Each year, it’s not uncommon for me to write about my challenges with New Year’s resolutions. I used to make resolutions every morning, week, and month, and certainly every New Year. This was when I was in the throws of disordered eating, in my pre-teen and teen years. It was a painful cycle of feeling awful in my own skin… I didn’t like myself. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror or how I felt, and I was years away from loving myself. Now, decades after those painful experiences, I still cringe at our cultural obsession with resolving to be a “new you”.
Yoga teaches us that, at our core, we are perfectly imperfect. We are born into this world with an innate understanding of love, compassion, and equanimity. We already know how to live in relationship with the qualities of non-harming, honesty, and generosity. However, as part of our human condition, these inherent attributes are buried underneath the experience of avidya – not seeing clearly, reactivity, cravings, and fear. We need not search outside of ourselves to become the best version of us. What we do need is practice, commitment, patience, and community, all of which can help us remember our vitality and inherent luminosity, and free us from the shackles of habit and misidentification.
I was talking with a friend recently about chanting, and how people chant in different directions. As yoga practitioners we often chant the same or similar mantras in different melodies, perhaps with different instruments, in community or by ourselves. What I mean by chanting in different directions is that sometimes practitioners will chant to a deity, or God, to invoke the qualities of that being in themselves, versus chanting to that part of themselves that is already awake. The latter is my personal practice. I won’t go into why… that’s another conversation.
I bring this up because when we’re working toward making positive change in our lives, it’s easy to reach outside of ourselves… to look toward someone else that knows “better” than we do… that “looks” like we want to look… that “is” someone that we want to be. Then, we align ourselves to those constellations by trying to do what “they” do. I just used a lot of quotations there (visualize Emily air quotes). While we can all tap into our similarities as humans, and we certainly can learn from each other, it’s counterproductive when we start comparing our differences and fall into the trap of feeling like we’re inferior. Even worse are the feelings that we’re broken in some way.
Don’t get me wrong… despite all the work that I’ve done, I still grapple with challenges of insecurity, inadequacy and imposter syndrome (I’m extremely humbled that I get to do the job I do as a yoga therapist). Right now, I’m here to speak with you from the other side, and I write to remind you that…
YOU ARE ENOUGH
At your core, you know what you need, and, when there’s confusion, there are teachers, practitioners and friends to help guide you. You don’t need the latest diet or exercise fad to achieve a state of self-love and to grow. The practice is to love yourself right now. If that’s not accessible (believe me, I’ve been there), then my advice is to aim toward finding one aspect of yourself that you like… maybe it’s your work ethic, your eyes, or your ability to be a great friend.
A practice of mine as of late has been to contemplate a part of myself that I appreciate each day. One day it might be my sense of humor. Another day it might be my curiosity, or my strong legs as I’m hiking or walking up lots of stairs. I think it’s useful to include personality attributes as well as body positivity. When we aim our attention to the aspects of ourselves that we can honor and celebrate, we are shifting our mind state from criticism to appreciation. Our state of mind colors every waking moment of our lives. I won’t dive into the psychology of how and why this works right now (let me know if you want more information and we can chat). I will tell you that this stuff works. This is not a bliss bunny “all is good” approach. What I’m suggesting is that you love yourself as you want to be loved, or as you are already loved by your community. For me, I think of this practice as loving myself like my Aunt Leslie loves me.
I’m here if you want to talk. I’m here if you want to sit down and practice. I wish for us all to remember how perfectly imperfect we are, and to relinquish our attempts to be different. I wish for us all to celebrate our humanness, and to remember that we have one another on this path of waking up to our ever present beauty.