Recently, I have been having very strange dreams. Dreams of not satisfying the requirements of my job and being scolded, and humiliated, very publicly by co-workers. Dreams of making poor decisions that lead to my youngest niece being in the care of a stranger, thereby being forbidden to ever see her again. Dreams of putting all my belongings curbside to sell and then refusing to sell anything to anyone. I thought these dreams were about fear of failure, which is not something I’ve spent much time grappling with in my life. I’m pretty comfortable fucking up and not being perfect.
With the help of some wise people, I came to realize that these dreams were about loss and the deeply-rooted self-blame we all somehow seem to attach to it. I don’t think we even know we are doing it. It seems like, as humans, we are quick to blame external forces for everything. We lose our phones, it’s because our bag is just too packed full of stuff. We lose our friends, it’s because everyone is busy. We lose our jobs, it’s because the economy is in the toilet. We lose our shit in traffic, it’s because that guy in front of us was talking on the phone. But deep down, we feel it as our loss. We are frustrated with ourselves for having a messy bag. We feel guilty that we didn’t call that friend more often. We wonder if we would have made it through lay-offs if we had been just a little more friendly at lunch. And truth be told, we were also talking on the phone in traffic.
Recently in class, a student asked “why do we do inversions? what is their benefit?” After listing out all the physical benefits, I paused. There is more. There is more than just nourishment to brain, strengthening the pituitary and pineal glands, releasing the effects of gravity on our internal organs, and relieving constipation (yes, that’s right). Inversions are also about taking risks. They literally turn us upside down and make us very, very vulnerable. Many people hold back from inversions simply because they are afraid. I can rock some pretty cool inversions, but to this day, I am unable to do a forearm stand without the knowledge of a wall behind me because once, once, like six years ago, I fell over. And I really mean knowledge of the wall. I rarely even touch it, I just need to know it is there.
And so I began to wonder. Perhaps these dreams are about fear of loss. Of having good things in life, like work and family and belongings, and losing them to something unknown, the blame for which I have somehow internalized, somehow owned.
As a Yogi, my first go-to when exploring something like a series of distressing dreams, is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Sutra 15 in Book 2 reads:
To one of discrimination, everything is painful indeed, due to its consequences: the anxiety and fear over losing what is gained; the resulting impressions left in the mind to create renewed cravings.
What I love most about spiritual teachings, is their resurfacability. We learn them, study them, live them, and then we tuck them away into the corners of our worldview. But, here and there, they creep out, dust themselves off, polish up their usefulness, and remind us that we have the tools to do what we need to do in life.
Suffering was manifesting itself through my dreams. I needed to understand this suffering. I turned to Yoga, a practice in which I find great meaning and comfort and, there it all was. Everything I needed to make sense of the dreams, everything I needed to make them stop. And they have.