The Edge of Joy

Living Yoga Yoga

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it.
It’s our
fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
Brene Brown

If you like Sarah Jamieson Yoga on Facebook, you may have noticed a recent trend of posts referencing the work of Brene Brown – which accurately reflects the fact that I am a big fan!

Brene first caught my attention with her TED Talk The Power of Vulnerability. If you haven’t watched this talk, I highly recommend it (and have placed it at the bottom of this post). I have used ideas from this talk to theme a number of yoga classes, and I’ve also been to classes for which it was the inspiration. My second dose of Brene Brown was her second book The Gifts of Imperfection, which I just finished reading last week.

In all honesty, I want to share this whole book with the world! But, I will moderate myself and offer you the following paragraph on the difference between happiness and joy:

Anne Robertson, a Methodist pastor, writer, and executive director of the Massachusetts Bible Society, explains how the Greek origins of the words happiness and joy hold important meaning for us today. She explains that the Greek word for happiness is Makarios, which was used to describe the freedom of the rich from normal cares and worries, or to describe a person who received some form of good fortune, such as money or health. Robertson compares this to the Greek word for joy which is chairo. Chairo was described by the ancient Greeks as the “culmination of being” and the “good moon of the soul.” Robertson writes, “Chairo is something, the ancient Greeks tell us, that is found only in God and comes with virtue and wisdom. It isn’t a beginner’s virtue; it comes as the culmination. They say its opposite is not sadness, but fear. (79-80)

The last line of this paragraph – positioning Joy and Fear as opposite emotions – fell into my body. I felt a subtle but profound drop, which I can only describe as a deep recognition of the weight of this truth.

By nature of being opposites, fear prevents joy.

One of the most eloquent and strikingly honest examples Brene offers of this tension between joy and fear is from her personal experience. She tells a story of peacefully watching her daughter sleep, and then, suddenly, seemingly out of no where, having the love and joy she was feeling towards her child be replaced by an encompassing fear of something terrible happening to her daughter.

She articulates this experience as “being on the edge of joy only to be overcome by vulnerability and thrown into fear,” which posits a fear of vulnerability as an obstacle to joy – and, at the same time, offers being vulnerable as a path to a more joyful life (82).

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on being vulnerable, but I have unquestionably experienced it as a source of connection and compassion. And, I’ve found that the more honest I am with others about what scares me and what I feel insecure about the less impact these fears and insecurities have on my life.

And, even though I don’t always have the courage to wear my heart on my sleeve, I am committed to pushing past the edge of joy.

Tapas, or “Just Do It” Yoga

Living Yoga Niyamas Philosophy Tapas

Just Do It.

Source: Nike Logo

Pop culture references aside, “Just Do It” is a powerful mantra for inspiring action.

Over the past few weeks, I have unsuccessfully been trying to get back on the blog writing bandwagon, so I’m invoking the ”Just Do It” mantra to motivate myself into posting something on my blog – even if it is the worst post I have ever written!

A few months ago, my grandma went into the hospital. My writing (along with almost everything else in my life) was put aside because I wanted to spend as much time by her side as possible. I lost my grandma at the end of March and celebrated her life with family and friends in mid-April, and though I have had more time since then, I still haven’t been able to write.

I have a long list of ideas for blog posts, but my written words haven’t been flowing.

And, I had a similar experience with flow on my yoga mat today.

Most days, I could spend hours doing yoga on my own. I love exploring sequencing, playing with different postures and taking in what ever lessons my practice has to offer. But, today I was stumped – a practice wasn’t flowing from me.

My solution: I grabbed the latest copy of Yoga Journal and followed the home practice.

I still didn’t find my usual intuitive flow, but I stayed on my mat.

And, in this commitment to staying on my mat lies my understanding of the yogic practice of tapas.

In the Yoga Sutras, the Indian sage Patanjali outlines an eight-limbed path of yoga, and in the second limb (the niyamas), he offers five observances to bring more joy and ease into our lives. Tapas, the third niyama, is commonly translated as “fierce discipline,” but Judith Lasater offers a definition that really resonates with me. She describes tapas as “consistency in striving toward your goals: getting on the yoga mat every day, sitting on the meditation cushion every day—or forgiving your mate or your child for the 10,000th time.”

My basic personal tapas practice is a daily 15 minute meditation. I sit for 15 minutes every day – no matter how much I may not want to or feel like I don’t have the time to.  In her book Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life, Charlotte Bell offers the suggestion that yoga and meditation practitioners commit to doing five minutes each day.

I share this suggestion to emphasize that the practice of tapas demands consistency, but it does not require an abundance of time.

With the often paralyzing presence of choice in our day-to-day lives, tapas is a committed directing of our energy towards actions that support our well-being – even when we are not in the “mood” to do things that support our well-being.

It’s a commitment to just doing it – every day.

Whatever your “it” may be.