I’ve had a lot of “duh!” moments throughout my life, where suddenly, the veil is lifted, and a seemingly simple truth I’ve heard many times is revealed to me like never before. Sometimes it’s a big concept, and sometimes it’s just something small my mother told me years ago that I could’ve heeded and spared myself some trouble. While it’s always gratifying to have a revelation like this, it can also be rather humbling to look back upon what I said and did while under the spell of my own ignorance.
I remember one such moment well. In a yoga class several years ago, muscling my way grimly through pyramid pose, I had the realization that I was being unkind to myself. Nothing new there. I observed my critical thoughts of inadequacy in the pose as I pushed myself too hard, too deep, too fast. And I wasn’t enjoying myself either. Imagine that!
But then, it was like a light went on, and in that moment I had the deep recognition that if I didn’t get a clue about how to quit judging myself so mercilessly and being so damned hard on myself, I would never be able to inspire anyone else to do so as a yoga teacher, mother, or friend. And not only that, I would likely look upon my students, my children, and my friends with the same harshly critical eye, and THAT was not okay with me.
It’s not like I hadn’t been told many times to “take care of myself” so I could “be good for others”. It wasn’t as if I was unfamiliar with the idea that I had to love myself in order to love others. I had assumed I was already doing what I needed to just by doing my practice (which was true to a degree, as it led me to the revelation!). But my lack of tenderness towards myself was deep and reflexive. What is the point of any “spiritual” practice if all it does is serve to reinforce the practitioner’s bad habits? I had to change my approach.
I suppose what was revealed to me in that moment was a variation of The Golden Rule, in this case, “Do unto yourself as you would have yourself do unto others“.
While this particular insight seemed to come in a flash, in reality, plenty of groundwork was laid before it really came to me. Years of learning and practicing prayer and meditation, smashing my face into stinky yoga mats, crying in therapist’s offices, and sitting in dingy church basements listening to others tell their stories continues to pay off with breakthroughs like this.
The key to working with this new insight has been learning how to meet myself again and again right where I truly am, not where I wish I was, and yoga practice is a very good place to work on this project. What good is going deep into a pose when I’m stressing my body to the point of injury? And what IS the definition of “going deep”? For me, going deep often means backing off and getting real with myself about where I truly am and working forward from that point with more awareness and subtlety, and of course, kindness.
*Photos by Artnoose, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en