In the yoga, growth and development, wellness, new age communities there are many dialogues about compassion, love, happiness, understanding, acceptance and peace — all the feel good emotions, all the things that we aspire to be. All of those feeling states that we obtain when we climb the rungs of the enlightenment ladder. Karma cleared, time to levitate. Purge to merge. Gimme some of that! In with the “good” and out with the “bad.”
What if that isn’t always the case? Are we supposed to shift what we are experiencing toward another emotion when things bubble up inside? Are we supposed to deny what we are feeling? Do we stuff it away and deal with it later? What’s the course of action when rage overcomes us, envy consumes us or hatred becomes our walking partner?
Acceptance is one of those things that is talked about when we look at an unfair situation, someone going through a growth process or perhaps just watching the news. Does this mean we need to accept our anger, fear and hatred as well? How does all this work?
For a long time, I have tried to lead a “good” life. I’ve tried to be compassionate when others are being difficult. I’ve worked on being happy, instead of envious, when others make accomplishments. I like to think I lead with love in most situations, but, sometimes I’m tired and cranky. How do I then lead an authentic life when I’m feeling a bit shitty?
Without realizing it, I was stuffing the “bad” emotions. Things like hate, rage, fear, envy, jealousy, sadness, and who knows what other “bad” emotions to be named later. I would suppress or block them. Bottle ‘em up good & tight and not take the lid off. I would just tell myself I’m not supposed to feel like that or be like that or think that way. I would twist my mind and heart into a space of forced goodness. Somehow this didn’t feel right. This wasn’t authentic. I was in denial.
I didn’t think it was ok to have a temper tantrum as an adult. I’m not supposed to kick and shout because I’m a yogi. I’m meant to be chill and a pillar of support, even though at times I’m hot and unstable. Because I lead a spiritual life, does that mean I’m meant to feel good all the time?
Acceptance came up huge somewhere along my journey when one day I allowed myself to be mad. I allowed myself to be depressed the next. Soon after, I felt hatred again and I was ok with that too.
The inquiry into the human experience took an interesting turn. It was no longer about purification or being something other than what I was at the time. “Don’t hate,” someone told me once when I was ranting about the devastation in the environment. Well, why not? I was pissed. In that moment (and others along the way) I began to accept myself and what I was experiencing. Hatred was bubbling up when I walked down the street and saw trash everywhere. Rage surfaced when I saw a society that had been corrupted by greed and avarice. Depression joined in when I thought I was hopeless and couldn’t do anything about it.
I was running emotionally amuck and, this time, I didn’t force myself to change because of some chilled out spiritual dude I had listened to on Youtube. This time, I danced in the intimacy of what I was feeling. I engaged with the parts that were enflamed with emotion. I accepted my sensations and asked myself, “what can I do about it?”
The relationship with myself shifted when I opened up the inquiry of hatred. What is it? Where does it come from? Why had I labeled it bad? If I was truly honest with myself, then that’s what I was feeling — oh shit, does that mean I’m bad? What does all this mean now? Must I confront hatred and find out what it’s all about?
In a sense, that’s what I did. I remember the shamans I worked with in the Amazon and their perspective was that everything is Spirit. All you have to do is talk to it, like a person, and it will inform you about itself. So, that is exactly what I did.
I dropped into a quiet meditative like state and invoked the spirit of Hatred. Hatred appeared not in the form of a crotchety old man, or rough and tumbly gangster, but a beautiful, goddess-like spirit. I was surprised at this initial interaction. Naturally, like anyone in that situation, I invited her for tea.
“So, tell me about yourself,” as I sipped my herbal elixir.
That was all she needed to hear and off she went. “I’m a bit saddened these days because people seem to misunderstand me. They think I’m something that is bad and that I’m supposed to be locked away and never to be experienced. Fortunately, I appear anyway and will continue until people see the power and creativity in what I have to offer. As much as we think we can bottle things up, stuff ‘em down never to return again, we can’t. These parts and things and feelings dwell in our subconscious and fuel our decisions whether we like it or not. It’s like walking around with an internal, festering swamp. Best to use those (my) waters for irrigation instead of stinky stagnation.”
I was perplexed but intrigued. She went on, “Love gets all the credit, but I’m the other side of the coin, the shadow image — you could even say that Love is my shadow. I am equally as important and just as cool, if I do say so myself. See, Love is an attractive power. It brings things closer. It is a connection to something in a joyful way. I’m merely the opposite. I’m the repulsive power, the one that stands guard while Love mingles about making friends. I am the one that keeps you safe when something is not ok.
“I act as that thing that indicates something is off or undesirable. Essentially, I can keep the nasty stuff away. I’m neither good nor bad, I just am, and I allow you to make choices as you go about your day. It’s simple really: Love is the “yes, I want that” and I am the “No, that’s not for me.” Push, pull. Give, take. Up, down. Yin Yang. So on and so forth. By granting yourself the ability to feel something so deeply, with such distaste, you can more fully and authentically connect to the things you do want. Peaks and valleys, my friend.”
I was fascinated and become a bit enchanted. “Go on.” I said and we each sipped our tea.
“Without me some of the most amazing art, some of the most amazing music and some of the world’s revolutions wouldn’t exist.”
I thought of what I felt like every time I saw trash on the ground. Once I accepted her, Madame Hatred that is, I began picking up the garbage and making art. It was her all along! She was the one that helped me generate this work, which has helped to inform others about waste on our planet. Wow, how cool is that?
“Once understood, I can be a very powerful generative force. A force that can change the world, in positive ways — if I’m allowed. I help foster feelings of love, connection, community and togetherness. It is through me that these things find their colors. Without a sense of not liking something — a deep sense of not liking something — things wouldn’t necessarily get done. And, if you can’t authentically say “No,” to something, how can you authentically, whole-heartedly say “Yes,” to something? It’s when people embrace this notion that the world can change. You’re allowed to love me just the way you love Love. You’re allowed to feel me, express me and dwell in me. That’s totally ok, nothing wrong with that. Besides you’re going to anyway, might as well at least admit it.
“Part of that admission, that recognition is that everything has an asset and everything a peril, everything a yin and yang, everything an advantage and disadvantage. It is a matter of perspective onto which side we view. And also, which side we think we are utilizing. Even the “good” stuff has parts that are not always that “great.”
She was making a lot of sense. “But, what about the people that say they hate something? Sometimes, I would say that and people would look at me funny.”
“Did you really mean it though? Oh Lord! Were you using my name in vain? They don’t actually hate something they dislike it strongly. There is a difference.
“When people experience me full on, I can be overwhelming. I often lead to action. I often create change, motivate and generate amazing things. Some people have consumed too much of me and fly off the handle and do crazy things, that is certainly true. It doesn’t have to be that way.
“When we actually step into an intimate relationship, you can see that in many ways I am just like fire. I can be used to light the way, warm your body or cook things. I can also scorch, terrorize and destroy. If you’ve become consumed by me, then I can rule you. If you beat me down and deny my existence, then I can rule you. If you accept me for who I am and how I can be of service then we will create beautiful and amazing things together.”
I couldn’t help but agree.
“Thank you for the tea, I must be off. I’m meeting my friends Fear, Envy, Love and Courage. Remember: explore me whenever you want. I’m here for you when you need me, or when I just pop up. Remember the qualities of deep repulsion toward something. Not only can that keep you safe, but it can empower you to make strong decisions, decisions that could even change the world. And perhaps you’ll understand others a little bit better too. Oh, right Compassion and Misery will be joining us as well. Until next time…”
I was stunned at the conversation. I felt refreshed and a bit more informed. It seemed as though I had made a new friend. Who would have thought I could appreciate, understand and accept Hatred in a totally new way? Sweet.