As I drove home from my little mini vacation to go see my boyfriend, I started listening to a new podcast called Mindlove. I played it basically the entire drive back, so needless to say, I’d definitely recommend it. It got me thinking about all the ways my ego tries to hold me back. The ego is really good at convincing us it’s who we really are. For me I imagine my ego as that little inner voice that is always worrying, always bringing me down, always concerned with how I look or what other people think. When this voice speaks, I take it as gospel.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been taught that we should listen to our gut feelings. The problem with that is I’ve never quite felt able to trust those feelings. I have no idea how to distinguish between intuition and ego. Most of the time I’ve simply waited for “inspiration” to come to me. It rarely ever does. I just use the fact that I haven’t gotten inspiration as a sign that I should just keep waiting. I’ve been waiting for years though. Even when inspiration does strike me, it’s often not enough to get me very far.
I’m beginning to learn that things that are right for you aren’t always going to feel right. You’ve got to trust that your higher self knows what’s best for you and do it anyway. One interesting point I liked from Mindlove was that our natural instincts are always geared towards keeping us in the same place. We resist change even when it’s a good change. So when you’re feeling depressed the things that you feel like doing are going to be things that keep you feeling depressed. I’m sure we all know that feeling. We’re having a bad day so we “treat” ourselves. We eat a bunch of junk food, lie in bed, binge watch our favorite shows. I often think this is doing something kind for myself, when in reality, although it may feel good in the moment, it always leaves me ultimately feeling worse.
This is one reason why it’s so important to create a regular practice of positive things like yoga and meditation. It’s always easy to practice when you’re in the mood for it. But having that routine makes it easier to also lean on your practice when you’re not in the mood. Because that’s truly when we need our yoga the most.
The ego likes to get very loud when we try to do something we don’t feel like doing. It tries to distract us, convince us to stop or do something else. It tells us we’re just wasting time, that it’s all a futile effort. I’m still learning how to stop obeying that nagging little voice in my head. I’ve allowed it to guide my actions for most of my life. It’s the part of me that cringes away from positive affirmations and acts of kindness. Oddly enough, it’s also the part that harshly criticizes me for struggling to embrace these self love practices.
My fear of anything even mildly unpleasant keeps me from connecting with that place of inner peace and happiness. I keep waiting for everything to just fall into place, waiting for the perfect time to change my life. But the truth is that “perfect” time isn’t ever going to come. I’ve got to be brave and start doing the work even though it may feel useless at first.
Recently I have really been grieving my separation from my own inner compass, my intuition. It feels like I can never calm my mind down enough to hear it. And even when I meditate, all I find is a deep silent sea within me. I have been feeling desperate for guidance. I have been lost for so long now. I am finally ready to trust my intuition. To surrender to whatever is has to tell me.
This meditation was exactly what I needed. The 30 minutes seemed to dissolve in no time at all. I was so immersed in the beautiful imagery that I was invited to create in my mind. I never wanted to leave that sacred garden temple. I felt so safe and at peace with myself. I felt protected. I was able to delve deep within my own heart, to a gorgeous structure. Within it, I found a very old tree growing through the center of the room. Above there was a opening in the ceiling allowing light in. I laid myself down on top of the trees crooked truck and wrapped my arms around it. I pressed my cheek into it’s rough bark, closing my eyes. It was so peaceful, so rejuvenating.
Then a version of myself appeared in spectral form from the light above. She took my head in her hands with so much love. Kissed my forehead, before pressing hers against it. There was so much joy. So much trust. So much understanding. I asked her questions and she silently gave me the answers that a part of me had known all along.
As I reluctantly left, I felt renewed. I felt myself carrying along a tether to this place, so that I could easily find my way back again. And I will surely go back. To continue to strengthen this connection to my high self. To find refuge and rest within. I am so grateful that I found this video guide yesterday. I am sharing it with you in the hopes that you may also discover something beautiful with it.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. (I am large. I contain multitudes.)
I am a yoga teacher, a devoted student as well. I am an ancient, quiet, thoughtful, loving soul. I am full of fire and passion and purpose. I am compassionate. I am capable. I am powerful. I am brilliant. This is me at my best. This is me embracing my full potential. My soul, untarnished and gleaming out from within. This is me present and pulsating with the joy of existence. However…
There is another side of me. A self steeped in shame and secrecy. The parts of me that are fearful, hateful, apathetic, envious, greedy, grotesque. This self-hating side of me that holds me prisoner. That ties up my spirit in doubt, in bitterness, in hopelessness. That whispers hateful ideas directly into my head. The part of me that says: This is the real you. The rest is just pathetic pretending. And I believe it.
This is a war wagged within me each and every day. As I lie down on my mat to meditate, I am boundless. I am free. I am happy. But when I stand up that feeling falls away. I leave that version of myself on the mat. I can never take it with me fully. As I go about my self-destructive, mindless daily rituals, it is painful to even remember that other part of myself. It feels like a dream. Or a fanciful character I sometimes play. I feel like an imposter, a fraud. I feel ashamed.
I don’t know why I identify so much more with the negative side of myself. Technically both expressions are me. I just don’t feel worthy enough to claim my higher aspects. Yet I desperately want to believe in the truth of those moments. The time I spend on my yoga mat, in the studio teaching every Saturday, that is not an act. The lovely qualities I am capable of are just as much a part of me as the disturbing ones. No one is perfectly splendid or perfectly awful. I should not feel ashamed of my dual nature. It is only natural.
I want to learn to embrace the side of myself that I admire and allow it to bleed out into my life off the mat more and more. Yet learn to accept that the darker aspects of myself will always be a part of me as well. I want to create harmony between the two and love myself for everything that I am, the good and the bad. I am hopeful that in this coming year I can start to find that healthy blend.
Since I was in high school or maybe even younger, I developed a somewhat strange way of thinking that was comforting. A duality seemed to exist in me at will, and I would imagine my physical body as a cute helpless animal that my mind had to care for. It allowed me to feel compassion for myself. I had the tendency to be quite critical and cruel to myself, but thinking in this way helped me to be kinder and more loving when I was feeling devastated or overwhelmed.
More recently, however, a third part of me has begun to emerge in this strange mental play as well. The seed of this idea was planted by something I read once. I have no idea where, but I’m certain I did not come up with it. As you may have already guessed by the title of this post, the idea was you are not your thoughts. Even while we are thinking, there is somehow also a separate awareness of those thoughts. We aren’t those thoughts, we are the observers of our thoughts. I like to image this is what in yoga is often referred to as the higher self.
This realization has completely transformed the way I see myself. I see my consciousness as something almost apart from and deeper than both my mind and body. This view gives me space from my experiences. It’s as if my consciousness exists outside of my physical body. This physical body also affects the way my conscious is able to manifest mentally. The chemicals that control the way my brain is able to function are affected by so many different factors from my genetics to the things I do and experience each day. But I am not my anxiety. I am not my anger or my doubt or my shame. I am able to observe my body and mind’s experience of these things now from a distance with curiosity and compassion. This space keeps me from getting caught in a torrent of negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. I just observe in stillness and let it settle. And it will always settle if you don’t keep stirring it up.
Maybe this idea is new to some of you. If so, I hope that you play with it in your own lives. I am still learning to utilize this mindfulness every day, but it has helped me more than I could have imagined. My wish is that by sharing what I’ve learned in a new way, it may also help others.