Confessions of a Jealous Girl

Originally published on elephantjournal.com
January 27th, 2013
 

©2009-2013 ~7Roses1BrokenHeart

I have always loved the word pathogenesis. It’s got that sexy Latin sound, so well used in academia, and an open-ended, story-to-tell kind of mystique.

The word refers to the mechanism by which a dis-ease is caused; in yogic terms we might call it the “path” a condition took to manifest. It’s a strong word with gritty possibilities. Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, third edition, defines it as:

“The development of morbid conditions or of disease. Includes the study of the relationship between the cause and the lesions, and that between the lesion and the clinical signs.”

I like to use the word quite liberally.

So when I came up against my least favorite feeling—jealousy—again recently, I decided the best way I could move through it, and the eruption of ugliness that came along for the ride, was to understand its pathogenesis better, both in emotional and biological terms.

We were at dinner, in a New York City restaurant, somewhere in the LES, celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday…

(Now, the caveat to sharing this story is the reality that I live on a tiny island and there’s a good chance the people involved in this story will remember exactly what I’m about to describe. It’s entirely possible that I am throwing myself under the bus. But I’m ready now to hold myself accountable and tell the nasty, stinky, ugly truth of it all.)

So, back to New York, and back to dinner.

When we walked through the door to the restaurant, I was feeling pretty good about myself; I had been practicing a lot of yoga, going regularly to therapy, digging into my work with the Handel Group and taking some pretty big steps in my relationship with my partner. I had just taught a workshop in Providence the night before, and I was excited to be in NYC for the weekend with my boyfriend. I was feeling on top of my game, happy and grateful.

The chef’s table at Sauce was crowded with wine glasses, bubbly, gifts and friends, most of whom had traveled quite a distance to be there to celebrate my partner’s BFF. I was just as game as anyone to revel with her, if perhaps less integral to the group’s many years of friendship: a newcomer to the fold, if you will.

In any event, there was much celebrating and many toasts. I was genuinely impressed by the outpouring of love this woman inspired in her friends, and was beginning to let my guard down when something absolutely awful happened.

My partner got up to speak.

Within a few moments my palms were sweating, my heart was in my throat and I could feel a persistent shaking in my legs. I won’t attempt to reiterate the contents of his speech; suffice it to say that it was one of, if not the most beautiful spontaneous speeches I’ve ever heard anyone give in another person’s honor. One might argue that my partner is naturally gifted at this kind of thing, and that this speech was no different than any other he might give in a similar circumstance to someone of similar value.

Unfortunately, though, there is no one else in his life whom I perceive to be of similar value, except maybe me.

Though I could have gracefully absorbed the sweetly nostalgic references to their romantic history, boxing their consummated courtship comfortably into a rear partition of my brain reserved for all-things-past, the sincerity and depth of my partner’s love for the birthday girl as it existed in that moment ignited a flame of jealousy that unexpectedly overwhelmed me. No sooner had he said, “You are one of the most beautiful women I have ever been lucky enough to know” (or something very similar) than I was thrown into a painful experience of myself as unequal and under-deserving.

“Jealousy injures us with the dagger of self-doubt.”

~ Terri Guillemets

Photo: sea turtle

Questions ensued: Why was his toast making my heart race? Why was I feeling so insecure? WTF kind of yogi was I anyway? And why weren’t the tenets of my practice supporting me in my sincere desire to be happy for this woman and the friendship she has shared with my partner for almost 20 years?

The answer: I was in the midst of an acute attack of what biologists refer to as emotional jealousy, and it was fucking ugly.

Not only did I feel jealous, I was seething with self-contempt for feeling it.

Jealousy has been defined as “a complex of thoughts, feelings and actions which follow threats to self-esteem and/or threats to the existence or reality of the relationship, when those threats are generated by the perception of a real or potential attraction between one’s partner and a (perhaps imaginary) rival” (White & Mullen, 1989, p.24).

It’s a complicated mouthful.

After riffing on his shared past with his friend, and on her amazingness, for what felt to me like an eternity (probably three minutes), my partner sat down and put his hand on my thigh. I saw myself shrink away and flinch before it even happened. I backed my chair away from the table. He, of course, asked immediately what was wrong and I, of course, taking a big swig of wine, protested that nothingwas in fact wrong at all.

Lies.

Looking around the table, I could see that my partner’s display of affection for his former girlfriend was uncomfortable only for me. Only I was feeling threatened. Only my stomach was doing flips beneath my napkin. Only I was thinking of her as the ex-girlfriend. And I was the only one who was no longer at the table. I was far away—stuck in some deep dark place in my head.

Source: toppics.mooo.com via Aimee on Pinterest

 

Was I in the middle of experiencing an attraction between my partner and his ex? No. Was I in the middle of a situation that was threatening my sense of self-esteem? Absolutely, and for a few hot seconds I watched myself grapple with doubt and self-worth all over again. How disappointing it was for me, and probably for my man too.

“Jealousy would be far less torturous if we understood that love is a passion entirely unrelated to our merits.”

~ Paul Eldridge

According to an article by A.M. Pines and C.F. Bowes, published in Psychology Today (March, 1992), jealousy, one of the most common human emotions, is a biological defense mechanism that’s triggered when a person perceives a threat to his or her relationship. Additionally, their study showed that the majority of people who experience jealousy hate the way they act when they feel triggered.

It’s comforting to know I am in good company.

Yogi or not, everyone has suffered romantic jealousy at some point in their lives.

According to these guys, it’s part of our biological make-up.

While that may all be true, we shouldn’t need to read up on the biological imperatives of the female mammal to secure financial and emotional support through the employment of jealous power mechanisms in order to justify our unseemly behavior. We are an evolving group of mindfulness practitioners, yoga teachers and spiritual aspirants, damn it—and I’d be damned if I was going to ruin this woman’s 40th birthday party with my petty insecurities.

When the speeches were over, I excused myself from the table for a few moments and gathered myself in the ladies’ room. At first I tried to talk myself out of what I was feeling, but then I just surrendered to the feelings and allowed them to run their course through my body: not denying them, but not holding onto them either.

I returned to see my partner eyeing me with an uncomfortable mix of worry and despair. Silently, we put the moment on hold, knowing we’d revisit it later. A short while later, feeling relatively back in the game, I took his hand in mine.

This brings me back to the pathogenesis of jealousy.

Unlike envy, the roots of jealousy lie not in the wanting of something else, but rather in the fear of losing what we have or perceive we have.

My jealousies, the ones that keep biting me in the proverbial ass, are all rooted in the same backstory of betrayal, abuse, breaches of trust, the sudden death of a husband—and fearful projections of similar betrayals or losses into the future. They live in a place of deep insecurity and fear of abandonment, which I have been working to heal for some time.

“Whatever relationships you have attracted in your life at this moment are precisely the ones you need in your life at this moment. There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.”

~ Deepak Chopra

Healing.

I think the first half of the healing process comes when we study the relationship between the cause and the development of our jealousies, and acknowledge them as part of who we are rather than denying them. Understanding where our darker patterns come from can help us release them.

The second, and perhaps more important, half comes when we hold an intention to cultivate a stronger relationship with ourselves—when we cultivate self-love. This will help us to feel more whole, and less inclined to look for love and validation from our partnersAadil Palkhivala describes it this way:

“We must shatter the tabloid myth that another’s love is necessary for our survival. Only the love that comes from our deepest Self is essential. True love in a relationship is realized only when two people, each connected with his or her deepest Self, unite. Now we have a synergistic—not a draining—relationship. We love one another not because we need love, not because the other needs love, but because love overflows our cup and we must share. Then, rather than fall in love, we rise in love.”

Rise up.

If I accept that the path I’ve been on my whole life has brought me to my current partner, it is my responsibility to learn as much from him as from any of my other teachers or spiritual guides. Like Deepak says, the Universe has brought us together for a reason.

Photo: Kate Ter Haar

Our partners, like our family and friends, are mirrors, reflecting back to us the things we need most to examine. In my case, as perhaps in yours, I am still learning the art of self-loveAs yogis, we have made a commitment to working towards self-realization for the sake of liberation (moksha) from suffering (samsara). In the process of learning to love ourselves more deeply, we begin to struggle less to hold tightly to others. When we find our true Self, through self-study, meditation and asana, we can feel the bliss that has been living inside us all this time.

“If you love someone, set them free.”

~ Sting

My partner has been involved with some pretty amazing women—strong, creative and beautiful—and most of them are still in his life. It is a testament to the kind of person he is that, despite the break-ups, they are still his friends. He’s a great guy, and it just so happens that he gives big, beautiful speeches that leave his subjects feeling bathed in warm, loving light. I know firsthand how good it feels. How could I not want that feeling for everyone?

“If we are in a relationship with another without being in a relationship with our Self, the relationship with the other will be a dharmic distraction. However, if we avoid a relationship because it exposes our vulnerabilities and discloses our fears, we are avoiding that which can reveal to us how far from Self we are. Nothing can stunt our growth like a relationship, yet nothing can help us blossom more.”

~ Aadil Palkhivala

Let’s step back from the fear of losing what we already have, return to the table, raise a glass and enjoy the celebration. In doing so, we can celebrate each other and our Selves.

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caitlin marcouxCaitlin Marcoux is a yoga teacher, workshop producer, mother, dancer, massage therapist and writer. A former modern dancer, she fuses her passion for music and modern dance with yoga, keeping her flow creative, playful and fresh. Caitlin lives on the tiny Island of Nantucket, MA, year-round with her partner and 3 year-old satguru Griffin. She is an advocate of prenatal yoga, midwifery, elegant tattoos, rockin’ music, living mindfully and “eating like you give a damn.” She teaches a variety of regularly scheduled classes at The Yoga Room and has recently begun teaching workshops in the greater New England area. Caitlin blogs about her practice on and off the mat on her website, and you can find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

Teach Them Young.

Originally published on elephantjournal.com 
January 13, 2013

photo by Robert Sturman

photo by Robert Sturman

No doubt about it, parenting is challenging.

I gave birth to Griffin at home, in table pose, on a well-worn yoga mat. We were in front of the fire, in the middle of the living room. The mat was green and helped hold my focus during Griffin’s lighting speed, two-hour delivery.

You probably know which mat it is: It’s the one with the large tree and floating leaves. Gaiam had it on sale with a matching mat bag several years ago. I’m sure a million people have the same one. Mine was special enough to me to be one of the few things I needed during labor. I had taken it with me on my pilgrimage to Santa Barbara nine months earlier, to the White Lotus Foundation, where it comforted me consistently during the transformative experience that was my first yoga teacher training.

Its California wear and tear soothed me during that riveting night in December of 2009. I still have it—though it now bears the even more poignant markings of Griffin’s birth. I didn’t know it then, but that night, on that mat, a new kind of practice was born.

He loves building towers out of yoga blocks, and skates over the studio’s hardwood floors in his socks. It’s not unusual for him to join in at the end of one of my classes for savasana and a chant an Om or two.

It wasn’t always this way though. Back in 2009, pregnant with Griffin, I made a ridiculous decision that being a Mom wasn’t going to change my yoga.

Wow, was that naive.

It’s difficult to admit (and still makes me feel guilty from time to time) but I struggled with postpartum depression. I resented my own child for taking away my me time, and I resented the world for what I then saw as a detour of my dharma from teaching to parenting.

I labored to find any sort of balance in my life, and I was angry. It took me the first year and a half of Griffin’s life to figure out how to bring my yoga practice and parenting together. But eventually I surrendered to the inevitability that my practice was going to include my son, and being a mother was going to require a serious shift in how I would navigate the rest of my life.

Since then, I have made it a conscious decision to incorporate Griffin into the very essence of what I hope to accomplish with my practice: a deeper sense of equanimity, and alignment with integrity. And so whenever possible I bring him into the fold.

Yoga began for me, as it does for many of us, as a collection of beautiful poses. Then it became a collection of tools I used to build and shape my life, and today shape the way I build my life with my loved ones.

I think this is a common yogic experience.

For many of us it begins with the asanas—we practice and reap the physical benefits, the feel-good highs and the calming moments of stillness. And then, like magic, it turns into something more: a level head, a quieter mind, a meditation practice, a change in diet, or a commitment to healthier mindful living. Maybe we dig a little deeper and study up on the traditional teachings.

If we can integrate our practice into how we run our homes and work our relationships, our children absorb yoga by proxy.

Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah

Yoga is the resolution of the agitations of the mind

I recently took a workshop with Raghunath in Boston, and he started out his dharma talk by speaking to this very evolution. He reminded us that while we were there to practice asana, we were really there to use the practice to clear the vritti, or fluctuations of the mind, and that this could be best accomplished with the breath.

In my practice I have found that indeed, the moments when we slow down our breath, we can slow down the vritti and find a self-awareness that resides only within spaciousness.

“Yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who you are.” ~Erich Schiffmann

When Griffin gets upset now, I’ll hold him and ask him to look into my eyes and breathe with me. Sometimes I put his hand on my chest, and rest mine on his. I try to help him find space between his cries or complaints and simultaneously put a pause on my own reactivity. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes all it takes is a little pranayama and touch, and my amped-up toddler will calm himself down to a place in which we can both be still. We are together practicing mindfulness.

“Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life. Mindfulness enables us to live.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

No doubt about it, parenting is challenging.

It’s one of the hardest (and most rewarding) jobs on the planet. It’s difficult not to take a toddler’s temper tantrum personally, or stay calm in the midst of a Stop N’ Shop Def Con 5–sized meltdown.

Many of us parents find ourselves pressed for time and end up multitasking three or four different things in any given moment—folding the laundry while helping the toddler get his breakfast down, or answering e-mails on our iPhones, while skimming Huffington Post on the desktop and answering questions about the day’s itinerary. It’s all forgivable, but it’s not very mindful. There is no room for space in a torrent of activity like this and it can make usand our children feel claustrophobic.

Now when I find myself having a day like this, my yoga practice reminds me I’m not in alignment with my beliefs.

Multitasking, no matter how time-saving it may feel, produces half-baked ideas and an overcrowded mind. It’s ultimately anxiety-producing.

And it’s not yoga.

The next time you get caught-up in the whirlwind of your “life”/the vritti, practice bringing your attention back to the present moment. Invite into your heart the practice of mindfulness. You will be rewarded with tiny or not so tiny arms wrapped around you, keeping warm and grateful and grounded in a shared experience of the present moment.

“May we learn to allow the stillness in our hearts to live in our minds.” ~Elena Brower

Your children will learn. When you set a positive, mindful, spacious example for them when they are young, they will learn and lift off that much earlier and soar before your eyes.

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Caitlin Marcoux profileCaitlin is a yoga teacher, workshop producer, mother, dancer, healer and writer. She is nationally certified in massage therapy and has been studying yoga on and off for over 13 years. A former modern dancer, she fuses her passion for music and modern dance with yoga, keeping her flow creative, playful and fresh. Caitlin lives on the tiny Island of Nantucket, Massachusetts year-round with her partner and three-year-old satguru Griffin, where she is an advocate of prenatal yoga, natural childbirth, midwifery, elegant tattoos, rockin’ music and eating like you give a damn. She teaches regularly at The Yoga Room and has recently begun teaching workshops in the greater New England area. Caitlin blogs about her practice on and off the mat on her website and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Unworthy

 
Originally published on elephantjournal.com 
December 20, 2012
Caitlin Marcoux, Yoga teacher, writer

Shit Happens.

There have been many times in my life when I have felt grounded and strong, confident and full. I’ve had important jobs and respectable earnings. I’ve had fulfilling friendships and passionate romances. I’ve had critical acclaim, glowing reviews, approved applications and positive survey feedback. There have even been times in my life when I’ve had all of these things simultaneously and have felt a deep sense of fulfillment from both within and beyond. I’ve liked where I was, who I was and what I was doing. I was enough.

But my late 20s were a tumultuous time. I left my life in New York City after 9/11 after an 8 year stint in Brooklyn, and moved to Chicago. While I was there, my best friend died suddenly and inexplicably back home. We were 25. When I was 27, my boyfriend of 2 years and husband of one month was diagnosed with a rare cancer and died 8 weeks later. I was grief-stricken and bereft. Self-doubt crept into my heart and my I’m-going-to-take-on-the-world self-confidence dried up. A few months after Aaron’s death, I found myself snorting cocaine off the back of a toilet in a dive bar in Chicago and severe self-loathing took hold. I made some half-hearted attempts to get back onto my mat, but lost, I found myself spending more time drinking in a toxic relationship than practicing yoga with my friends.

Three years later, fleeing from Chicago, I returned to my hometown and rushed into a second marriage, still full of grief over the last one.  My self-esteem plummeted when just shy of 2 years, that marriage ended divorce, and for a myriad of reasons I began to think myself simply unworthy of true happiness, love, or santosha (contentment).

Then in late 2010 I found myself unexpectedly falling in love again, and the hole in my heart that I had been trying to plug since Aaron’s death felt temporarily full. Of course, it wasn’t long after the flush of fresh love began to calm, that I started to doubt my worth again. Inevitably the high wore off and the emptiness and doubt returned. I started to worry that my new partner didn’t think I was smart enough, successful enough or spiritually evolved enough. I began to judge myself through the harshest of lenses: I didn’t meditate enough. I hadn’t traveled enough. I  wasn’t a global activist. Blah, blah, blah…I stopped talking at dinner parties, and began resenting people for their own exciting stories, careers, adventures and vacations. I began to believe I didn’t have enough to offer my partner, my students, my son or my friends.

I doubt that this is a unique experience. Change the details and substitute names and locations, and any number of people I’ve met in recent years could plug themselves into this story. We’re human. We make mistakes. Shit happens and then we’re faced with choices. Sometimes we make good choices, some times we don’t. If we’re lucky, there are teachers near by who can guide us, or friends who can help us, or family members who can support us.

This time I had my yoga practice to guide me, so in the summer when the doubt started to choke me up again, I made a pact with myself. I would believe myself worthy of being enough. My yoga practice bore witness to this promise, and there was an almost immediate shift. I realized that through the same diligence I was applying to asana I could dedicate myself to the practice of of worthiness.

We can all do this practice. So often we put our faith in external things; belief systems, iconography, cultural identity, religion, and science. Why not instead or in addition to, put our focus on ourselves and start cultivating faith in our own worthiness. Let’s start believing that we are enough. When we do the world opens it arms to us, and love and compassion envelop us. When we love ourselves, faults and all, we are more lovable to other and we can bravely love others right back.

We are more than our past failed relationships, our divorces and losses. We are more than our up-in-the-middle-of-the-night worries. We are not our traumas, we are survivors. We are full of stories that don’t end badly. And even the ones that do, are stories we can choose not to run from, but to learn from.  We are capable, loving imperfectly perfect compassionate beings. When I started believe this (and it’s still not every day) I began to see that I am – and you are- more rich in beautiful experiences than tragic ones. Let’s start identifying ourselves more with the former than with the later.

When you doubt it. Say it out loud. Write it down. Stare at it. And believe it.

You are enough.

You are enough.

You are enough.

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IMG_2030Caitlin is a yoga teacher, workshop producer, mother, dancer, healer, and writer. She is nationally certified in massage therapy and has been studying yoga on and off for over 13 years. A former modern dancer, she fuses her passion for music and modern dance with yoga; keeping her flow creative, playful and fresh. Caitlin lives on the  tiny Island of Nantucket, MA. year-round with her partner and 3 year-old satguru Griffin, where she is an advocate of prenatal yoga, natural childbirth, midwifery, elegant tattoos, rockin’ music and eating like you give a damn. She teaches regularly at The Yoga Room and has recently begun teaching workshops in the greater New England area. Caitlin blogs about her practice on and off the mat on her website, www.caitlinmarcoux.net and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter