Death has seemed to permeate spare moments recently. First I learned of the death of an influential teacher, then the news of the suicide of Robin Williams. In the meantime my own mind was manufacturing thoughts of my own death, so when I heard about Williams my thought was, “wow, he lasted a long time.” All the listings seemed to include his age at 63, a full 20 years more than I’ve lived, and in the moment of my own darkness that was seeming really amazing (as in how could he do it: live so long with such hopelessness!)—and I write this also knowing that 63 can be very young, but for someone carrying psychological heaviness 17 can also feel old.
In 2011 I wrote a couple pieces on SUICIDE (Suicidal Education. How Thinking on Death Might Help. and Open to a Radical Acceptance of Life, including Death and Suicidal Thoughts.). And a few years later, my thoughts on the matter have developed—go figure!
I was saying that suicidal thoughts can be seen as faulty ideation—which they can! But I also think that there is something to be honored and respected about experiences of pain and difficulty, and to simplify that process may not serve as strongly as delving deeper. And to just give some credit to the experience that life is hard when you feel that.
It is possible to try to live in a positivity bubble, but I think if we are lucky it will actually burst to let more of reality in. It is very hard to have one’s state of awareness shaken, but I also think that we are here to heal. And as we start to move through some of our personal pains, then it is time to open our cloak a bit wider to serve community and world concerns, and this—in my experience—wraps back in to deeper personal healing.
Let me explain about the “positivity bubble”:
Earlier in my process of learning yoga, I heard people talking of “news fasts” to clear your self of negativity. This can either be a helpful break, or the beginning of a habit to block out information. I do think it’s okay to choose and be discerning about news sources, but I also think that it is important to be open to hearing news beyond one’s self. Also it was suggested to use affirmations to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. I tried this, and what I discovered at that time was that my mind has a bullshit detector. Lying to myself had limited effect, but to ask yourself those questions about growing into greatness to help open a mental door you might not have seen before can have a helpful effect of affirming a positive light in the self. And practices of only surrounding yourself with happy people seems fake, and can be warped into only engaging in friendships and interactions that will advance one’s social standing or wealth which can result in more imbalance in our culture at large. Everybody’s individual actions (and actions of our ancestors) accumulate to produce all of the disparity and injustice in the world today. What are the actions that are more inclusive of community and world wellness?? is a question I ask in an attempt to direct healing rather than adding to the weight of the dynamics of injustice I see in the world today.
So if the positivity bubble isolates a person with people of power/privilege all lying to themselves, then it should be opened to include more air, information and people with different backgrounds and experiences. plainly said.
On the other hand I do think it’s important to bring love and compassion to life’s interactions, this is different from the harmful, policing, isolating form of positivity practice I was offering some space to explaining above.
People should not use yoga and positivity practice to isolate themselves, people should use yoga to amp up energy and vibes that can help serve physical, mental and emotional healing with a greater goal of inclusivity of self-understanding, people, and environment in perceptions, awareness and choices.
I have discovered a great deal of healing in developing my self and connecting to others beyond the yoga community. At this point it seems like a non-negotiable to allow myself freedom to explore gender identity. It really seems clear that when “male” and “female” boxes are applied to things like identity, personality, skill-sets, and body type that those differences are often false. And to freely discover and be who I am means to look beyond who I was taught to be, and so much of that has to do with having been seen to have what is called a female body. There is also a spiritual healing that is represented by the integration of so-called male and female aspects in one’s self. Is it just taboo to talk about it in lived perceptions?
I think that the power differences that men and women commonly experience help to make our culture oppressive and harmful (rape culture is already an established concept, wage differences are also commonly known about). And I don’t believe that there is anything about this that needs to be permanent. We are humans. We can grow. We can learn, integrate, and heal. I believe that a part of this healing work has to do with how gender is commonly seen to be divided into 2 categories or classes. And I also think that this “war” not only harms the people involved, but it also distracts from the complexities of healing race and the harms, not yet fully healed, of slavery and colonialism on people and land.
What makes me want to live is a belief in love and healing, and to have specific ways that I, Brooks Hall, can experience and express love of self and others, and concrete ways that I participate in change, including cultural change that supports freedom of personal and gender expression. What stops me is overwhelm, and I promise to take daily steps to release that pressure.
So what I’m saying is that my life and artistic expressions of late have offered me a lifeboat of survival. It is no small matter or frivolous pursuit. To pursue ideas and expressions that can be challenging for people can appear like a kind of suicide, since the culture I am in values conformity. Men are like this. Women are like this. Yoga teachers are like this. I know I am not alone. In fact I know people who seem way more courageous to me than myself, but I do feel that I am doing my part in healing by pushing my own boundaries and creating an artwork, a life that is mine—while I have it.