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Yes. It is a fearless act to love myself.
Love is like joy, I believe.
Unlike happiness, joy, as I have experienced it, is not really an emotion, but an awareness.
When I am aware of joy, I am nearer to something like contentment than happiness.
I may not feel great in the moment I recognize joy, but I am likely able to see the abundance in my life, and open to gratitude for all that has paved the way for me to be where I am in the present moment, without feeling sublime.
With the inspiration of Yoga Healer founder, Cate Stillman, I now have sticky notes in all the important places that simply say, “ease.” I see the word ease, and because it is the feeling I most desire to cultivate, I remember that in order to feel easy, in order to manifest it, I need believe it is possible, in this moment, right now.
This is not to force any sort of round self into some desirable square hole I long to fit in. Instead, it is a reminder that,
If I am where I am, which I most certainly and always am, and I open myself up to the possibility that there is goodness in this moment, opportunity for love and learning, for self-acceptance and transformation, the above mantra is much more easily digestible. It becomes like my breath. I am unaware of the exact words, I fully accept reality, and am eager to take in everything around me.
It is in these moments I catch myself uttering momentarily regrettable prayers like, “bring it,” or “continue to reveal to me my own biases,” or “show me when I speak over others so I can catch myself.” Often, these prayers are answered…
Joy is like that. To be joyful, I believe, requires acknowledging reality.
This includes the pain of ourselves, others and the world, deep and dark emotions, anger, regret, confusion, and fear. It also includes the mundane, daily tasks so easily looked over we forget they can actually be acts of #fearlessselfcare!
And, joy it includes fleeting happiness, genuine sense of belonging, courage, and our personal markers of success. Reality includes it all. So if joy includes the dark stuff, the light, shiny sparkly stuff and everything in between, I can see it as possibly non-fluxuating, non-emotional.
Joy, then, is acceptance. Joy is contentment with where I am, and who I am today, plus the belief that I am where I need to be, and that here, or on the path that I am now traveling, I can prosper.
Back to Love.
Love then, unlike liking (a preference), can also be a grounding, stable experience, a truth, a way of being (not necessarily doing) rather than an emotion.
Love moves beyond like, agree? Loving another drives us to do things we may not do for someone we like, but do not love….Sure, there are many ways to love and other expressions of the word, love.
Here are a few: admiration, loyalty, commitment, giddiness, butterflies, exuberance.
Here are a few more: acceptance, trust, letting go, respect, patience, non-assumption, space.
It took me many unwanted months of deep, dark reality to discovery that second batch. What happened when I did, was what I can only describe as a softening, an opening within me. Simultaneously I accepted that darkest saddest reality I could have imagined at that time and I was filled with compassion, not only for myself, but also for the person I loved the most, who chose to walk away. It was, and continues to be, unlike anything I have ever experienced. Pity was relieved by hope.
But it was not at all possible to experience this all encompassing compassion without loving me, without accepting me, without including myself in the joy picture, in the prosperity picture, in the “I’ve got everything I need picture.”
It is a daily choice to step into fearless self-love. At first, I had to do it by the hour. Even, at times by the minute. In those moments my aim was to remind myself of my belief that, like all others,
I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
I am absolutely the most amazing being there is, and so is every other being.
I am loving and lovable beyond my imagination, as are all others.
I am no worse, nor any better. I am complete and connected; we all are.
I Can Be My Own Worst Judge
If I get caught in the “I’m not be capable of loving in the way another feels loved” trap, or the “there is a big problem only I can solve” trap, or the “there is not enough; not enough time, money or compassion” trap, the self-love jumpsuit, that permits me feel all pain and not be washed away by it, all but disintegrates.
I stumble into blaming others, myself, even inanimate objects, judging anything that can be judged, my healthy habits are reasoned away and the jumpsuit of love is replaced by fear.
Do you recall that childhood saying, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything you say bounces off of me and sticks to you?” I don’t suggest you repeat it to your child or adopt it yourself.
While I don’t feel lovable when I believe cruel things other hurt beings tell me, I also don’t want to bounce those cruel things back.
Love listens and sees. Fear runs, bounces cruelty back, and, unfortunately as I have learned, absorbs the nastiness, too.
Bring On Compassion
So what happens when the jumpsuit starts to disintegrate and the naked feeling of vulnerability (read Brené Brown’s, Daring Greatly to learn more about this!) is scary enough to turn to fear instead? Well, this is where compassion comes in, darling.
You may recall, from one of my newsletters, the encouragement meditation teacher, Tara Brach offered me to take good care. This included guidance speak to myself in these moments of deep pain the way a loved one or mentor would. I start there if I need to, or, if I am able, I speak to me from me.
Sometimes if helps to write myself a love letter, or give myself a “you are a badass” pep talk (another good read: You Are A Badass). In both cases, I acknowledge reality. Often a hand finds my heart, sometimes there are tears, sometimes I feel resistant, other times I melt right away.
The only way back into the jumpsuit of love (picture a red or pick union suit or your favorite underwear if you like), is to face, full on, open armed, exactly what is real now (situations and feelings).
A note about feelings/emotions. No, I don’t believe that what we feel is always a reflection of the truth. For example, I feel sad because a Yoga student who said they loved my class has not shown up for weeks, so I tell myself I must have royally offended her and she will never come back. The feeling of sadness is real, absolutely!! The assumption I made because of that feeling, well, it’s often totally missed the mark!
Another beloved tool I utilize is an app. It’s called Chill. Yep. Just now, when I looked at my phone, what I now consider my internal voice of wisdom in the form of a few words on my screen, said, “Slow down. Everything is just fine.” I take a deep breath. I choose to believe this. And I move on, more slowly.
Once I am back in the saddle of loving myself, at first there are some of the fleeting feelings of love and happiness mentioned earlier: exuberance, glee, even invincibility. Right away I recognize these as feelings, and enjoy them:) I may feel radiant, and grateful to feel again alive. I also work here to settle my, at times, sky high energy to a place where I can be like a raft on the waves, letting the breeze and water move around me, accepting the cold, the warm, the smooth and the turbulent as they are.
I used to get irritated with sayings like, “life is a journey, not a guided tour.” I realize now, though, that it is a journey, and it is my responsibility to stay awake and aware to how this journey is guiding me, whether on expected or new terrain, whether bumpy or breezy.
Sigh. Give yourself a moment here to breathe in deeply and let out a sigh. The journey of self-love is worth it. And it is a fearless one. One that requires a similar depth of commitment it takes to love others we don’t always like.
Be fearless, friend. Choose love. Choose you. Make a List of Realistic Non-Negotiable ways, and start now.
Fearless self-lovers post 2/20/16 workshop. Aren’t we radiant?
No one showed up to take my class
(that’s not what I wanted, or was it?)
This hasn’t happened in a while, a long while, but it did today. Parts of me squirmed as 9:00, then 9:07 rolled by. The wi-fi was down, so I couldn’t squeeze in any work. And, I’d already completed my personal Yoga and meditation practice.
I picked up a grown-up coloring book from the studio coffee table and a cheery yellow colored pencil, and began filling in the part that would best deliver a true sign of Spring and abundance. I kept coloring for 15 minutes, showing myself I could create something beautiful while I did my duty of waiting 15 minutes before closing the doors and heading home.
Your True Nature Is Joy
As I was coloring I recalled the reading I shared with my Restorative Yoga students from The Secret Power of Yoga, Nischala Joy Devi’s Women’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. I read verse 1.3:
” United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature –joy.”
And the beginning of her explanation: “When consciousness reunites and remains undisturbed, our true Divine nature is revealed as joy. The expression of this joy is infinite love, which encompasses and then transforms everything it touches. Everywhere we look, we see the reflection of our Divine joyful nature.”
If my true nature is joy, then unbridled anxiety (about a no show Yoga class or even an uncertain future) has no place in me.
A friend recently brought her hand to her chest as she said something like,
“if I just paid attention to her–my soul, which isn’t that difficult,” I could get to know who I really am, and thrive.
When we are in touch with who we really are, this is when we open ourselves up to possibilities we otherwise couldn’t have imagined.
Law of Attraction or Law of Accessibility?Two winters ago, in my darkest days, I walked by a bench where I often imagined an older, wiser, more content version of myself sitting in waiting for me. The message I received as I walked by, dragging my very being of doubt, hopelessness, and insecurity, was this:
It’s going to be even better than you could ever imagine
What happened after this moment was pretty remarkable. I started believing that could be true. My life situation didn’t quickly solve itself. I still struggled regularly with deep sorrow and lack of appetite. But what changed was my belief that I not only had everything I needed already, but that abundance was coming. When I think of the Law of Attraction, I sometime feel a little prickly, irritation and concern for us humans as we continue to think we have and know it all. What I realize though, is that this mindset prevented me from believing I could have what I want, need, and know could be available to me.
The way I frame this thinking now goes like this: I believe that all we need and could cause us to thrive is equally accessible to all of us. It doesn’t magically come closer to us once we name we want it, but we are able to believe in it’s existence and begin to see it once we do.
- What do I really want in life?
- Why is family important to me?
- What does an optimal partnership look like?
- Why do I want to be financially successful?
While I have been amazed at what pen on paper reveal to me in my answers, I still do not know my future. I mean, do you? Does anybody? What I am beginning to know though, is the answer to a question I began asking while lying in bed late at night as pre-teen, “Who am I?”Without words, I am beginning to feel her, my soul within, to pay attention to her, give time, space, room to breathe. And when I do, I begin feel my own permission to be angry, tired, eager, uncertain, patient.
How will you choose to color your world today?
The first workshop was so wonderful. A room of vulnerable, passionate, courageous women. Every time I teach is an opportunity to reintegrate my own practices, to up my own ante, to accept that sometimes I need to go back a step, slow down, stake my claim, pause, or just breathe. I do hope to see you in January!
In the summer, many libraries have read-a-thons for kids. Beaches and airplanes host millions nose-in easy reads. I wasn’t able to stick to just one novel at a time this go ’round, too much chaos, not only in the country, but in my heart, my head, the space around me. This is a season of change, a season of plenty in my life, and my nightstand chock full of teachers’ and inspirers’ words, as well as my own sleepily written in a journal atop them, reflects that.
As a toddler, my father reports that I preferred to sleep with books than stuffed animals. I will note that I, too, loved the fluffy cuddly inanimate creatures and still have my beloved Blueberry Bear stashed away for safe keeping. My living stuffed animal, my dog Porter, is ne’er far from my side when I read from the current stack at my bedside.
I collect them. I could spend a full day in a library or bookstore reading backs and inside covers, absorbed in awe of all the stories and knowledge out there. Books for me, words for me, are like friendships, are like people. I love nothing more than growing deep in knowledge of another being, listening, feeling, smiling, taking in what they offer, giving what they’ll receive. My brother once pointed out, as he hugged in shoulders, not surprised when I told him excitedly of a new friend I’d made on a plane ride, that everyone I meet becomes a friend. I’m not so sure that’s entirely accurate, though I do greatly value my connections with people, with story, with the life we share when we connect. They have benefitted me more than any amount of money or knowledge. And yet, I yearn for quiet– to hear a one-sided tale now and again.
Finding my way into quiet, with or without the company of a good book, has been the most healing journey of my life thus far. Much like Shauna Niequist describes hers,
“My life is marked now by quiet, connection, simplicity…I fail and try again more often than I’d prefer. but there is a peace that defines my days, a settledness, a roundedness. I’ve been searching for this in a million places, all outside myself, and it astounds me to realize that the roundedness is within me, and that maybe it was there all along.” (Present Over Perfect, p. 27)
That said, what I glean from a good read, is similar to a good friendship:
- A reflection of truth, often the authors, but one in which I see my own humanity reflected, and therefore have compassion for the story teller
- A meaningful challenge, a reflection of the writer that sparks me to see a different perspective, or yearn to
- An affirmation of goodness, the value of life, the connection we have to all of life, and the inspiration to care
- An inspiration to write, to record, to document, to process, to play creatively with words, oh I do love words.
It wasn’t until after my college years of studying social movements, inequality, and the unjust education and criminal justice systems, plunging my nose into beloved tellings, like I’ve Got The Light of Freedom, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and The Skin That We Speak, that I got the novel fix. I plowed through historical fiction, All the Light We Cannot See, and the trendy dystopia, The Hunger Games. I found my way, eventually, back to true stories, real lives, steeped in hopeful, heart-breaking, spiritual and transformational goodness.
This season of change, I keep clearing my nightstand with a weekly room sweep, but the stack grows within the week to these below that I seem to need to keep open all at once:
The last two, novels, beckon me like a dream, but it’s only a few reads before I yearn again for reality, grit, tangible tangy truth that reminds that I, too, am real.
So, what are you reading?
It’s time again to reconnect with what inspires you;)