Head On: Rage and rebirth

Head On: Rage and rebirth

Rage is not the sweetest of topics, but there may have been a chocolate overload for many this weekend so allow me to elaborate.

Being a harmony-loving Libran, rage is probably the least comfortable emotional experience for me.  I’d surmise that it’s probably one of the least comfortable emotions for most beings, both those who experience it directly and those who happen to be in the firing line.

At first thought, the only remotely palatable associations I can make with rage, are the memories of attending high school dances in the early 90s as a very awkward, gangly, petite, and timid, private school girl in Brisbane, where young, pre-pubescent, sweaty and overly excited boys from our brother school would start bouncing around and ramming into one another when Rage Against The Machine songs would come on later in the evenings.  I used to think these occurrences were wild, and extremely underdeveloped, adolescent displays of alluring potential partners but perhaps they were just enjoying masculine, bodily-rich camaraderie while letting off a bit of steam.  Perhaps it had nothing to do with us girls at all.  What a let-down to the ego to not be involved somehow!

If only the real experience of rage were that innocent and amusing.

I’ve only had to stomach rage on a few occasions in my lifetime.  These memories stand out because the feeling of rage is so intensely powerful and instinctual, that each time it has manifested in me, it has catapulted me into the present moment, into clarity and truth about something which I’d failed to wholly acknowledge before that instant.  It wrenches my head out of the sand and hurls me into the blistering, yet somehow purifying flames of a blazing fire of awareness.

I’m reminded of a character I played, Eris (the Greek Goddess of chaos and discord) in a production of Michael Gow’s Live Acts On Stage somewhere in the blur of the early 2000s in Sydney, Australia.  Gow turns all the archetypes of the Gods and Goddesses upside down in this work, so that the goodies actually become the baddies, the decrepit become heroic, and chaos and discord, rather than being shunned, are eventually revealed to be benevolent forces of nature and life.

Playing Eris, the Goddess of chaos and discord, in RAPA's 2003 production of Live Acts On Stage
Playing Eris, the Goddess of chaos and discord, in RAPA’s 2003 production of Live Acts On Stage

Could rage be a similarly benevolent force?

On the surface, in the moment, rage asserts itself as a vindication of another person, collective, place or thing.  It triggers, or perhaps is triggered by, our reptilian response to life, in which we feel deeply threatened or overwhelmed and therefore want to sock it to the said perpetrator or run for our lives towards calmer waters.

Yet look a little deeper, and rage usually signifies a deep dishonouring of one’s own values or morals or boundaries; a dishonouring of oneself.  Rage is often a result of having hidden from our own truth.

If I trace back to the handful of times I have felt rage, there is nearly always a key point in time prior to that feeling in which I have irrevocably ignored my own intuition, distrusted my own instinct, or was too caught up in the ‘noise’ or defective patterns of my own life or the lives of others that I wasn’t even conscious of my own needs.  I couldn’t hear the deep and very true calling of my inner being.

In the past, even if I had sensed that the path I was about to take could end in misery, I would fold that feeling very neatly into a little origami-inspired parcel of denial, and stuff it as far down into the bottomless drawer of my consciousness as possible, and then carry (head-) on along that path like little Red Riding Hood; gorgeous and clueless.  Yet the Big Bad Wolf was not only waiting for me in the cottage; it was also hiding deep in my own belly, ready to roar its way out and reveal the truth.

Since rage is such an uncomfortable emotion to sit with or to witness in others (yes it literally means uncontrollable or violent anger – ew!), I’m still learning how to contain it or work with it, and thus, my wrath has occasionally spilled out onto those closest to me or I’ve responded to the wrath of others’ with a good old dose of my own in words, our of sheer terror in that moment, returning their fiery serve with a defensive slice that would challenge even Kyrios’ on court antics.  We all know that fighting fire with fire doesn’t work, but why does the fire exist in the first place?  What is its purpose?

I spent a good many years as a child and a young adult translating every negative emotion into grief, fear or depression, turning them inwards and shutting down; under-being.  The depression was a protection mechanism, most certainly, but didn’t make for much awareness or navigating through problems with authentic self-expression and connection.  It just masked them, and kept me at such a low vibration in an attempt to not have to deal with anything (until later in life when I really did have to deal with them.  The Universe will always find a way to show us who we really are and reveal the truth which ultimately sets everyone free).

I’m not sure where I picked up that sort of conditioning, and it definitely wasn’t anyone’s specific fault or doing, but it seemed that I understood that men were allowed to be angry and women weren’t, or rather that women were meant to be depressive instead, and occasionally passive-aggressive.  I think that this may be an underlying pattern in many modern societies – that anger is preserved and tolerated in males and masculine settings while women are taught to stuff it down and ‘be good’.  In other words, to be gorgeous and clueless.

To be honest, it probably would have been very healthy for some of us girls to be bouncing around and ramming into each other at those school dances too!

I’m not excusing the sort of collateral damage that comes from outbursts of rage.  The very first teaching in the 8 limbed yogic path (Ashtanga), and the one that is more important to practise than Satya (truth) even, is Ahimsa which means non-harming.  In fact, all spiritual traditions expound some sort of ‘thy shalt not kill’ in word, thought or deed etc., and puking your process of rage, or any other emotion for that matter, all over another is a really good way to kill the vibe, people!

No one deserves to shoulder another’s dis-ease, yet in our very unenlightened of ways, we human beings will no doubt continue to harm each other from time to time, until we merge absolutely with the Divine by becoming enlightened or by carking it.  No guessing which of these will come first for most of us!

Eckhart Tolle says that those who find it difficult to deal with anger, or have an imbalanced relationship with it, will inevitably attract angry people into their lives.  This was very true for me, and I’ll be eternally grateful for the abusive relationship I bafflingly found myself in at one point in my life, because leaving it connected me to my own anger, self worth and personal power in a most extraordinary way; a choreography of personal growth and self-awareness that was exquisitely painful yet revolutionary.

If the anger family of emotions (now doesn’t that sound sweet?!) can be so transformative, so powerfully effective at realigning ourselves with our own truth, our guidance, our inner knowing, and our worth, when we’ve been off track somewhere with our head in the clouds or in a ditch, then perhaps they aren’t so bad after all, and should be embraced, utilised and honed.

Now I’m not saying that we should all go around hating and hurting and blaming and putting on our angry underpants every morning, especially if you are someone who is quite fiery by nature (if you are of Pitta constitution according to the Ayurvedic dosha system of classification, then this warning is lovingly proffered to you especially).

For those of us who have a default setting of denying our own or others’ anger, taking responsibility for it or internalising it, however, it is perhaps wise to challenge our norm, feel the anger, let it curdle, lose the plot occasionally, let it all hang out, assert ourselves and most importantly, allow ourselves to make mistakes and not be emotional robots.  If we can keep the carnage to a minimum, anger can be like a wildly misbehaving but amazingly effective cheerleader for our own spirit!  Doing a high kick in my living room right now, my friends!

In the yoga asana practice, the balancing postures give us an opportunity to embrace and include our imperfections, our wobbles, our falls, our head-on incidents and our downright face-plants into our practice; letting them be a real part of it, rather than denying or avoiding them.  We are encouraged to let go of our rigid control and let ourselves fall over onto our own mat, the metaphor for our own world, but it is suggested to be mindful of others, and their worlds, and not take them down with us.

This is great in theory, but in my time teaching, I’ve seen many an unsuspecting student kicked in the head by a wayward leg from a neighbouring student in handstand practice, when no harm was intended at all of course!

Now this may all sound rather pessimistic, like I’m resigning us all to a world of harm and unrest and glorification of anger, or that we need to die to truly experience any long-lasting relief from our struggles and pain (Savasana is the perfect little experience of death without having to go through the real thing, by the way.  And it is deeply relaxing.  Double win!).

Dancing in New York! Bliss.
Dancing in New York in 2010. Bliss!

But don’t fret, my earth angels.  If we remain aware of ourselves and and continue to do everything in our power to stay connected to our own internal guidance systems, our inner pilot lights, our Higher Selves and Beings, the Divine in us all, then we will inevitably always be restored to peace, contentment and ultimate joy in our own and others’ existences.

We don’t have to suffer.  The relevance of celebrations all over the world this weekend affirm that we are continually forgiven for our imperfections, our wobbles, our harms and that they will inevitably pass.  We will eventually return to our innate state of bliss, if we listen in closely to the whispers of our heart, our true calling, and keep moving in that direction, no matter how many wobbles we may have along the way.

Last night I felt bliss.  I danced with people I love, and the joy was immense!  I was reborn.

Happy Easter, my friends.







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