I read Julie de Rohan’s piece and loved her advice. As someone has struggled with over-eating, I can relate to the stress that comes from the holiday food fest. Julie offers some excellent advice and wisdom on how to fully enjoy the experience, and to treat ourselves kindly in selecting food to truly savor.
This week I will start teaching my 5-week class on Thursday mornings. I have a good number of sign ups, and a couple of yoga teaching friends that may drop by, and I am excited to start.
Since I am preparing for that, I will be writing a weekly series on Wednesdays in October focusing on the 5 Yamas, Sanskrit for “restraints” which are part of the gems of wisdom making up yogic philosophy. These are: nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess and nonpossessiveness.
The first week we start with Ahimsa, or nonviolence, literally to “do no harm.” This is so fundamental to the practice of yoga. Yet it is not always respected in our desire to “get things right” or to imitate our teachers.
We do violence to ourselves when we strive for perfection rather than balance, when we overdo rather than just do. The hardest part for me in this lesson was realizing how hard I was being on myself. My inner critic became apparent when I started listening to the thoughts in my mind more often.
Learning to bring some compassion to those “sub-personalities” that were driving some of my behavior, I have embraced a new pattern of nonviolence by becoming curious about that critical voice. Rather than believing it, I realize it often comes from that protective part of ourselves that is driven by fear and by the conditioning of our families of origin, and society as a whole.
By directing our attention to the breath and the body, getting “out of our heads” for a moment, we can step back from that inner dialogue. The mind’s stories create a cacophony of noise that is not the REAL self. Developing compassion for that inner voice, rather than criticizing ourselves for having it, allows us to move forward with greater ease.
This is in line with Kristen Neff’s work on Self-Compassion which I explored in an earlier post. There is a way in which treating ourselves with kindness flows out to our relationships with others as well. As Deb Adele’s book on The Yamas and Niyamas points out: “If you are a taskmaster with yourself, others will feel your whip.”
What I have noticed in practicing self-compassion with my flaws and short-comings is that I have so much more compassion for others as well. In this way, ahimsa becomes a powerful foundation for living well.
May you, my lovely reader, practice ahimsa by noticing where you are not being as kind to yourself or others as you could be. In what ways can you more easily accept yourself as you are without judgment or criticism?
I just finished reading Dr. Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. I had received referrals to it from all kinds of other sources, I thought it was high time to read it. I am so glad I did.
Neff weaves together aspects of her own story, along with extensive research on the myriad effects of self-compassion on our lives. The most relevant point to me is that the relentless pursuit of self-esteem ends up leading to unhappiness and stress, while self-compassion leads to happiness and well-being.
I am going to save you the lengthy review but just say that I plan to use her guidance as I head into the holidays. We need to have compassion for ourselves because this can be a difficult time of the year. People have expectations, and holidays do not always live up to the hype.
Sometimes family members can push our buttons and we can react emotionally in certain circumstances. We need to be ready to extend ourselves compassion for the times when we may not do everything perfectly. We are human. Humans make mistakes. All we can do is try our best.
Rather than beating ourselves up if we get angry with someone, we will have better emotional resilience if we are kind to ourselves and forgiving of our mistakes. All of this makes so much intuitive sense for me, but her research backs up her claims as well.
So on this Wednesday of much travel and preparation for Thanksgiving, remember self-compassion. Blessings and safe holidays to all.