Spring is here and reminds us that we can start anew with less residue in each moment. Life online and off is plagued with distractions and opportunities for us to feel less-than-worthy. Yoga and metta meditation practices are powerful tools that have helped me to develop self-acceptance and resilience in the face of life's challenges. Louis L'Amour writes eloquently of this possibility in the following quote:
“Up to a point, man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, & movements and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be...Everyone has within their power to say, this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow.”
It is easy to get caught in non-useful, limited thinking, which is like placing a fence or ceiling deeply rooted in fear around us for protection. We all have fences for different things; for new poses we’ll try, difficult conversations we’ll have, the work we’ll do, the chances we’ll take, and the degree to which we follow our hearts calling, to name a few.
I have gotten really good at the fence building. Whenever I consider taking steps outside of these comfort zones, working on the edges or taking steps outside these walls, my heart races. Even as I write this my heart beats faster, my stomach tightens and my breath becomes shallower. The tendency is for the small-mind or negative-mind to kick in like the zap of an electric fence. I have become accustomed to the warnings “YOU can’t do that,” “don’t," “you’ll look like an idiot,” “you’re not ready yet,” and “you’re not good enough.”
Working beyond our perceived limitations is scary. I hold back. I see my students holding back. We all know that some of these fears are so minor and that even just working a challenging pose and risking failure can be terrifying. When these risky moments present themselves, it can be quite the battle to stay present with the breath and not get consumed with fear, overwhelmed with ego and overly self-protective. Practice gives us the space and opportunity to become more open and accepting of whatever arises, staying open to the possibility of each moment.
Personally, I’ve been using metta meditation to support my getting space from self-perceived limitations and caring about how others perceive me. Practice offers the opportunity to start fresh and find space from habits and the external forces that we often use to base self-worth, value and happiness. And practice helps us to cultivate forgiveness and compassion for ourselves and others.
It is also important to practice gentleness with ourselves. When we catch ourselves distracted, mindlessly breathing, or even when we miss a day of practice, do we get frustrated, put ourselves down or fuel our feelings of incompetence? Instead of being hard on ourselves, can we be kind and loving of ourselves in our response? Can we gently accept where we are on our path and remember that we are never stuck? Can we remain accepting of our capacity for more? Can we practice acceptance and gratitude for the growth and challenges, and continue to forgive and re-commit to ourselves?
Begin this new season with clarity, acceptance and kindness with the help of practice. Being present, mindful and coming back to intention helps us to keep moving forward. The more we practice the more we connect to our deeper truth and goodness despite any shadows of failure, fear, ego, shame, regret and doubt. As long as we remain persistent in our practice towards right thought, action, etc. we may be less disturbed by setbacks and persevere — primed to make right effort…over and over, again and again.
Peace, Love and Resilience.
Metta Meditation Practice (Inspired by Sharon Salzberg)
May I/you be filled with peace
May I/you be healthy and strong
May I/you be safe and protected
May I/you always feel loved