“Sometimes terms such as “suffering”, “troubles”, or “sickness” are used to explain the meaning of dukha, but it is best described as a feeling of being restricted. Dukha is a quality of mind that gives us the feeling of being squeezed. It is not to be compared with physical pain. There does not need to be any physical pain to experience a feeling of great dukha. The level on which dukha works is the mind….Even if we do not have a need to express our feelings in tears, somehow we feel disturbed deep within ourselves, painfully bound and restricted.
..There is dukha at different times in the life of every human being. We all have the goal of eliminating dukha. That is what the Buddha taught. That is what the Vedanta strives for. That is what yoga tries to achieve.”
– T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga
Have you ever woken up in the morning and for no reason that you can fathom, felt a little funky and blah?
This happened to me a few weeks ago and although I can’t put my finger on anything tangible – because nothing actually changed or happened to me personally, “funkyness”, like inexplicable, physical pain, can sometimes seem to come out of nowhere. It’s almost like that one tiny, extra grain of rice that somehow tipped the scales.
The feeling hasn’t entirely gone away, although it has ebbed and flowed and I am starting to feel clearer. I have, on and off, felt tired in my head, flat, sometimes foggy, a little tearful, anxious and easily irritated. It’s not serious, but something is amiss.
When things like this happen we often wonder why. And there are many things it could be, such as change of season, change of life, fighting off a virus or other bug, taking on just one or two things too many, running out of time for self and maybe not enough quiet time. Some might even suggest it’s all to do with dud planetary alignment. And you might agree – if you believe in such things!
Perhaps all the above.
When I look back to pre-funk, a few weeks ago, there was yet another tragic local story that involved the untimely death of a child. I think it was about the fourth such incident in the space of a few months. When you live in a small community, there is often only one degree of separation. But there is – or has been thus far – at least that. This child though was the same age as my eldest and I knew we had met. I had taught him and his brother some yoga a few years ago as part of an after school program. I remember briefly chatting with their mum one day when she came to pick them up. You don’t have to be a parent for things like this to break your heart. But when you are a parent, you can literally feel the ache of the family right down into your bones. I know I am not the only one who had a feeling like that. It’s your worst nightmare. It messes with your head and takes your imagination to places you really don’t want to visit.
A week or so later it was the 15th anniversary of a friend’s suicide. And a reminder that that much time had passed – in a flash.
It’s quite possible that was the start of it, although I have got much better these days at not allowing my thoughts and fears to take over. Consciously at least. (But then sub-conscious has been known to out-smart).
Like most people, I’ve suffered the funky feeling and lack of spirit before a few times – although thankfully, it’s been a while. Once upon a time I might have wasted energy fighting it and/or money buying magical supplements to “make myself feel better” . These days though, I know it will go away, but I also know I have to be gently proactive and patient. I have to be aware of it without buying into it. Watch. Observe. Accept. To remind myself to be nice to me.
We are all busy these days. It’s hard just to keep up. Most of us have very full lives. For those of us with kids and family, it becomes normal to put others’ needs first and there may be very little time to nurture self. Even those of us in the health industry have to be very careful that we don’t end up like the proverbial builder who takes on so much that they end up living in the most dilapidated house in the street! But how can we possibly continue to do our best for others if we end up falling over due to self-neglect? It’s the very reason why putting ourselves first is an absolute priority. It’s the reason the safety blurb before we take off on an aeroplane instructs us to do just that. And let’s be honest; strength and resilience is far more useful to those around us than martyrdom.
The other night, thanks to Grandparents and sleepovers, I was alone. My partner was away for the weekend. I was tempted to arrange a night out – dinner and/or a movie with my girlfriends but therapeutically, what I really needed, was time to myself. For the first time in a long time, I went into my yoga space and did the most beautiful, relaxed practice. The room was dimly lit and all I could hear was the sounds of cicadas and frogs. No wind, no cars, no neighbours.
No children came looking to find me.
No husband wanting to ask me something.
For the first time in a long time, I found myself truly practising. My body flowed, my mind stilled. And it was all about me.
Putting Yourself in Time Out
I know it’s not always possible to find time for yourself to just “be” and reflect. It isn’t and that’s it. It’s why the funk often creeps in a few weeks or months after the birth of a baby and during early toddlerhood when your mind is on overdrive. You can find yourself running all day, up several times during the night and left with no energy or spark. It’s why those people who drive hours to get to work, sit for nine or more hours and then drive home and end up doing nothing but kid sports and household chores on the weekend, also end up feeling the funkster – and not in a good way.
I am lucky. I’ve been here and I recognise what’s going on. Because of this I know what to do and I don’t doubt it will be easier to get back on track. It’s a lesson in a way, once again, to not take my mental or physical health for granted. To take time out whenever possible and to not keep on keeping on, somehow believing I will get away with it. For that, I am grateful.