Monday, December 17, 2012

be gentle

I consider myself blessed  beyond measure to have awesome, wise, wholehearted, and compassionate teachers around me at Barefoot Works. Meredith Swim hits it outta the yoga ballpark with this one. Grab a cuppa hot liquid goodness and savor these words.
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

This beloved line from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata gently guides me back to Self. Posted on the inside of my bedroom door (and for good reason), I catch snippets of the poem as I go about my day. Each time I read the line above, I am reawakened to its wisdom. The mental chatter dissolves as I take a conscious breath and I ground into the Present. I become aware of the emotional tension I’m holding in my shoulders, the anxiety grabbing my belly, and a tightness constricting my flow of my breath. My thoughts are a running wheel of negativity.
Be Gentle, the poem soothes. These past few months I’ve tried to be more compassionate toward myself, but just as Ehrmann advices it takes discipline to be gentle and kind to myself.

My Inner Critic (“Glee” fans, envision Sue Sylvester in the role) enjoys belittling my moments of triumph and amplifying my Bridget Jones mess-ups, such as referring to sequin skirts as sequence skirts in an email to a fashionista friend. “And you call yourself an English minor,” Sue sneers.

Cultivating compassion is not as sweet and rosy as I thought it once sounded. Instead of repressing the negative thought and replacing it with a cheery one, the Art of Compassion encourages me to greet the thought and deconstruct the threads of that misperception.

Similar to peeling back an onion, this unveiling process reveals old thought patterns and beliefs I’ve been harboring about my body and my personal worth. Sue’s voice sounds crueler and I can get easily believe in the unleashing of insecurities I’ve been holding onto since middle school (dang! I thought I was passed all that!!).

Here the real test begins and so does the genuine healing. I express compassion to the part of me that is self-conscious about my physical flaws. “Of course,” says the voice of Compassion (featuring Louise Hay, my favorite motivational healer), “in this competitive culture where you are constantly bombarded by images of perfected women how could you not be self-conscious about those scars on your legs?”
When I find my thoughts are self-sabotaging my personal worth, I travel back to the first time in elementary school I felt that pain. This journey to my fifth grade self is difficult. At times, I simply don’t want to revisit the memories, but that’s all the more reason to do so. I arrive to my Harry Potter loving fifth grade self and I tell her she’s worthy all happiness and greatness and that she is perfectly adequate. Her healing is my 22 year old self’s healing. So when I see that cute guy at the coffee shop I can feel truly worthy of his Ryan Gosling like smile (legit ;).

Max Ehrmann must have understood the inner Sue Sylvester to write, Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. Practicing compassion toward yourself takes discipline, but it’s a discipline that frees yourself from the baggage of unnecessary negativity and thus, invites greater empathy for others into your heart.
So, as the holiday rush arrives, may you, sweet Yogis and blog visitors, be gentle with yourselves. Remember you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; You have a right to be here. And you have every right to hold yourself in a compassionate light. 



Jen said...

You are so, so wise! Thank you for sharing this perspective on deconstructing negativity and compassion. I'm now trying to think of the characters who play my negative and compassionate voices :)

Kathy said...

i´ve reread this post of yours a handful of times. thank you.
your honest words have helped me arrive at my "word" for the year: acceptance. I REALLY enjoy your writing and wisdom.

Kathy said...


i really appreciate the honesty and thought you put into your posts. thank you. i have reread this post a handful of times and get something different out of it each time. you are not alone in our efforts to make our mind our ally.