Dvesha Might Be Holding You Back
I found becoming a mother a devastating experience. There was this explosion of love and attachment for someone like I’d never known before. But, I had completely underestimated how hard it would be to bring an utterly helpless being home and keep it fed via nipple torture every 90-120 minutes. Layered on that was the stress of the almost crippling anxiety that something would go wrong and I would kill my baby in a thousand different ways. He was so tiny and fragile! My rational mind understands how rare SIDS is, but that mind was not in the driver's seat. A chronically sleep-deprived, postpartum depressed, physically torn-up basket case was driving and logic was a foreign concept. That mind also went to some dark places, especially alone in the middle of the night, craving sleep so desperately but needing to feed my baby again. Had I made a terrible mistake? Is life as a parent this awful for everyone?
What I didn’t know was that I would have to reshape my whole identity. Everything about the way my life was run had to shift to revolve around this new being. Luckily, I had a great support system and community that helped me see how life changes a lot with kids and you just have to adapt. I cried so often in spite of being full of new love, that life was constantly uncomfortable, messy, and hard. As my son got older, I was relieved to find that I much preferred spending time with him as he matured and learned to talk. Just like any relationship, it grew more complex and sophisticated, and I found myself genuinely loving being a mom. So much so, that eventually I decided I wanted to have one more child. The thing was, I had grown so attached to not living through all of those brutal elements of newborn care, how could I go back?
I knew this avoidance of discomfort had a name. I had studied it before the fourth klesha that is often written about with its predecessor Raga, the attachment to pleasurable things. This was Dvesha, its opposite. It is the attachment to avoiding things that are unpleasant, often translated to avoidance. I was ready to avoid the hell out of caring for a newborn baby. The tricky thing about dvesha is that staying avoidant can keep you from so many wonderful things. Let’s think about it in terms of asana. There is a much-overused cue of doing the pose as it feels comfortable for you. The reality is that if we always stay comfortable, we may be missing out on benefits that come from releasing the trauma and pain that our body is so good at storing. It can be that tough to hold pigeon that brings cleansing tears that cause you to walk out of practice feeling lighter. In cases of more extreme trauma, moving through uncomfortable poses allows the mind to relearn to trust the body’s ability to protect. Dvesha that keeps us from moving through the fear and discomfort in practice towards that relief, ultimately holds us back. The tricky part is discerning when you’re ready to face it. I am not suggesting it should be painful or retraumatizing to get on your mat. This is all a practice, after all, and it moves in small increments. We have this beautiful teaching from the yoga sutras to help us recognize when we are getting in our way and push us to get through it and on to the other side. I ultimately was able to release the dvesha and dive headfirst back into the sleep deprivation, physical pain, and stress of a newborn because it got me my beautiful daughter, Sophia. It was so worth it.