This is a time of year when it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of items on our to-do lists. So many needs surround us that the last person in line for our attention tends to be ourselves. It might be a good time to remember that if you don’t refill your own tank, you won’t have any fuel to power all those good deeds you want to do for others. So taking time out for yourself is an act of compassion and a gift to all of those who need you. These are not new ideas, but we all tend to forget so they are worth revisiting. I’m as guilty of forgetting them as any of us, so sometimes I need to hear myself say these things, too.
One thing you can do for yourself is spend an hour or so focusing on your own miraculous ability to move and breathe. Although every day should provide an opportunity for gratitude, this time of year encourages a special emphasis. If you need further incentive to take some time for yourself, perhaps this quote from an article by Sallie Jiko Tisdale, a dharma teacher at Dharma Rain Zen Center, in Portland, Oregon in Tricycle magazine might help motivate you:
“Gratitude, the simple and profound feeling of being thankful, is the foundation of all generosity. I am generous when I believe that right now, right here, in this form and this place, I am myself being given what I need. Generosity requires that we relinquish something, and this is impossible if we are not glad for what we have. Otherwise the giving hand closes into a fist and won’t let go.”
No matter what level you’re at, if you can move and breathe you possess amazing skills! Expressing your gratitude for them is an act of generosity. So take that first step and just show up at a class. Then you can pat yourself on the back and feel good for the rest of the day.
If the recent emphasis on perfect bodies still has you daunted and doubtful, perhaps a recent article by Erica Rodefer Winters, a writer and yoga teacher in Charleston, South Carolina, titled “The Pressure to be a Perfect Yogini” in Yoga Journal might help you finally put those objections to rest. In the article she writes about all the photos and articles glorifying supposed “super-yogis” in pretzel poses emphasizing all their healthy activities. She says:
“If you believe the social media profiles of these über practitioners, you’d think that they roll out of bed every morning at 5am to meditate and practice yoga for a couple of hours before they start their day. Then they drink a smoothie full of miracle foods. They follow a strict but “yummy” diet of raw, organic, locally sourced, gluten-free, vegan fare that they buy fresh from the farmer’s market every week. They have perfect, stress-free careers where they make a positive impact on the world . . .”
“If someone like this exists in real life, I’d like to shake her hand. Then, I’d like to ask a few questions on behalf of stressed out, over-extended, exhausted yoga students everywhere. First of all, what are you REALLY putting in those smoothies that gives you so much energy? (Don’t say kale. If you say kale, I might scream.) Do you ever sleep, snap at a loved one, or eat a few too many cupcakes?”
“I don’t need any more ideas for my to-do list—no matter how healthy or good-for-the-world these tasks might be. I need to be reminded that sometimes it is more beneficial to my health to spend my time watching a movie on the couch, sleeping in, eating a delicious meal with my friends or family without worrying about the ingredients used to make it. I need to be reminded . . .that sometimes it’s wiser to just let the balls drop, forgive ourselves for causing our own unnecessary suffering, and commit to trying to be kinder and more loving to ourselves in the future.”
So be good to yourself this season. It is an act of compassion that inspires generosity. And no matter what you eat or look like you are always welcome in my classes!