May 18, 2013

Joy & Pain: Learn to Feel Again. ~ Dusty Ranft

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“I want to take away your pain. But I can’t. And so instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.”  ~ Excerpt from Brene Brown’s Parenting Manifesto.

I want to take away your pain.

Isn’t that what we all want to do for the people we love? We want to comfort them; tell them what to do about it—to fix what ails them. And yet, we can never do that for someone else can we. This is not to say that we can’t be a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen when you are falling to pieces in your way, the way you fall to pieces. We can hold each other up. We can soften the blow. And yet you (and you alone) must feel your way through the pain of your life.

No one can take away your pain.

In a recent yoga class, I read this quote aloud. Students were lying on their backs, arms resting on their mats—long down by their sides, legs extended, feet splaying out. Most eyes were closed. We had already taken a deep, deep breath: In-through-the-nose. And a long slow release of breath: Out-through-the-mouth. In. Out.

Release the tension, I tell them and let go of the stress of the day. In and Out: I see their belly’s rising high before giving way to the inevitable fall; like an ocean wave—Back and forth. Navel to spine, rising—falling.  I watch them try to let go. I see their toes and fingers relax and I begin to read, “I want to take away your pain.  But I can’t. And so instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.”  I tell them this sentiment is from the amazing-truthsayer- researcher-story teller, Brene’ Brown. Dr. Brown. This is what she tells her children, her parenting manifesto—her wish. This is her truth for them, and that is what I wish for my students, for the world.  I want to sit with them—to teach them how to feel the pain.

Truthfully many days, this is exactly what my students do for me.  On those days that I hide under my smile while slowly bleeding inside—cut by life’s daggers.  I am destroyed by the day, and yet my job is to teach. And so I do.  I show up as I am.  I meet my students where they are.  We meet somewhere in the middle.  We hold space for one another to simply feel the pain (life’s inevitable sufferings) and move through it when it’s time.

These moments of practice (and that is what it is: practice) make the great days better. When we allow ourselves to feel our pain; when we skillfully navigate the choppy waters of our oceans filled with sorrow, we can sail across the calm seas. When we really feel the pain, we can fully feel joy, love, hope and healing. This is our reward. The lesson is within the battle.

If we try and circumvent or avoid the storm, if we always sail around the rising waves, we remain unskilled sailors in an ocean of troubled waters.  Our journey will leave us wet, battered, and salty. Unmarked—but asleep.

This has become a learned skill. We must learn to feel again. There are a million different ways to not feel…Just flip on the television:  3-Hour Energy, a plethora of prescription medications (minor side effects only involve rectal bleeding and occasional drooling; you’ll be a hoot at dinner parties!). We drink. We smoke. We eat…a lot.

But we do not feel.  

Feelings—We push ’em down.

This is why the practice of yoga: Our struggle on our mats becomes the struggle in our lives. We learn to observe how we show up, day-in and day-out. Over time, as we twist and reach, stretch and hold, breathe and release, something gives way.  A flood gate is opened. The undercurrent in our lives begins to flow and we begin to feel our bodies.  Years of unfeeling seeps through our pores like last night liquor. The old just gets old; it moves on. We release it into the air: history’s vapor.  The new has room to swell. Our mat becomes a safe place to lay our amour aside; relax our fists:  Give up the struggle.

I want to take away your pain.  I really do.  And yet, it wouldn’t help you in the end my friend.  So let’s just sit together for a bit…Let’s teach each other how to feel it instead.


Dusty Ranft (RYT-500, RN) is a wild one.  A writer, yoga teacher, studio owner (in the making), runner, foodie leanin’ vegan, Mommy to Big Doggie (a Pit bull rescue), (retired) nurse, health nut, smoothie drinkin’— juice makin’ lover of life.  She has beat the holy hell out of Cancer, ran two marathons, won many games of thumb wars, read thousands of amazing books, and lives trying to answer the universal questions:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Dusty has decided to turn pro in life.  She believes that all of life is practice and pumps her fist in the air every time she reads these words by Steven Pressfield, “Once we turn pro, we’re like sharks who have tasted blood, or renunciants who have glimpsed the face of God.  For us, there is no finish line.  No bell ends the bout.  Life is the pursuit.  Life is the hunt.  When our hearts burst…then we’ll go out, and no sooner.”  You can find her practicing handstands every chance she gets, teaching what she learns in her yoga classes, laughing really hard, pleading with the muse to shine inspiration on her writings, and sharing gritty realism with her closest companions.  If that isn’t enough, look on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramPinterest and follow the growth of Tree House Yoga (a soon to be brick and mortar replica of her heart).

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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