Poetry/Prose, Yoga & Spiritual

A Deeper Love

blue-labradoriteYesterday, a colleague asked me:

“How did you come to love yourself?”

I sat for a second and then said something almost exactly like this:

Well, that’s something that I’m still working on, but it’s an interesting question and forces me to think.

I guess what I know for certain is that I didn’t start loving myself or even know how until a couple of years ago when somebody I loved dumped me.

And I stopped eating. And I stopped sleeping. And I was completely lost.

And then one day–as bizarre as this might sound–I was in Yoga practice, and I was on my stomach, with my forehead on my mat. And I was getting ready to do a pose in a series, and I closed my eyes, and I knew at that point in time that I was at the lowest point in the deepest part of the ocean.

This was a place that I didn’t know how to get to in my imagination previously–didn’t even know I could go there. So the pain forced me into that place, and I saw a light there.

I saw a really, beautiful, white, opalescent light. Something soft–not glaring or beating you over the head–just inviting and bright.

And I knew that was me. That light.

This light.

And I knew two practical things as well in that moment. I knew that from that point I could only go up. And I also knew that I was, I am, I always will be fundamentally alone.

So those two things really catalyzed me loving myself, because I started to work my way back up, alone. Rebuilding, gradually, my emotional life, from almost a scratch-point, but a deep point.

Because that deep place was mine and mine alone, I realized that it doesn’t matter if someone despises me, says mean things or nice things; it doesn’t matter if anyone praises me.

While those things do affect me somewhat, they’re never going to be deeply hurtful or satisfying because they can’t touch that deep point–i.e., I tend to operate out of that point now, so those things don’t really have as much of an impact.

So I started building out from that point, what I have come to define love as.

Love is a matter of staying.

In times of big stress, and even in the smallest instances, I have learned to stay with myself. This is instead of how I used to operate: every time I was ashamed, embarrassed, anything, I’d just assume myself unworthy of even my own support and love. I would beat myself up and abandon myself in a way.

Now, I’ve worked my way up to staying with myself about 85 percent of the time, and that number is growing. I have a new self talk, and through being awake in a bunch of situations, my system is improving–the holes in it, that used to let my love out to people I put above me for whatever imaginary reasons–mostly repaired.

Sure, I listen to people, because that’s good for me, and I can make my own decisions about what they say.

The point is, I come first. It starts with me. Everything, since that day two years ago, became more and more for me. And it’s not as if I’m acting selfishly at all. I love to serve people and do things for people because delighting others makes me feel happy and joyful and connected and satisfied. But honestly, I don’t do those things for them as much as for me–because if I did these things for them, I’d always be disappointed and misappropriating expectations.

Everything over the last two years has been part of a construction project, resulting in increasingly loving myself.



Yoga & Spiritual

Stagnation, Imagination and the Inner Puppy

This installment of epiphanous ramblings is brought to you by a morning Mysore that started out in a semi-hopeless state.

I was sick this weekend with this kind of virus-express thing that’s going around whereby you get this headache at 8 a.m., a sore throat at 10 a.m., a lot of lethargy at all stages, another headache by noon, a swollen throat after a nap, a seeming moment of wellness, another headache, a sweaty night’s sleep, a wake up to an almost closed throat and a repetition with a little less intensity before the thing seems to start to disappear at the end of day two. Mysterious and a bit confounding–I mean, if you exercise, work or have a life, the virus isn’t really telling you whether to call your routine off or ignore the symptoms and fake it till you make it … or what?

Anyway, I avoided strenuous activity yesterday until last night found me really pent up and lethargic. So I put on my vibram five toes and took a swift jog around the villa only to find the virus totally back off and seem to surrender. Woke up again this morning feeling bleck but decided to kick out a practice.

I wasn’t sure. I felt tired, a bit heavy, soggy if you will, in spirit.  Yet the moment I did a dive into the first uttanasana, I was able to see my body come  alive like  a puppy that wanted to go out for so long that it got frustrated and was just sitting still, zoning out, pouting. The chance to go woke my body up and over the course of a few salutations I felt surges of energy I hadn’t felt in weeks. Of course I was excited and rode them all the way through the end of a solid practice. Dripping wet, I sat in lotus, said my intentions for the day and went off to get some stuff done around the house.

I’m writing this mainly as an example that a lot of what we think in terms of how tired we are, how much energy we have, is limiting. The mind is so black and white about the body’s storage of energy–you are either tired or not, exhausted or not. But the more I practice Yoga, the more my body–as if it were a puppy, whining–gets in on the conversation and says “you know what? I’m actually NOT tired, okay? I’m feeling like crap because nobody took me for a jog today and it’s depressing!’

Sure, there are times when you are downright exhausted. Take a small jog or start a practice and after ten minutes you will know definitively what is going on.  My point is to avoid ruling yourself tired or sick if the symptoms represent stagnation more than anything else.

Stagnation, what a hugely powerful concept! And a completely practical one for someone cultivating a Yoga practice, a running routine around a long race, or even a regular workout routine. In fact, knowing about this concept is the difference between succeeding and achieving goals and considering one’s self unable to do them at all.

I learned about stagnation first at my acupuncturist in Wisconsin. One time, after many sessions with him, I had an appointment over an exam day. That day, I hadn’t slept the night before, I hadn’t eaten much and the majority of the day was spent either sitting and crunching for the exam or taking it. I showed up at my Dr’s. office. He checked my tongue and put me on the table and started putting the needles in per usual. It was a totally different experience than what I was used to–I mean, oh did it hurt–so bad! The needles were not the cause, though. They were hair thin, and I knew it wasn’t poked nerves that I was feeling, it was the area around the needle and the energy that was lacking there or stagnant there, being forced to move–the pain was dull yet strong on many points. He put on the relaxing traditional Chinese music, turned on the heater and left.

I laid still on that exam table for 40 minutes, looking at images of flowers and butterflies on the ceiling, and sometimes the insides of my eyelids, as the needles redirected energy out of my belly to my limbs. By the end of the time as he removed the needles, I felt no pain and was totally energized and clear headed.

I realized right then that energy can find itself trapped in the body so deeply that it can fool a person, often, into thinking they are tired or even sick–such was the transformation in my energetic state after that session.

Try this: next time you feel tired at the office, stand up. Put your hands over your head, exhale as you swing your torso and outstretched arms down toward the floor, bending the knees slightly. Inhale as you role back up and straighten the legs and swing the torso and arms up–repeat this a dozen times … on the exhale, even sigh audibly if you are alone or comfortable.

This or a brisk walk will show you the magic of the concept of stagnation. Many more times than not, you’ve got a lot of gusto just waiting to be used.

Next time you’re not sure if that workout is in order, if you are up for it, just try, just put yourself there and feel that feeling of how you get after you are done, before you even start. Go for it and you might just be shocked that there was a puppy’s worth of energy stored up, just waiting for you to open the front door.