Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Voices

Valuing yourself as much as you value others is a tricky subject for many yogis.  In my experience most yogis are kind and humble people, apt to put others before themselves; indeed, doing so is part of our practice.

But we cannot give wholly if we are not ourselves whole, as the Dalai Lama puts it:
"One must be compassionate to oneself before external compassion".

Let's begin with the way you talk to yourself: sometimes the playlist we have running in our heads is not kind; I know that the voices in my head have sometimes been downright mean and destructive; what's more, because those voices in our head stay in our head and are never openly expressed or challenged, we tend to think that those internal voices speak the truth.  I recently found out that one of my dearest friends believes that if everyone knew what she was really like, then nobody would love her - life for her is therefore a continuous struggle to hide those aspects of herself that perceives to be unacceptable in order to avoid being rejected by those she loves.

I sometimes see people in class struggling with voices that tell them, with utter conviction, that they are rubbish at yoga and will never be able to do it (I salute them, those brave ones, who keep turning up anyway).

Recently a new student asked me what you do about the voices in your head.  You wouldn't believe how beautiful this person is: a gentle spirit, kind, friendly and gifted.

Here is my answer:

Listen to the voices in your head.  Make friends with them.  Get to know who they are and what their purpose is: in my experience they want to keep you safe - they want to save you from being embarrassed, so they tell you that you can't start yoga until you've lost a few pounds; they want to save you from showing yourself up, so they keep you small and in safe places that you are familiar with; they want to circumvent any harsh judgement, so they tell you that your painting/writing/vocal (fill in the blank) skills are no good, that way nobody will ever see or hear you; that way, nobody will be able to hurt you with their criticism.  But I'm afraid that listening to those voices and following that road leads to a small, frightened life, when what we are seeking as yogis is an expansive, generous life of constant growth and growing understanding.

Make befriending yourself part of your practice; meet with the voices in your head, so that you can contend with them and find ways to rewrite your internal script, making it more kindly and positive and thereby freeing yourself from the negativity that hurts you.

Start with this: you are beautiful; you are here for a reason and you serve the world by finding out that reason and using it for good.  Learn how to overcome your internal naysayers and confidently be who you are.

Try this: when one of your negative inner recordings starts rolling, stop it short, thank it kindly for trying to keep you safe, but remind it that it is not needed and move forward with your day.

Think about this: if you are someone who gives all of their time and energy to other people, but who is regularly unwell, or low on energy - why is it that you think that other people deserve your attention and care, but you yourself do not?  Learn what you need to be well, then learn both how to ask for it and how to give it to yourself.

There is so much that you have to learn about yourself and there are so many things in the way of your own sense of peace, as Rumi wrote:

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within
yourself that you have built."

Love is a given; it's clearing all of the stuff that we put in the way of love that is our life's work.

One place in which you can begin your journey towards peace is to meet, greet and get to know all of those voices inside yourself, to encourage the kind ones and to leave aside the unkind; to nurture yourself as if you were your own child, for whom the only thing you wish is a life filled with peace and love. 

You were made this way for a reason and you are supposed to be this way, so please stop fighting it and let yourself be who you are in all of your glory without letting those harsh, judgemental, fearful voices within rule you.

Namaste x

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