We are born full of love. Love for our little round bellies that pop out of our nappies, love for everyone around us, love for food and nourishment. We cry when we are sad, we eat when we are hungry, we bounce and laugh when we are happy. And then, somewhere along the way, we get lost. We start to develop a war inside where there was once peace, and one day we wake up and realise we are so far from the loving little human we were born to be.
Subtle self-harm can become so normal for us that, until we truly look at ourselves and our lives, we don't realise we are causing suffering at all. Most of us are putting everyone else's needs before our own, subtly harming our bodies with over-exercising/under-eating, over-eating, perfectionism, procrastination, over-working, not letting go, not forgiving, isolating ourselves. We can continue along this path for some time as we live in a society that values hustle and over-exertion. When asked if we would recommend these habits to a loved one, most of us are appalled at the idea. So why do we find it acceptable to treat ourselves this way? The good news is that we can learn to treat ourselves with kindness and love, even after years of self-betrayal.
If we slow down and start to draw our awareness to these patterns and habits, we can transform our inner-world into one of self-kindness and non-harm.
In yoga we call the practice of non-harm 'Ahimsa'. Ahimsa requires us to first extend non-harm inwards to support our own life functions. We cannot practice non-harm towards others without demonstrating real compassion towards ourselves.
We see self-compassion all around us; the mother bird must feed herself before her baby birds, and, in an airline emergency, we are taught to put our own masks on first before assisting others. Yoga acknowledges the value of practicing Ahimsa first towards our self, body, thoughts, feelings, actions, and experiences before extending it towards others.
This week is about coming face to face with our unworthiness and learning how to transform it into a loving force of compassion and kindness. Unlearning the habit of self-harm is a unique journey for each of us. As we start to understand how we betray ourselves, we can learn how to nourish and accept ourselves again with the introduction of tiny daily rituals and practices.
The Yoga Sutras say that we can 'gain knowledge and understanding of our past and of how we can change the patterns that aren't serving us to live more freely and fully.'
In the West, we think that we must take care of the mind and the body as separate things when in actual fact they are deeply interconnected. In the East, it is understood that we have five sheaths (Koshas) to nourish and this is the key to deep and true healing.
I started truly learning about myself six years ago. I'd hit rock bottom. And in that moment of desperation and despair I realised that throughout all the years of therapy and treatment, I had been looking outside of myself for someone to tell me what to do, to save me, to fix me. I felt like doctors, therapists, friends, and family didn’t understand me or know what was best and, because they were supposedly the experts and even they couldn’t make me better, I would be trapped in a world of anxiety and sadness forever. But they weren’t the experts, I was the expert. And as soon as I grasped this, I began the journey of learning about who I was, who I wanted to be, what my weaknesses were, and what I needed to let go of to be truly happy.
This week you will have one lotus exploration and one meditation. I recommend doing your yoga practice first thing in the morning and you can squeeze your meditation in afterward any stress stored in the body will be released and the mind will feel more still and calm. If you struggle for time, it might be helpful to set your alarm just a few minutes earlier or squeeze your meditation into the tiny spaces that you might notice will open up in daily life as a result of your deepening awareness and presence throughout your journey.
Over time, we begin to convince ourselves we are machines or, we subconsciously believe we can operate at a machine pace. But, we are not machines. We are complex, breakable, delicate, and sensitive organisms. We require love, rest, nourishment, nurture, space, and stillness.
Starting a practice of self-care can often feel like an impossible task especially if it has been a long time since we have looked after ourselves or others. it will feel alien and 'unproductive' at first. The truth is, when we start to look after ourselves, we start to value ourselves and when we start to value ourselves we are living an authentic life. Self-care doesn't begin when we find the love of our life, reach a certain milestone in our career, have x many followers on social media, or lose ten pounds. You are worthy of self-care, not tomorrow, but today; as the beautiful human that you already are.
Your lotus exploration for this week is to do one act of self-care a day.
Write a list of things that nourish your soul, some ideas might be getting outside in nature, painting, poetry, baking, yin yoga/gentle stretching, have a mindful hot drink.
If you struggle with this task try listing acts of self-care that you would prescribe to a friend or somebody you care about.
Choose something daily from this list and feel free to add to the list at any time.
Now journal your experience. Document the discomfort and the comfort and persevere. You are worthy of your own kindness. Remain curious about any shame or guilt that arises, it is quite a natural reaction to this rebellious act of self-compassion that society doesn't want us to do. Think of it this way, as long as society can keep us dissatisfied with ourselves, the more money they will make from us.
This week your meditation practice is breath-watching. You will set a timer for 5 minutes and watch the breath. Notice the temperature of the inhale and exhale. Notice where the breath is sitting in the body. Is it high up in the chest or low down in the belly? Notice how the exhale makes you feel and notice how the inhale makes you feel physically. In the beginning, most people can focus on their breath for five to thirty seconds. When you notice your mind has drifted away, gently come back to the breath.
There is no good or bad meditation. It will always be a practice.
Be gentle with yourself x