The crazy’s in the concept

Posted on September 17, 2013

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Yoga and Spirituality

My yoga studio now has Bhakti yoga which is fucking awesome.

Bhakti yoga is the sacred yoga of love and devotion. It’s this really intense practice where you chant while holding poses and learn how to open your heart. It sounds silly to say this but the whole point of it is to teach you how to practice the deepest love possible.

The last time I took Bhakti yoga was when I lived in Washington D.C.  And when I think of D.C. I think of the handmade pasta I would buy every week from Eastern Market, the crisp autumn walks I would take around the Supreme Court and the seven, yes seven, people I lived with in a row house on Capitol Hill.

All of us were recipients of a semester-long fellowship and although we had separate bedrooms, we only had one kitchen. It was in this kitchen one evening, when I finally got fed up with Kate’s crazy concept.

But let me back up for a minute, because if I don’t set the stage correctly, you’ll never get why this concept was so looney.

Kate and I both worked near Dupont Circle. We also both happened to like yoga. The studio (that offered Bhatki, among other classes) was within walking distance from the circle, so after work, we would meet and walk there together so we could perfect our downward-facing dogs.

I hated walking to the studio with Kate. I’m just going to put that out there, right now. Hated it. Because here’s the thing: Kate is like 6 feet tall. She has blond hair and blue eyes and is just this  exquisitely beautiful woman.

The sidewalks would be completely full (as it was around the time that most people leave the office) and when we would walk by, it was like a sea of men simultaneously turning at once to look at Kate.

What’s that called when people turn their heads and slow down to look at something? Rubber-necking? Yeah. Walking to the yoga studio with Kate was like watching the entire street rubber-necking at once.

And there I was, barely 5’4,” a dwarf next to this goddess.  My hair was dull and full of split ends (because I was too broke to go to the salon). My clothes were busting at the seams from the 15 lbs I put on because of that handmade pasta I told you about.

Ugh. So you can see why I felt the way I felt.

That’s not even the worst of it. Because, in addition to being gorgeous, Kate had to go and be really, really smart. So smart, in fact, that she was accepted into an Ivy League university for her master’s degree while we lived in DC.

As you can see, I had a lot of reasons to intensely dislike her. But I didn’t.  Not because the yoga was teaching me how to love people who are prettier and smarter than me, but because it’s hard to dislike someone who is deeply suffering.

With everything she had going for her, Kate was miserable. Here’s why.

Right before she was awarded the fellowship and moved to DC, her boyfriend of several years broke up with her. On her birthday. And later, she found out that the reason he dumped her is because he was having a fling with someone else.

Kate was so consumed with grief that she always walked with her head down. Sure, I noticed the throngs of attractive, successful men checking her out but she didn’t have a clue. Even if she did, I don’t think she would have cared. She was too upset. She cried herself to sleep. She had trouble eating. She was broken.

In short, she did the things that we all do when we’re grieving the loss of a serious relationship. She forgot that there was probably something much better waiting for her, right around the corner.

At first, I just tried to be a patient listener for Kate. I figured that’s probably what she needed. The weeks passed, we walked to yoga and  I found out more and more about this guy. 

Like the fact that he had cheated on her before. Like the fact that he hadn’t had a job in over a year and was depending on her for complete financial support while they were living together. Like how he became verbally abusive when she told him to stop sitting around the apartment playing his guitar and to send off a resume.

Then, one night, I just couldn’t take the crazy anymore.

While we were in the kitchen with some of the other girls making dinner, Kate was lamenting about her ex. C. asked to see a picture of him. I’m not sure why. I guess she wanted to put a face to the name we had been hearing about for weeks.

I was about to grab some mushroom-stuffed tortellini when C. handed me Kate’s phone.  There, in one of those couple-selfies, is gorgeous, incredibly brilliant Kate and this short, unattractive guy with a dumb look in his eyes and a cocky grin on his face.

This ugly douchebag had used her for money, cheated on her multiple times and had no ambition. Yet this was the same guy she kept referring to as ‘amazing.’

My actual first thought, after listening about this breakup for weeks and then seeing his picture, was Are you fucking kidding me?

But what I said instead was, “I don’t think you were in love with him, Kate. I think you were in love with the concept of him.”

Oh, did she get pissed about that!

“What do you mean?! We lived together! We loved each other! We spent years together! If he was just a concept, he was a warm concept that I laid next to every night!”

Then the filter came off. I told her how her story of him was nothing like what I saw. I pointed out that he wasn’t actually amazing, or hot, or intelligent or anything else she had told us about him. She did what many of us do when we really want a relationship to work out: She created a concept that had nothing to do with reality.

All of that suffering wasn’t about him. All of those late nights crying wasn’t about him. All of that grief wasn’t about him. I mean, we could all see the guy was a complete loser. The suffering came from the loss of her concept.

We all do this, though, don’t we? We convince ourselves that someone is fantastic and great and amazing and then when we’re treated like shit, we fall apart. We feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under us. We get sad and depressed and try to figure out what we did wrong. Because, how could this happen? How could this incredible person treat us badly?

{But if someone treats you like shit, they’re not awesome. Awesome people don’t treat others like shit.}

That’s what Kate was doing, too. But this story does have a happy ending.

Kate kept going to yoga. She stopped crying herself to sleep. She started going to parties with her colleagues and before too long, she met a really great guy. He was smart and kind and good-looking and treated her so well.  I don’t know if they ended up together. It’s been years since DC and I’ve lost touch with Kate.

But I will never forget her and what she taught me . About how it’s so easy to suffer because we’ve created a concept that may not actually exist. About how we all have the power to create, and heal, our own suffering.

Learning the deepest love possible? I’m pretty sure it starts with looking at the concepts we’ve created that are making us feel like crap. Maybe the way to do that is to pay $15 to chant for 90 minutes with your feet over your head. I’m definitely down for trying that.

Or maybe there’s an easier way. Like speaking our truth. Like walking away from toxic situations. Like saying no to people who treat us badly.  Maybe the highest form of love and devotion is treating our own selves, and our lives, like they are the greatest gift we’ve ever been given.

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