Hola mi gente,
The holiday season is upon us, and with it lots of good cheer and partying. I wish you all the very best but, whatever you do, please — please: Don’t. Drive. Drunk.
Getting Comfortable in the Saddle
Alchemists sought to transform lead into gold. In the same way, we all have the natural ability to turn our moments of confusion or emotional pain into insightful clarity.
One day I went with a girlfriend horseback riding. I had ridden before, but my companion at the time warned me that we were going to ride “real horses,” real horseback riding. I was so intent on impressing her and I somewhat exaggerated my horse riding experience.
Big mistake. Out they came with this huge, fire-from-flayed-nostrils beast, and no sooner than I got on it and kicked, it just took off. No matter how much I pulled back on the reins this horse wasn’t stopping and we were headed straight to a fence that, it seemed to me, this motherfucker was determined to jump. Luckily, another rider was able to put his horse in the way, causing a collision that threw me off the horse. Fortunately, no one was hurt. As I lay there my ass and pride damaged, the animal just stared and I swear it was laughing at me. They asked if I wanted to switch horses for a tamer one, but I refused. I got some lessons that day on how to ride, but when I got back on that magnificent animal, I held the reins so tight it wouldn’t or couldn’t move. Cautiously, I learned to interact with the beast so that we were able to trot around the place.
Eventually, my friend taught me enough where I became a pretty good rider and over time I developed a close bond with that horse, admiring (while respecting) its spirit and strength.
Of course, you know there’s a metaphor in here somewhere, right? LOL!
Personal growth is like that: in the beginning we might find ourselves holding on to the reins, white-knuckled, hanging on for dear life, afraid of the full power of our emotions. But if we venture outside that comfort zone, we begin to explore the more meaningful, and infinitely more rewarding, emotional landscapes. We learn to relax in the saddle, to ride.
For most people most times, violent emotions are destructive. People fly into rage, for example, and say things they don’t mean and later regret (can I get a witness?). We may sometimes lash out and hurt someone, or when hurt by rejection, we mope and eat and lay in bed, our hurt festering in the murky waters of self-destructive depression. Most violence has its roots in a form of self-abuse that manifests itself outwardly.
Therefore, at the earlier stages of psycho-spiritual evolution or self-actualization, growth means cultivating compassion and less emotional violence toward yourself and others. My experience has been that the more self-awareness you attain, the more you are naturally motivated toward peace and harmony. At this stage, when upset or angered, you learn to take a few breaths and calm yourself. You try to practice kindness rather than hate, acceptance rather than judgment, joy rather than anger.
In this way, you can become harmonious — and frightfully bland.
In the stereotype of a harmonious individual, all joy and acquiescence, there is a loss of the depth of love power for the sake of a safe but superficial calmness. Yes, you may have progressed from irresponsible violence and poor impulse control to a practiced tranquility, but growth doesn’t stop there.
After developing the basic skills necessary to breathe through our emotional reflexes and to act graciously, there’s another world. There is a whole new experience, lover, out there waiting for you: you can learn to open as your emotion. Rather than striking out in self-destructive, knee-jerk ways, and rather than merely breathing through your anger in order to achieve calmness, you can actually use anger, or any other emotion, as a gateway to a deeper love, a deeper expression of truth and your lived experience.
If you look back to a time when you felt you wanted to hit someone, punch a wall, break something, you will note the presence of an overriding sense of feeling trapped, restricted. Whether by your own limits or by external circumstances, you most likely felt imprisoned and loveless. Violence is always a dysfunctional attempt to break free, an unskilled effort toward greater freedom or love. Openness is freedom and love. Even the most violent or self-destructive emotions are based on our need for openness, to be free, to give and receive love.
When you are open, then you are able to give and receive love fully, and you are free. However, when you don’t practice how to be open, then you’re unable to live as love, then your chi, or vital power/ love-energy, backs up and roils as emotional mayhem. In this reality, there is a feeling of being trapped and alone, powerless, unable or fearful of riding that magnificent and powerful force, to ride free like the wind. You become emotional constipated.
Embraced skillfully, intense emotions can be a quick path to a deeper experience — to a more profound openness. Ever heard of “angry sex”? Anger can provide you with the sharp clarity and thunder necessary to awaken from moody distraction, if you can release and really feel your love that moves as anger.
Sadness, something we all try to avoid at all costs, can expose your heart, too. Sometimes we harden ourselves against sadness, in the process creating dead zones in our psyche and body. It’s as if in our fear of unleashing our full potential, we’ve numbed ourselves against feeling fully. We have the reins tight in our hands, and we’ll never let go, lest we lose ourselves, we think. Soften yourself and feel your sadness. Really feel your sadness. Softness is like the ocean, while it is yielding, it is not weak. Yield, surrender to your sadness without falling apart. Soften your belly, feel the tidal swells moving through you, the heaves of gasps for yearning. There’s an astounding depth of love released by sadness. Ever heard and experienced the raw beauty of the blues art form?
Love can transform all these previously destructive emotions into something powerful and alive.
People mistake my work in social justice for anger. But aggression for love’s sake is passion. Even the word protest uncovers some this: Pro means being for something. Test is to speak, as in testify, or testimony. To protest is to speak for something, to stand for something. To speak truth to power.
In order to take the next step, we have to come to the awareness that true spiritual and sexual passion demands your capacity to open as wild as the moment does. Just like with me and that horse. Sometimes the force of our emotions can scare us, and we need to be careful, to develop psychologically safe spaces. But to refuse to venture further is to deny yourself life.
Smacks and shouts and dark desires can wield love as powerfully as gentle kisses, mild-mannered moods, and pats on the back. And yes, this takes practice, and you might want to hold on to those reins a little tightly at first or until you feel safe. It might take years to open freely in this way, but until you do, it’s as if you’ve entered an amusement park but have refused to get on the rides.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…
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