Owning What’s Ours

I’ve been thinking lately about how I can carry only what’s mine — emotionally, that is.

(If I see you with heavy luggage in the street, I would, of course, give you a hand.)

This has come up for me in several different contexts and conversations over the past few weeks. The cancellation of CurveFest is a perfect example.

How it Went Down

When my knee first started hurting me, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But after I went to the doctor, I knew it was — a really big deal, actually.

So I immediately started crafting a story in my mind that went a little something like this:

  • If I cancel the tour, people will be disappointed.
  • If people are disappointed, they will hate me and Curvy Yoga.
  • If people hate me, I will be out of work.
  • If I am out of work, I won’t have any money.
  • If I don’t have any money, I will have to live on the street.

Broken down like this, I know it looks ridiculous. But it’s amazing how quickly we can spring from someone potentially being disappointed in us to utter destruction.

Back it Up

When I saw how quickly my story was spiraling out of control, I decided to back it up a few steps (okay, a lot of steps). I actually ended up backing it up to before where I started the first time. That looked more like this:

  • I am disappointed that I have to cancel the tour.
  • Because I am disappointed, I am worried other people will be, too, and that that’s not okay.
  • Because I am worried that it’s not okay to disappoint others, I am fearful that bad things will happen.
  • Because I am fearful that bad things will happen, I know I have to do a lot of check-ins.
  • Because I do a lot of check-ins, I realize that all I can do is own my own disappointment and way forward. I have no idea how others will react.

Sorting It Out

That looks more graceful on paper, right? I agree.

But whew — it requires a real hangin’ in there in real life! Because it’s (seemingly) so much easier to spin out all the narratives than to have to hang in with my own feelings, my own disappointment.

If I immediately latch onto others’ disappointment (potential though it may be), I don’t have to look at my own. I can switch into worry/overanalyze mode and conveniently skip over having to do my own work.

The Problem with Not Owning It

Inlots of ways, I prefer to skip over my feelings. Who doesn’t? Staying with your own feelings is rarely fun.

But here are a few problems I’ve found with that bypass: (1) Feeling my feelings is always quicker and less painful than avoiding them for hours, days, weeks, etc., (2) I actually have no clue how people will respond until they do and (3) Even if people are disappointed, that often has more to do with their reaction to the story they immediately started spinning out, than to me.

Curvy Action

Not too surprisingly, this is where our yoga can come in. We’ve got some tools in our toolbox to help out:


First and foremost, all that yoga you’ve been doing has helped you increase your awareness of your body and mind. As you begin to notice you’re spinning into a story, stop immediately, close your eyes (unless you’re driving!) and see if you can notice a particular feeling in your body. For me, I feel a catch around my solar plexus and throat. So if I don’t notice the mental story, if I notice the feeling in my body, I know I need to check in.


Yoga encouragessvhadyaya, or self-study. This is one of my favorite parts of yoga because it’s exactly what we’ve been talking about here — checking in, owning only what’s ours, doing the internal work of transformation.


Have you ever stopped in the middle of an argument and taken one deep breath? It never ceases to amaze me how powerful this is. If you find yourself starting to carry what isn’t yours, you can always return to the breath, to this moment.

Now the Yoga Begins

The first yoga sutra, 1.1, translates into “Now the yoga begins.” My teacher, Cora Wen, brought the power of this to my attention. She helped me see that it’s not just something to skip over when reading the sutras (as I’d usually done in the past) but rather something incredible for our everyday life. NOW the yoga begins. Yes, even now, when we’ve gone into our stories and are carrying the emotional burden of friends, family or people we don’t even know. We can always come back to this moment and begin again.

When you notice you have strapped 10 suitcases’ worth of someone else’s emotional baggage, real or perceived, to your back — without even being asked (or even with being asked) — return to your practice, return to your breath. Set those suitcases down gently, leaving yourself only with your own.

It’s amazing how much freer you can feel.


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  • http://www.bomb-shell-boutique.com/ Denise

    I call this ‘catastrophising,’ but while sometimes I can see myself do this, I’ve never thought about the idea that I’m passing over my feelings and focusing (being distracted is more like it, right?) on others’ feelings. That worry/overanalyze mode? Got my name written all over it. Thanks for the insight about it being another way to avoid feelings. Didn’t see that one coming!

  • http://www.madamemunchies.blogspot.com teryll

    Potent and timely, thanks Anna for the insight and the gentle reminder. :)

  • Peggy Joan

    Anna, I so identify! Thank you so much–I love the “set the suitcases” down idea. Even at the age of 64 I tend to fall into this so not productive trap. I’m printing this out and plan to read it daily.
    P.S. By canceling your tour, you have clearly demonstrated that we cannot love others until we love ourselves–good for you! amen

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  • Karen

    My therapist calls that catastrophizing, too, and it’s absolutely how my brain works. I had one therapist teach me to write out each step (e.g., from “canceling the tour” to “living on the street”), then assign a probability to each one as objectively as I can. How likely is it that, if you canceled the tour, people would be disappointed? If they were disappointed, they would hate you? Etc. Once you multiply the probabilities out, it always ends up being some infinitesimally small chance that the thing you fear will happen. It helped to have that on paper, in black and white.

    Mine were always about doing badly on papers in grad school (which, I was a good student, that wasn’t terribly likely to begin with), eventually leading to having no job or a job I hate, and thus either being poor or miserable. It was absurd, but terrifying.