My teacher this morning in class said, “our greatest contribution to the world is our own joy.”
I’ve been looking at the concept of non-violence or non-harming. In yoga, the ancient texts call this ahimsa. I thought of harm that I might be causing others…being impatient, intolerant, rude, gossiping…is there anyone that I have placed out of my heart? How do I harm the environment? There’s a long list of possibilities to consider and areas to work on as it turns out.
“Love lies at the core of nonviolence and begins with love of self.”
What is love?
- Love is patient, kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not proud, rude, self-seeking and it is not easily angered. It does not keep a record of wrongs. It rejoices in truth, it protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres and never fails.
- Love is a strong feeling of affection and concern toward another person.
- “Love is not something we give or get; it is something we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”
I began looking closely at the harm I cause myself. I realize through this exploration that my own negative talk places myself out of my heart.
Self-love is not a new concept for me. I’m practiced; yoga, meditation, massage, body work, baths, walks in the woods, trips to beautiful places, going to bed early, eating good clean food, rituals. These are all forms of self-love that I have practiced and taught for many years but none of them actually touch the core of what it means to love self. I believed that beginning in the actions of self-love would take me where I needed to go. I suppose that’s true…because they came first and here I am now. I still believe in those things, thank God, but I also believe my mind is freaking powerful, persistent and incredibly sneaky.
If I apply the definitions of love to the voice and language I use to speak to myself, my inner self…I don’t love myself at all.
I am very hard on myself. Demanding perfection, productivity, hard work, creativity, punctuality…these are not just things I demanded at work. The voice that speaks to my heart is almost constant. How many times have I been telling a story, noticed the energy shift and the person I was talking to get distracted? The voice in my head is telling me to stop talking, they aren’t interested in what you have to say, you’re making a fool of yourself. A lot. I can be corrected and suddenly I hear how incompetent I am…I want to just sit quietly but the person around me is busy…I have to get busy too…don’t be so lazy! It is especially true when I am around other people or another person. That voice can look around and find all kinds of folks that are doing more, look better, speak more clearly, tell better stories, are more interesting, are prettier. This voice might be a whisper I barely notice when I look at my hair in a mirror I’m walking by and it might be loud and clear in the shame I feel at my own mistakes.
When someone does something nice for me, sometimes I question their motives…not trusting that they just love me. That isn’t a statement about them…it’s a statement about my own ability to love and accept love. I have betrayed my own heart with my negative talk. How can I ever trust someone else if I cannot trust myself.
This talk, I’ve discovered, is an almost constant battering to my heart. That kind of abuse looks like over-sensitivity, anger, isolation, blame, shame, unworthiness and insecurity out in the light of the world. I would never treat another being the way that I treat my own heart.
It is my belief that changing that…I must love my own inner being with not only the actions I practice but more importantly it is with the words that I think and say to myself. Don’t we all KNOW this already? Of course, we do. We all know how verbal abuse feels but do we understand the damage that sword causes when we use it on ourselves.
I have made a commitment to pay close attention to what my mind says to my heart in every situation. In each moment there’s an opportunity to notice this. What do I say when I’m looking for something to wear in the morning or when I look at myself in the mirror or try to talk to a stranger. I can look very deeply into my own heart and say something kind, something encouraging, something hopeful. That is self-love and it is so much more.
This is a bit of a slow process. I know I can’t take a broad brush approach apology or commitment. It is an apology of sorts…to myself. In quiet I understand the depth of damage I have caused and I can acknowledge it. Understanding what I do not want to do and what I want to change…and why, is important. I cannot do this busy in my day full of distractions. I deserve more attention from myself. That’s always been part of the problem…I can’t hear what is in my own heart in the middle of distractions.
It’s early morning, still dark, I’ve lit candles and sit quietly. I let this quiet fill me, nothing to do or to listen to now but relax into the stillness. It is the place I can listen deeply. It is the place of spirit… so we sit together and breathe, waiting as the day begins to light up the sky.
When I am able to make this change, my ability to love, to show up, to trust in friendships and relationships will be transformed. My ability to relax and enjoy myself…to feel real joy will transform.
To feel real JOY…that is my goal.
As I write this, I am giddy, excited merely by the possibility. I imagine it to be freedom that my heart must feel. The slightest acknowledgement at what I’ve done and commitment to change creates enormous possibility. My own capacity for love and forgiveness is astonishing and brilliant.
I must go slow…paying attention to the moments, walk away when someone says something negative. This love is a baby, vulnerable to outside attack and negative comments. I’m being careful, just as I would with a dear friend who has suffered abuse or battering.
This work is important. My inner landscape has the ability to influence the world around me.
My own JOY is my greatest contribution to the world.