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The Yoga of Making Honey

Like the way bees process honey, humans need to learn to fully digest their emotions before they release them into the world.

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Have you ever been to a yoga class where the teacher sits you down, starts talking about her life and then … doesn’t stop? Have you ever found yourself handing out a few too-personal details in front of your own class or with someone you’ve just met? This oversharing is caused by the same syndrome that makes you to write an email the length of a novel when you are upset. You know the one: When you accidentally hit “reply-all”?

Luckily, this particular problem can be greatly helped with a few lessons from the noble honeybee.

Honeybees make love to flowers in order to make their food. They have a particularly effective process for this: They collect various nectars, go back to the hive and vomit it out, sometimes into each others’ mouths, to digest and process the nectar into sweet honey. Good thing, too: Have you ever tried to eat a raw flower? They taste terrible. The honey is much sweeter.

The bees continue this cycle throughout their lives; they go out, gather nectar, digest it, vomit it up, rinse, and repeat. The nectar is collected into common pools, which is then assiduously fanned by tiny bee wings to dry the honey so it does not rot. This is a complex natural food processing plant that takes in the many flavors of the adventures of the bees. Together, the bees combine many different kinds of flower nectar, remove the toxic and the unnecessary, and create sustenance for future generations.

New York yoga teacher Eric Stoneberg says that he likes this “honeybee model” for humans. Anything we share, any form of art or speech, must be, on some level, processed by us internally before we can share it as sustenance for our communities. He warns that if, like bees falling down on their jobs, we don’t process our experiences appropriately they can become toxic, instead of nutritious, offerings.

As a yoga teacher and a writer, I’m always trying to make honey. I want to offer something from my life that is sweet, nutritional, and medicinal. But if I’m going through my own rough period and try to talk about it without having processed it at all, it comes out like–well, like vomit. Toxic for everyone.

A writing teacher of mine, Rachel McKibbens, says that what is happening in your heart has to trickle down into your hand. Writing is an excellent way to facilitate that process: vomit it onto the page, edit it, write it again; encourage the watery emotion to move down to your hand and out onto the page. Yoga practice really helps too: Move the knots from your back and the rot from your belly, and things start to get clearer, less toxic. Eventually you’ve fanned away the excess, crystallized the sugars, and have made something you’ll want to share.

We all have such totally different flowers to make love to. We are lucky enough to have clovers and milkweed, lovers and garbage dumps. The experiences of our lives are uniquely our own, and so what we share will be flavored by our imperfect emotions and reactions, digested, vomited, stirred up, fanned, sweetened, and made into food. No one else can ever tell a story exactly the way you do, or remember a moment in your life exactly like you do. We each have unique medicine to share, and learning to make honey from heartbreaks and heathers is a skill we can all hone. Or drone, if you ask the bees: Either way it comes out sweet.

Julie (JC) Peters is a writer, spoken word poet, and E-RYT yoga teacher in Vancouver, Canada, who loves to affectionately mash these things together in her writing-and-yoga workshops Creative Flow. Learn more about her on her website, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.