Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
I don't really think I got all the way there in my last post about Filling the Well. I gave some ideas, some things that I have done myself to shift my energy out of a rut.
And that's good. But there is more. How do we truly love ourselves?
I mean, really.
We are hearing this message, even in US culture, often in yoga classes or at school assemblies, etc.: You have to love all of who you are: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But there is not a lot out there in terms of how. And, meanwhile, we see lot's of images and hear lots of things about the things we should be striving towards. So yoga is about connection, but Yoga Journal is all about beautiful, thin, white women. So many messages are about improvement rather than self-love and self-acceptance.
So those are two things I think deserve repeating:
- There is no guidebook on how to love ourselves
- Guidebooks that are out there indicate that we need to improve in order to love ourselves
Now, let met stop the barrage of "Oh yes there are great books out there!". Now, I have numerous books on my shelf about shining your light, loving yourself, etc -- The Desire Map, Light is the New Black, Warrior Goddess Training, The Universe Has Your Back. All of these amazing books have given me so much incredible insight and practice. And yet, here I am, still looking for the guidebook on self love.
So here's what I've come to understand about How To Love Yourself:
1. Be willing to love yourself. By this, I mean, you have to be willing to work on it. Willing to love yourself even for all of the things you don't necessarily like. Especially those things. Commit to loving all of your parts - all of the stories, bad habits, and judgmental thoughts.
One simple exercise is to take a 3x5 index card and draw the most loving, nurturing, amazing caregiver you have ever dreamed of. This could be a person, an animal, a planet, an ocean... anything. Infuse the energy of complete love, acceptance, and compassion into this piece of art. Carry it with you. Look at it as your constant support whenever you need.
2. Be conscious. If you want to love yourself, you need to be aware of when you are not. Noticing is key. Notice how you talk to yourself. Notice when you feel joy, flow, ease, and freedom. What feels good. And why. What feels not-so-good. And why.
One great, simple exercise reminds us to ask: "What do I need right now?" at various times during your day. (Some will say "what do I want ..." I feel that focusing on the need is essential!!) This practice reminds us that we have what we need inside to fulfill ourselves. We can look within to take care of our needs.
3. Express. If you are feeling crappy or noticing that you are berating yourself. Let it out. Let it go. Write, draw, dance, sing, cry, laugh. Do what you need to do to physically move your energy. Lot's of ideas - this is my favorite part (so email me if you want suggestions!).
The goal is not to stifle whatever is coming up for you. The goal is to move it towards what you want - self-love, self-acceptance, self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness during this process. Acknowledge what comes up, and be kind with yourself about why. Practice how you would respond to a friend feeling the same feelings and then relay all of that kindness onto yourself.
4. Reframe. We can't erase what has happened to us. But we can reframe with a new perspective. We can start new each day. We can start new with each breath. I really appreciated the chapter in Warrior Goddess Training that reminds us to "Align with the Flow of Life." Sometimes we get stuck in the stories we carry - the "It's not fair"s, the "If only"s, the "Things would've been better if..". Life is a whole bunch of flowing, and sometimes things don't go the way we want or on the timeline we seek.
In terms of loving ourselves, sometimes we think we will love ourselves once something exterior to us tells us we are love-able. Once I get that job, once I am a patient mom, once I am fit & beautiful... then I will be worthy of love. (See number 2 above and notice how you talk to yourself!)
Here's the thing - right now, you are love. You are worthy. You are light. You are all that you seek.
Mantras can help to clear the mind. One mantra to stimulate the intention of self love is "So Ham" (pronounced So Hum), which means "I Am (That)", intending to link you to the divine within (your highest self, the ultimate power or force, God, Spirit, the Universe). You are divine.
I hope some of the ideas are of help. You are light, and I see you.
In my last post, I talked about some anger that generated in my mind and body due to a snow mis-hap that occurred in my driveway. As Anger does, it pointed me to a deeper issue: self-worth. The whole challenge of the situation for me, was around that age old feeling - I'm not enough.
So let's talk about that. Of course I am enough! I am awesome and fantastic. And yet, sometimes my mind riddles my experience with thoughts of lack. Not strong enough, not independent enough, not .... blah blah blah enough.
Do you know what I mean?
So the big question - how do we do it? How do we start to change how we feel? How do we work through that old stuff and create something new? Create the life we want. There is this amazing book and workbook by Danielle LaPorte called The Desire Map. It's an exercise in moving towards the feelings you want to feel - calling them into your life - in the now. Raising your vibration in the moment and all the little moments that make up your day. Of course, I dig this.
I love the process of writing, working, analyzing, thinking. Sometimes, all of this "work" can bring me completely to left brain control. My logical side takes over, fast forward to ego-control-issues-spreadsheet-my-life chaos that inevitably ensues.
What I find time and time again is that I need to couple the mind with the body. I don't need to identify fully with either!
So when I felt shitty last week?
I sat down next to the wood stove. Closed my eyes, hands covering my face like a helmet (thumbs outside the ears, pointer finger to forehead, middle fingers to tear ducts, ring finger to nostrils, pinkie to the edges of my lips). I made the audible buzzing breath with my mouth closed.
After about 20 cycles of breath, I covered my eyes with the palms of my hands.
Hands to my sides I rolled to table top (hands and knees), and moved my body with my breath. I found myself "basketing" my head with my forearms and moving into a headstand.
Then, I danced. Later, friends came by and we laughed. I described my day as "Great!", which it was, actually.
Here's the thing - YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO ANY OF THESE THINGS. You might have your own list of things that shift your energy. Just moving the body automatically causes a shift in your vibration. So does taking a walk, sitting outside, finding a "new place", taking a moment of quiet (meditation).
The most important piece is that you begin to discover what works for you. What does work for you? Comment below!
I got stuck in a snowbank today.
In my driveway.
I had just popped into the house for a second to grab my phone charger; I was to be off teaching a class at noon. And I was stuck. So stuck that I wasn't going to make it to class.
I texted potential substitutes.
I shoveled under my wheels.
I called my husband.
I cursed the snow, my tires, my slippery driveway, and all of the motorists who didn't stop (no one stopped).
I was so. freakin'. mad.
And then I started to cry. So I left my car in the driveway and came inside. There, on my counter, were my "Shift Anger" Cards.
The Anger Deck, as I affectionately call it, is a 15 card deck that includes movement, meditation, and mantras for working with Anger.
So I did this quick flow (about six times...)
And after, I realized what my anger was really telling me.
I was embarrassed, not being able to shovel myself out.
I felt like I can't do anything right. Like I'm worthless.
I had to move my body and drop out of my thinking to get to that realization. And then? Then I worked on self-love and worthiness (next blog post!).
I've been noticing lately a persistent thought ticker-taping across my brain, "I don't want to feel (fill in the blank)..."
As in, I don't want to be scared about the future of our country or the safety of our (and my) children.
I don't want to be mad/frustrated/pissed about the lies I hear uncovered in US politics, entertainment, ... everywhere.
"I don't want to feel." And the funny thing is - of course I want to feel it.
I want to feel all these things, because I know that it is through feeling that I get to healing. And yet, so many people, articles, books and media are telling us not to feel. Several weeks ago, a friend sent me this incredible New York Times essay written by Leslie Jamison.
Anger is a hot topic these days, and even more interesting when the emotion is extended beyond white men. We see anger coming out in domestic violence, self-harm, addiction, road rage, not to mention school shootings in the US.
So is it any surprise that I'm afraid to feel? You may have seen that viral video where Uma Thurman talks about not wanting to speak "until I feel less angry." Huh.
I get that. We don't want to say things we will regret. But is there more to it? Is there a... stifling of the emotion?
I know I do this, feel like I should stifle the anger or change it immediately into something else. I want to be jolly, I want to be sincere and honest and kind and loving.
I feel a little bit conflicted about this, about expressing anger in particular. I believe this is likely because I believe in the constructionist view of emotion. I believe that our brains are predictive based on past events, past senses and the stories we attach to those sensory responses. So we, in essence, create our emotions. More on that topic another time.
But anyhow, if we (our brains) are creating our reality at every moment.. does that mean I have control over my emotions? Can I truly stifle the anger? Can I change it immediately into something else?
What I have found is - no. I can't stifle it.
I use my emotions as information on what to do next. Anger is telling me that something is not right, that I need to alter my boundaries or speak up. Fear is protective, and in the absence of true danger, I can move through it.
And the how?
For me it is about quieting the body and quieting the mind. Dropping out of the stories and into my body as the learning tool it is designed to be.
It allows me to move, to jump, sing and to speak up.
You gotta feel it to heal it.