No Really, You First

Dec 09, 2015

I’m in the process of becoming more fully myself. It’s really, really exciting! And it puts my mind at so much ease, which is ultimately the goal of yoga, so that’s awesome. Guess what? You can too!

One of the very first lessons I learned about the inner practices of yoga, to really understand them and be that way in the world is this: start with yourself.

Here’s a quick story to help you understand.
When I first heard of ahimsa, non-harming in thoughts, words and actions, I thought, “Oh, that’s totally me. I’m not a violent person, I don’t hit people.” For real, “I don’t hit people” was totally my first thought!

And the instructor went on to explain the thoughts part more, that to practice ahimsa we need to be non-harming to ourselves within our own thoughts.


At that point I was 25. I went to the gym 3 – 4 times a week and yoga was my once weekly treat. The song in my head at the gym was something like this, “You are so fat. You are so unworthy. This is your punishment for not being born perfect. You totally suck at this. You are so fat…..”

Totally guilty of the punishing internal dialogue. So over time, with lots and lots of practice I was able to replace those harming thoughts with kind, loving, supportive, appreciative ones.

Begin with yourself.

Begin with yourself.

Now, at 44, I’ve moved on to compassion. Lately I’m being really, really compassionate towards myself. As compassionate as I would be to my most beloved of all beloveds.

As a refresher, compassion means to see the suffering of others and have the desire to alleviate it.

So the parts of me that I bump against, that cause mental unrest, that I wish weren’t there or were different – I’m offering myself compassion for those feelings and those attributes.

Here’s one example. I was recently re-reading Eat, Pray, Love and there’s a part in India where Liz says she always wanted to be “that quiet girl in the back of the room”. But she was more social butterfly, chatty, able to befriend anyone. She learned that she was created that way as a gift, as a way to be of service to others.

I am the exact opposite. I AM the quiet girl in the back of the room. A keen observer, one who feels deeply and intimately. I always wanted instead to be the social butterfly, chatty, able to befriend anyone. This wishing to be something other than how I was created would create frustration in me, trying to force myself to be what I’m not, a suffering of sorts. So lately I give myself compassion. I say, “It’s ok to be an introvert. You were created this way. This attribute is a gift from God. It’s ok to welcome it in.”

The more compassionate I’ve been toward myself around being an introvert, the more comfortable I am being an introvert, the calmer my mind, the more fully I am the Self I was created to be, the more I can be of service in the world. As an introvert I come alive in small, intimate settings. By welcoming this piece of myself I’m shifting my yoga teaching towards mostly private lessons.

Magic happens when I teach yoga to one woman! She is always transformed in some way by the experience and I am most fully alive and engaged in the experience. We both expand, which is the greatest gift we can offer to the world. And we both want more of that, which is all a result of me being compassionate towards myself.

You can begin right now with self-compassion. In moments that are difficult you can say to yourself, “Of course you’re frustrated, this is a frustrating moment. It’s ok to be angry right now. It makes sense that this situation makes you sad, it is a sad thing happening.” And so on. In your mind, speak as compassionately toward yourself as you would your most beloved of beloveds in the same situation. Your mind will grow calmer, you will experience greater peace.

Through self-compassion you will be in service to your soul, allow yourself to be more fully your Self and therefore in service to the good of All That Is.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, Pin and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy MA. Ed, E-RYT500

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