Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yoga, Shopping, and Filling the Void

I think I finally understand why so many yoga studios these days are cashing in with gift shops and retail sales.

For as many days as I leave my practice at the studio feeling elated, light, and happy, there are just as many days that I leave feeling empty. And not empty in a good way, either - just empty.

The Void.

It's what we try to ignore, push down, and beat back when it surfaces.  It's that feeling of just being a hollow vessel, with nothing inside of you that is in any way substantial. It's pretty damn frightening, if you allow yourself to really feel it deep down in your bones.

It's why we bake, eat, read, and of course, shop.

And what better way to fill The Void when you shop than by acquiring spiritually-themed items? Incense, candles, special yoga clothes, jewelry, wind chimes, t-shirts, toe-less socks, pictures, journals, oh, my!

So we can tell ourselves that by filling The Void with these things, we're making ourselves better, more spiritual people.

In fact, what we should actually be doing is sitting with the feelings and the fear that come up when we start to notice The Void - instead of running away from it.

I actually felt it this morning. On my way back from dropping off the boys at school, I stopped at the yoga studio for a little bit of meditation and self practice. I lit some candles and counted my breaths and tested my body to see where my energy level was at for today.

On the way home, I stopped at the creamery and bought more milk - and cupcakes. And it was as I was driving back into town that I started to notice how grey and damp everything felt, like a cold Sunday afternoon. I felt it in my heart, and down in my bones.

That was the exact moment that my mind said to me, "Oh, hey, the thrift shop is open today - maybe you should go look for some new pants for Colden and maybe a few things for yourself."

BOOM! I caught myself before I drove past my house and straight to the thrift shop. First of all, I just cleaned out all of my kid's clothes and washed everything and stocked his dresser with six pairs of pants, none of which have holes in the knees. That's more than enough for now.

Second of all, I neither need nor have the space for any more clothes in my room. I have SO MANY FUCKING ITEMS OF CLOTHING it's almost a disgrace - and that's after I packed up two bags to give to the thrift shop last weekend.

Third, I have about ten bucks left to my name after I pay for the snow tires to be put on the car this afternoon, so it's not like I have a lot of money to spend on clothing right now - even thrift shop clothing.

So what the hell was my mind doing, suggesting to me that I needed to go shopping?

Trying to fill The Void, that's what it was doing.

So do you see what happens, here? This practice of yoga, this slowing down and turning inward, will always, invariably, lead us to The Void. It's that place where we acknowledge that we are indeed united with the rest of existence, and yet we are nothing. It's that place where we can let go of the Ego and just be, and for most of us, it's still pretty uncomfortable, if not downright scary.

And if you feel that way after a yoga class, well, that's okay. We're trying to go deeper into ourselves, right? Yoga is that journey inward, to pure consciousness. It's not really an easy journey, is it?

And what do we do when we start to feel that fear? We try to placate it. We try to fill up that emptiness with stuff, without allowing ourselves the chance to really sit with it and experience it.

I'm no stranger to the yoga-spirituality-impulse buy, either. Let's not talk about my collection of yoga clothes, or gemstones, or jewelry, or candles...

I think most big retailers in this country are, to some degree, aware that people are very uncomfortable with this feeling of emptiness. We're all terrified of feeling unloved or not needed or inferior, and so we try to mask these feelings with lots and lots of THINGS.

But the truth is, all that stuff - the things, the feelings - they all go away, eventually. And what are we left with?

While I try to chew on that for a while, I'm going to go make myself a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the sensation of eating a chocolate cupcake. No sense on venturing into The Void on an empty stomach.

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