Q: Hi Eric, I have a practical question. In getting in touch with the aliveness of sensations, which in my experience happens only sporadically, I get really overwhelmed by the physical intensity of contacting, touching these emotions in an alive way. I even get waves of a kind of nausea, a nauseating feeling when touching this rawness, this intensity, and I don't feel I have the instruments to be able to stay with my sensations fully and thoroughly, that's what I wanted to ask you, if you have any…
A: In a certain way, traditional yoga is just that. The aim of traditional yoga is to give you the tools to be open when fear comes, when jealousy comes, when anxiety comes, to listen to it without any mental participation. Without these tools, it can be very difficult. So, if you say it is difficult for you to listen to the emotion sometimes because it is too strong, I would advise you to look around where you live, and find somebody who does yoga in a traditional way. Not stretching yoga, not yoga to stay healthy, not yoga to achieve anything, not spiritual yoga. But simply yoga to feel what is there.
What was born, what will die, is the body. So, you must learn this body, what is this body? For most people, this body is a concept. It is a concept which was created when we were babies, created to survive. So we feel the body as heaviness, as tension, as violence and so on. The concept is a pattern for the brain, so we must explore this pattern. And while exploring this pattern, some very deep inner emotions will surface. I cultivate an openness to body sensations which will then make me able to feel, in a direct way, the emotions that arise as fear, anger, jealousy, without being overwhelmed. We get overwhelmed when there is a resistance. But if you practice martial arts, the first year, what do you do? You basically learn to absorb the kick and the punch. Because generally when somebody punches you, you resist. Once you resist, the impact is very hard. When you don't resist, you absorb kicks and punches, you become kick and punch, which means that you become neutral. When the boxer comes back in the evening after his training, he has received 500 punches, and he hasn’t felt attacked at all, mentally, psychologically speaking.
In the same way that you can learn to absorb being kicked and punched without resisting, you can also learn, when an emotion arises, to fully let it unravel within the body. If you feel overwhelmed, if the sensation is too strong, it means that there is a resistance, it means that when the emotion comes to you, you push it away. Emotion is like a flow of water. If you try to stop the water, if you oppose a resistance, the water accumulates, and pushes harder, and harder, and harder. So, you must learn to let the sensation, let the emotion unravel without resistance. That's what Kashmiri yoga actually is. It is learning to let the sound, learning to let the feeling, learning to let the smell—learning to let the punch if you practice martial arts— unravel within you without any comment. Or, in the beginning, seeing how much you comment, how much you resist, how much you name, how much you criticize, how much you justify.
A feeling arises. Let's say it is fear. If I ask you, how do you know you have fear, you're going to tell me, I feel it. Okay, so you feel the fear. Where do you feel it? In your body. Where is it? In your throat, in your chest, in your belly etc. You feel it somewhere. And that somewhere is a defense, because the body tries to preserve its wholeness.
When you listen to music without deafening yourself, you listen with your whole body, you feel the music in your whole body. When you get punched, you must absorb the punch with your whole body. In the same way, when emotion arises, it must unravel in your whole body. Then it loses intensity.
The larger something is, the faster it loses its velocity. If somebody slaps you with an open hand, it hurts. If you get punched with a closed fist, with the same power, it hurts more. If I punch you with just one knuckle, still more. If I use a knife, even more. Why? The smaller the area of impact, the more it's going to hurt you. The larger it is, the less it impacts you. In the same way, when you enlarge the feeling, when you let it expand in your whole body, it loses velocity. Then you can let the whole emotion totally unravel. It will not only unravel within the body, it will expand beyond the body, and the tension will keep opening, and opening, and opening, until at some point it loses its characteristics as tension, and becomes non-separation with the whole.
So, I would suggest you do some bodywork with intelligence. There must be people around you who can help you. No stretching, no striving, no spiritual nonsense. Just listening. Listening to your leg when you stretch it, listening to your back, listening to your breathing. Listening to your lips, to your nose, to your eyes, to your shoulder, to your hips, to your side. Listening to the body. No comment. Not nice, not not nice. No tension, not even relaxation, just feeling. It is hot, it is light, it is expansion, it is compression, it is high, it is sweet, etc. Let the whole body become sensitive.
If you practice that regularly, every day, then I promise that very soon, when fear, or when a so-called aggression comes to you, you will be able to let it unravel, and then there will be no more aggression possible. Aggression is a defense. Emotion is never aggressive, it is what it is. Again, as we said before, a boxer who comes back home in the evening, after receiving 500, 600 punches on his head, doesn’t feel he was attacked.
So, aggression is a reaction, it is refusing to be punched. Absorbing means no aggression. The world is not aggressive, what's aggressive is our reaction. To experience that body sensation, you must explore the body. You must fall in love with your body. Your body is not something you see in the mirror, not something you have to like or dislike, not something to judge, not something to be proud or ashamed of. Your body is something you don't know, because you think your body. To most people, the body is a thought, therefore they like it or they don't like it. You must replace the thought of the body, the memory of the body, by the actual feeling of the body. And that's the heart of yoga, in its traditional sense.
So good luck to find a teacher. There are some, but one needs good eyes sometimes.