all the preaching about what is the “right” thing to do and what is the “right” way to behave. But arguing with those preachy voices proves equally fruitless as arguing with the wishful voices.
Taking a sledgehammer to the fairy-tale castle is a pretty aggressive response, but it’s one that I (used to) cultivate. My sarcasm and cynicism were the armour used to hide and lock in the hopeful romantic who longs for things to “work out”… like, you know… the Prince Charming, the slipper that fits, the big frothy wedding, the happily ever after, the family dinners, the abundance. It was easy to scoff and call those “silly fantasies”, and easy to heap blame on the one who is innocent, excited, dreamy, optimistic, irrational, and sweet. But it’s really no use. She wants what she wants. Turns out all the arguments between the Critic and the Dreamer inside me don’t amount to much. The truth is they want the same thing, to be happy, to cease suffering. They just have different ideas of how to go about this cessation of suffering business.
Any thought about an imagined future can be called fantasy. Planning a business meeting can be a useful fantasy. Plotting revenge can be a painful fantasy. And vice versa. Counting links in the thought chain, “he’ll say this and then I’ll say that”, is fantasy. It feels better to recognize and remind myself that there’s actually nothing wrong with planning, and nothing inherently wrong with fantasy. Sure, it can be distracting when you’re on a business call and your mind is going nuts imagining post-date scenarios with your sweatheart. But hey, that’s life. Instead of switching into sledgehammer mode and beating down the fantasy it might be nice to smile, maybe give it a little wink, and proceed to turn your attention to the task at hand, be it the business call, or brain surgery, or pizza slice sale, or rocket science, or teaching Side Plank to a class of yogis.
Reality is great, and that’s what we return to again and again, on and off the cushion. But fantasy is ok, too. With radical self-acceptance as the raft we can navigate the emotional waters be they calm or turbulent, or anywhere in between.
Contact me with questions.