Swami Atma joins us this evening for another outstanding guided meditation. It’s hard to choose a favourite part of these yogi days, but our sessions with Swami are definitely up there! He enters gracefully as always. The whole class finds a seat and attentively awaits his first words.
Someone asks him “How are you today?”
He replies with “Today I am not so good. I’m not in a good mood”
This honest answer shocks us a little but he has reason. Swami Atma tells us that he’s planning to travel to Moscow and has been applying for a travel visa. However the process has been delayed and he flies out soon. I’m sure we’ve all encountered an annoyance similar to this. He is frustrated but is still optimistic and carries his contagious smile.
Swami Atma always encourages us to ask him questions, so I ask why he originally wanted to become a Swami.
As sincerely as always, he closes his eyes, contemplating and concentrating. He tells us that for as long as he could remember, even as a child, he had profoundly overwhelming questions like who am I? What is my purpose? What will happen to me when I die? What will happen to my family when I die?
He told us that he seeked peace and freedom from these thoughts and feelings and thus sought after the life of a Swami. A Swami has no possessions, no wife, no children, no materialistic values. They seek enlightenment and to help others in the process. He is nomadic, he is free and he is at peace.
Swami Atma tells us the importance of being sensitive, compassionate, empathetic beings and that it is more than ok to feel all ranges of emotions. That these emotions aren’t what define you. That It’s ok to have bad days where you may feel frustrated or annoyed. These are normal, realistic, human emotions, and if bottled up or suppressed, can cause illnesses both in the mental and physical sense.
I relate this to a personal experience of recent where someone emotionally hurt me. I expressed that I had been hurt, upset and quite frankly angered by their actions. This individual refused to see my perspective and refused to allow me to feel these emotions. They said that it changed their entire perspective on me. I felt shamed. This really hurt and confused me, as they too were more than capable of outbursts of anger and frustration on more than one occasion. This person in a hypocritical sense, was also completely incapable of taking any responsibility of their own actions, emotions and the resulting consequences.
So what action should we take? Suppress your natural, human emotions to keep up a polished and perfect appearance to the point where you’re dishonest to yourself and others? Or admitting that you are in fact only human, that you make mistakes, that you sometimes feel frustration, anger or sadness.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the latter, be it bias to my personal situation or not.
I’m intrigued by Swami Atma’s honest and pragmatic approach to balancing emotions. I also wonder if those overwhelming thoughts and feelings he felt pre-swami days potentially are what we diagnose in western society as Depression and Anxiety?
So I pose another question to him; “In Western societies more and more people are struggling with what we title as Depression and Anxiety. Be it nature or nurtured, it has become an epidemic. However, in Eastern societies these mental health issues don’t even have a title to diagnose them as so. What do you think the difference is between these two worlds, and what do you see as the ways of coping?”
He answers; “In Western societies you are always alone, you struggle alone and are made to feel shamed in those struggles. In Eastern societies you always have someone to talk to. You’ll always find a sense of community and a support network that helps bear the load of your struggles. We don’t know the words ‘Depression’ and ‘Anxiety’. We find ways to cope together be it yoga practices, meditation or a simple conversation, and if all else fails we have Mother Nature and she is always there to heal us”
Have I mentioned how much I love Swami Atma!?!?
He encourages us all to always take time to do the things you love for the simple sole fact that they make you happy. Play guitar, paint a picture, dance, sing, go sit by running river. Do it because it makes you feel good, and happy and full. Do it for you.
I’m just a dipping a toe in the ocean that is the discussion of mental health, but as someone who struggles, this was a wonderful evening of open discussion that I wanted to share because truly, you’re never as alone as you may feel.
Love & Light,
“If all else fails, we have Mother Nature and she is always there to heal us”- Swami Atma