The shorts were Radioactive. I couldn’t wear them without putting on sunglasses. These shorts were beyond-bright: my sister called to say she could see me walking down the road. She lives in Washington D.C.
I usually avoid neon. At all costs. But I traded in a pair of old hiking shorts for this pair of orange running shorts from the free pile at Westport Yoga. And I thought, ‘Why not? They’re free, and I’ve been craving color in my life lately.’
Slide my closet door open and you’ll see the same four colors: black, grey, white, and teal. The best colors, in my opinion. (It makes packing for a trip super easy when everything I own matches!) But this year, summer inspired me to break out of my monochromatic obsession and add vibrant colors to my life. I picked a terrible shade of neon green for a pedicure, I snagged (free!) neon shorts for my wardrobe, and purchased a planter of pink flowers for my front porch.
I’m usually one for blending in: I had to give myself a mental pep-talk to wear those neon shorts in public, knowing that I was a walking billboard for all things conspicuous. It made me wonder: Why do I feel so exposed? What am I trying to hide?
I’m generally a very open, transparent person. But I definitely have feelings, reactions, and habits that I’m not particularly proud of. It is the nature of being human to experience both ‘positive’ feelings and ‘negative’ feelings. In yoga classes, I try to teach my students to closely examine their reactions to a certain pose but not to judge them. For instance, instead of thinking, ‘I’m terrible at this pose because my arms aren’t long enough and I’m too weak to hold myself up and I’m never going to be good enough to do it, we more accurately think, ‘I’m experiencing frustration.’
I’m consistently asking students to examine their thoughts and consider: ‘Are my thought patterns helpful?’ This nonjudgmental attitude takes practice and patience to develop. Eventually, we may get to the point where we don’t judge our undesirable emotions as ‘negative’ we just see them as a natural expression of energy. And we know that we have the capacity, and the propensity, to experience emotions across the spectrum. (Remember this article about how emotions can be seen in the body as different colors?) It’s nothing to hide. It’s part of being human.
According to yoga philosophy, each person is a unique mix of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ energies. One energy is called Pingala. This energetic quality can be described as: active, strong, bright, hot, masculine. The other complimentary energy is called Ida. This energetic quality can be described as: passive, yielding, dim, cold, feminine. The Yoga Philosophy also borrows terms ‘yin and yang’ from the Daoist tradition.
The state of balance between these two energies is always dynamic. Stand on one foot long enough and you will see: balancing is never a static act. These energies are always in flux within our physical bodies and in our emotional states. Sometimes we are strong, decisive, demanding, and active. After a entire day of this energy in a hectic workplace, we arrive home drained, indecisive, yielding and tired.
We need both the Pingala and the Ida in order to feel balanced. We need the light and the dark.
It helps me to remember that I am a range of human experiences and emotions: it never has to be ALL or NOTHING. It’s ok for me to be 60% happy and 40% frustrated. And it’s ok for me to be 99% content and 1% jealous. It’s ok for me to experience both the light and the dark. Both can be helpful. And if my thoughts are unhelpful—well then—I don’t need to keep them.
Like the neon shorts, I can wear them once, and then send them on their merry way. I’m not sure if those shorts will stay in my dresser until next summer. But I have them now, so maybe I can learn to appreciate them.
What feelings or habits do you need to examine? When can you ask yourself: ‘Are my thoughts helpful?’ How can you learn to embrace both the light and the dark?