Spring,  Summer,  Winter,  yin yoga

Yoga for your Dark Side

‘Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.’

Yoda, Star Wars

This is a famous quote, from a famous movie. The wise speaker is imparting a truth to the young protagonist. The lesson is one of good versus evil, but the idea behind it has roots dating far back, and in the real world. In the quote we learn the path taken by the main bad guy. The dark side (or evil) is ruled by fear. This fear, over time, becomes anger which leads to hatred. All the while the traveller on this path is suffering.

But if we pause for a moment and take all these emotions of fear, anger, and hate. If we remove the quote from its movie history and place it into human history, say Traditional Chinese Medicine. Then we really can learn something new.

Fear is an imbalance within the Traditional Chinese Medicine system of 5-Elements. It is associated with the water element and the season of winter. Fear is a lack of wisdom and can cause us to freeze like water on a frozen lake. To balance the fear, we use the wisdom of nature around us to rest, restore and slow down. Only through balance in the water element are we ready to embrace the expansion of spring.

But entering spring with unresolved fear can lead to anger, which is the imbalance associated with the wood element and spring. Fear does indeed appear to lead to anger, according to the 5-Elements. This anger might be bottled up inside us or manifested in outward explosions firing at those we care about most. Either way our fear has cause this anger and the associated suffering.

If left unchecked our fear and anger may be transformed yet again as we leave spring and head to the summer and the fire element. Here the imbalance is a lack of love/joy, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to define this as hate (maybe?) Hate is quite a strong word, conjuring up visceral feelings and reactions. In movie terms, the bad guys are often driven by hate, anger, and fear. These emotions motivate extreme reactions, which might be far removed from reality, but hold some sense of familiarity to make them relevant to us off screen.

As we move steadily towards the summer, we may notice these emotions popping out when we least expect it. We may have some fear left over from the winter which could now be the root of us snapping at our loved ones over buying the wrong milk.

None of these emotions are negative, they may be undesirable, but they have a purpose which provides balance and flavour to life. Fear teaches us to arm ourselves with knowledge. Through wisdom we can overcome most of our fears. Anger also offers a valuable learning opportunity, more about us than about others. From anger we can learn how to speak our truth in a tactful and eloquent manner – without hurting ourselves or others. Anger towards other people’s actions or inactions can reflect the qualities we don’t particularly like in ourselves. This gives us the chance to notice and begin to make changes in our lives for the positive.

Hate is a little more complicated as it can be quite a triggering notion. But just like fear and anger, hate offers the chance for deeper exploration of our emotions. The link between hate and love is close and perhaps observing this can provide the release we desire, with a chance to move on and find some joy in our life.

These 3 emotions may offer us a chance to grow, but if we climb to them so fast and hard, they can become a poison to us. Learning from the seasons around us and using our yoga toolbox we can notice these feelings as they rise and put a plan into action before they morph into each other. There may be a reduction in suffering within ourselves, but also within the people around us.

All of this from a movie quote and a little bit of learning about Traditional Chinese Medicine. When we start to tune into our surroundings, we notice lessons in the most unusual places. Again, this is the wisdom we need to overcome our fears, and what better place to start than in getting to know ourselves.

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