“Oh come on – be reasonable!” Perhaps your parents used to say that to you, or you heard it from a co-worker or an ex. Our society strongly emphasizes “reasonable” behavior. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t do anything that makes others feel uncomfortable, and certainly don’t be too demanding. This may go even further, to the point where we feel we can’t ask for anything and are not allowed to enjoy life. We shrink like unwatered flowers, shriveling up into the ground under the belief that we’re not allowed to follow our joy or our dreams.
Good enough reasons
When we do want something, we feel the need to have good reasons. This is especially true if you decide to do something in your life that is, shall we say, a little out of the ordinary. Maybe a little outlandish, unconventional, or “impractical”. “WHY do you want to do that?” We feel pressured to have an explanation, a good reason so that others will understand and feel more comfortable about it, and so that we don’t have to deal with the questioning of our behavior.
Strangely enough, we’re often pressured to have reasons and explanations for our feelings, too. If you’re feeling really happy, walking around with a smile on your face, people want to know why. What’s the reason? And if you don’t have an answer, you’re either considered to have some secret up your sleeve, or you’re a little wacky.
If you’re walking around with tears in your eyes, the demands for explanations are even more pronounced. When someone cries, especially in public, we figure there must be a really good reason. “What’s wrong?” we say, when someone we know sheds tears. Of course we want to know why.
But what if they don’t have a clear-cut answer for that? We might consider the person to be over-sensitive, weak, or unstable. Some people are so uncomfortable with their own tears that it brings up angry reactions to see someone cry. The person crying may be verbally attacked for having their feelings. At other times, people may avoid them because it’s too uncomfortable to consider releasing similar feelings that are buried inside.
The to-do list to feel happy
As a result, we end up going through life feeling that we don’t have reason to be happy. Or at least good enough reasons.
In fact, we fill ourselves with a whole laundry list of things to do before we feel we can be content. I haven’t achieved this, I haven’t accomplished that, I don’t have this much in the bank or own a house or a car. I’m not in the relationship I want to be, I’m not yet married, or I’m married and no longer single, or I’m now divorced or widowed. We have so many reasons for being dissatisfied, and we never seem to achieve those elusive prerequisites for happiness.
Can’t be satisfied
This shows up in yoga class, too. We don’t give ourselves permission to enjoy what we’re experiencing. If we don’t do it perfectly, or make progress, then we’re unhappy. We feel we can’t be satisfied until we do it as good as that person over there, or until our fingertips can touch the floor. “I’ll only be satisfied when I can kick up into Handstand”.
What’s interesting – and perhaps even more frustrating – is that even when we do accomplish some of these goals, something else arises. I can’t be content right now, because that person over there is snoring. If they would stop, then I’d be happy and could relax. It’s funny that we constantly give ourselves so many reasons to be dissatisfied and unhappy, and so few reasons to be pleased with life.
Permission to be happy (or sad) beyond reason
Do you think it’s possible to allow yourself to be completely, deliriously happy at any given time of the day? Or even just pleased. You can, if you give yourself permission. You can, if you allow yourself to be a little “unreasonable”, and not have to have a reason for it.
You don’t have to put everything in perfect order in order to be happy. You don’t have to clean the whole house or complete that project before you give yourself permission to enjoy yourself, in this moment. You don’t need x amount in the bank. Everything doesn’t need to be rosy in order for you to allow yourself to smile.
You also don’t have to have reasons to cry, laugh, shout, or dance. Perhaps it just feels good in the moment. When we get too caught up in explanations, we miss the experience. You don’t need to justify why you suddenly decided to skip down the hall or spin around in your desk chair. Being unreasonable doesn’t mean being irrational – it’s about being free of the mind’s
limitations on what we are allowed to experience and express.
Fluctuations of the mind
Reasons are the offspring of “vrttis”, or fluctuations of the mind. We need reason to function appropriately in the world, but at some point, if we are to grow, we need to get beyond our
rational mind. When these “vrttis” run out of control, the rational mind can talk us out of having experiences, to the point that sound reasoning can become irrational.
Here’s a logical sequence of thought: “I need to drive a car to go to a supermarket. Driving the car puts you on the road with other drivers. Being on the road with other drivers increases the risk of accidents. Accidents can cause bodily injuries. Bodily injuries can force you to miss time at work. Missing time at work can cause you to lose your job. Therefore, going to the supermarket can cause me to lose my job.”
We are capable of creating imaginary stories in our heads by allowing these thoughts that appear to be rational to wander into negative territory. Then, we believe we have reason to fear going out of the house or to try a difficult yoga pose. So we stop ourselves before we ever start, and we keep ourselves from enjoying life.
Negative trains of thought
Oh, but I don’t think like that – that’s ridiculous, you say! Well, how about this train of thought: “I can’t touch my toes when I bend forward. I must not be trying hard enough. I must try harder. I still can’t touch my toes. I can’t seem to do this yoga. I must be a failure. I can’t do anything right. How embarrassing. I feel like a loser. Everyone else can do it and I can’t. It’s just like it always was in school. I don’t want to go to yoga class anymore.”
Pretty soon, we’ve given ourselves reasons to feel bad about ourselves, from an objectively neutral situation: bending forward from the hips. You may not even be conscious of this train of thought, but you can guess that when something that seemed innocuous to start with turns into frustration or despair, those fluctuating thoughts are probably the culprits.
The rational, “reasonable” mind, when allowed to run out of control, can completely color our perceptions of the world, for good or bad. These vrttis – fluctuations of thought – often take what seems reasonable to ridiculous places. We begin to believe that the thoughts are real, instead of seeing the thoughts as fleeting perceptions that come and go, like leaves blowing in the wind.
That’s why yogic philosophy teaches us to practice quieting the vrttis, stopping those thoughts, so that we get beyond reasons. What is beyond “being reasonable”? Take out the reasonable, and you get BEING. We begin to experience our true essence, and the true present moment of life, when we stop being reasonable and just focus on Being.
Practicing BEING (without the reasons)
If you’re in a pose (or in traffic, folding the laundry, any number of situations in life), notice your thoughts and your emotions. How are my thoughts coloring this experience? Am I really experiencing the moment just as it is, or have I worked myself into anger, sadness, impatience, or frustration? Do I feel somehow justified – with good reason – to feel this way? What would it be like to let go of those reasons, let go of the grip on those emotions, and accept how this moment is, perhaps enjoying the simplicity of breathing and being?
You don’t need justification to be satisfied with yourself or life. Enjoying any yoga pose for what it is – whether it’s difficult or easy, comfortable or intense – does not require any reason. When we allow ourselves to be with experiences just as they are, life becomes more enjoyable and so do those yoga poses. Let go of the self-imposed limitations of the mind, and be free of reasons, justifications, explanations, comparisons, or agendas. Just for a little while. You can always have them back if you wish.
If you’d like to think of it as being UNreasonable, try that out. It may put a smile on your face, which is already a good start.
Copyright 2003, 2012 by Constance L. Habash