I’ve been thinking a lot about what this posture opens up in the body. When we open the chest, we open the heart center—the location of the anahata chakra, the energetic storehouse of compassion, forgiveness and unconditional love. By clasping the foot and drawing the leg up and back, we open the front of the thigh—specifically the psoas muscle, which we associate with fear. By teaching this posture, I thought, I help teach students to open up the chest and let compassion and love pour out. At the same time, they would open up the psoas and release fear. I seemed to have it all figured out. What a great combination! Explosions of love and hope! The ecstatic release of fear!
This month I’ve been studying Pema Chodron’s writing, specifically her teachings on hope and fear. In this excerpt from When Things Fall Apart, she shares:
“The word in Tibetan for hope is rewa; the word for fear is dokpa. More commonly, the word re-dok is used, which combines the two. Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there is one, there is always the other. This re-dok is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives.”
So, what’s the answer, one might ask? Hopelessness. Not the kind of hopelessness that our culture associates with depression, withdrawal or disengagement. Hopelessness, in the context she explores, means confidence. It means having the confidence that we can accept where we are, at any given moment, without having hope that our situation be any different. We don't have to avoid fear or rely on hope to improve ourselves. We can be confident that we can be right where we are, embrace our suffering, and use that as a foundation from which we can live our lives.
How radical. I find myself continuously hoping to improve my practice, to get somewhere more advanced, to open more. What if I can’t? What if, in this posture, you can’t spin your chest open as much as you want? Maybe hopelessness means don’t push it. Maybe hopelessness means breathe where you are. Be there. And if you can come into the full posture, eloquently and gracefully? Be hopeless; reside in the posture and breathe.
Be there, hopelessly.