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I hate thatThe word “hate” has long been an issue for me. In fact, my (oh so hilarious) kids have actually joked, “Mommy hates it when we say we hate something.” And I do. I hate the cavalier use of such a loaded word.

Mostly, I hate it because the word just seems awfully strong when you’re referring to broccoli, or the skin of peaches, or the irritating girl in science class or having to clean up your room. My oldest, always up for a good semantics debate, would invariably ask me what he was allowed to hate if he wasn’t allowed to hate French toast, or whatever was currently offending him. “War. Sickness. Death.” I would reply. And he’d deftly parry with a spot-on retort such as, “But you say you hate to be cold.” And I’d be left hoping at least a bit of my parenting lesson had sunk in because I do really hate to be cold.

I also hate “escorting” spiders out of my living spaces. And fighting. And clutter. And scrambled eggs.

For the record, I also hate how long the list of things I hate just got. For someone who hates the word hate, I wish I’d had to work a little harder to come up with anything that makes me feel the need to use it, let alone a laundry list like this.

But all is not lost. I actually know how to transform hate into tolerance.

I learned how to do this on my yoga mat where I surprised (ok, dismayed) myself by finding something to hate within a practice designed to foster peace and harmony. I discovered on my yoga mat that I hate to be upside down. To this day, it rattles me. Sometimes I get a pit in my stomach before going upside down. Often a little voice in my head tries to talk me out of doing the inversion. Almost always I have to dig deep to find the will power and determination to move into one of these postures.

Yet, six days a week, I go upside down. Some days, just twice. Most days, however, I opt to do this thing that I instinctively hate five or six or more times. Facing my fear over and over again has helped me to develop a deep level of understanding of my hate. Repeated experience helped me see that fear is at the root of my hate. Once I understood that I was afraid, I was able to focus on better understanding these postures. This knowledge combined with loads and loads of practice has brought me to a place where I can do (most of) the inversions in my practice safely and even confidently.

While I could have skipped over these postures, thus avoiding a lot of unpleasant sensations and hard inner and outer work, I “manned up.” I worked hard. I endured the pit in my stomach and the cold sweat. I ignored inner voices that frankly made a boatload of sense to me while I was in the grip of my fear. I dug deep and turned myself upside down. And – though it’s not always pretty and I still don’t like it – I always do it. In short, rather than allowing my instinctive hatred of being upside down to control me, I choose to control it.

This is yet another one of those skills that works as well off the mat as on. Interestingly, I actually use the thought, “I hate that!” as a flare of sorts. (Good news! We don’t have to stop cold turkey!) When I catch myself having this reaction to something or someone, I know it’s time for some hard work. It’s time to try to understand what it is about spiders that makes my skin crawl, what it is about fighting that sets my teeth on edge and what it is about clutter that makes me feel so unsettled. Finding my way to this new understanding takes practice. Sometimes a lot of it.

Each time I bring myself face to face with something I hate, I can rest assured that the next time will be easier. And while I may never love spiders or fighting or clutter, I know I will one day be able to tolerate them. I know this because I now tolerate being upside down in a mostly calm way that I could never have imagined when I first faced these loathsome postures. Speaking as someone who hates to hate, I’ve found that tolerance is well worth the hard work required to get there. It leaves you feeling a million times better than hate does.

So, let’s make a deal with one another to work on transforming at least one of our “hates” into tolerance. Just don’t make me choose to work on scrambled eggs.