The Sadness/Happiness Pendulum

The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. — Allan K. Chalmers

I decided to read this quote at the end of Monday’s yoga class. Afterward, a friend who had taken my class asked me: “Do you have those three things? Something to do? Something to love, and something to hope for?” It made me think about my current situation and the inexplicable sadness I’ve been feeling lately. While I’m fortunate to have something (and someone very special) to love, my “something to do” and “something to hope for” have been feeling forced lately. [My “something to do” is a job that leaves me uninspired and my “something to hope for” rests in the events of other people’s lives: their weddings, their babies, their travels.]

Once again, I turn to yogic philosophy to help me understand why sadness is present in my life when there has been no great loss or tragedy. In her article, Blues Traveler, Sally Kempton reminds us that emotions like anger and sadness “can also be ladders to transcendence. Their power to drag you down can, if properly engaged, lift you beyond the ordinary way of seeing and being.” What’s even more reassuring is the notion of “transformative sadness,” the knowledge that suffering is universal. It is when we feel that we are alone in our sadness that we become lost.

Of course, the sensible solution for someone in my current “sad situation” is to practice yoga. Right? But there are even times when I feel too sad or tired to practice (gasp!). But that’s okay too. Kempton writes: “…sadness begins to reveal its transformational power only when you’re willing to step away from even the most spiritually correct avoidance strategies and turn toward sadness as an immediate present experience, while dropping any ideas, associations, or stories you might want to make up about it.”

So I resolve to let my sadness in without drawing any conclusions about past failures, disappointments, or breakups (!) because I know that the pendulum will swing back and I will be grateful to be happy once again.

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