Be Your Own Sanctuary

Do not look for sanctuary in anyone except your self.

Buddha

We’ve all heard this sentiment before. We must love ourselves before anyone else can love us. Or no one can save us but ourselves. How we love ourselves is how we teach others to love us, etc, etc. Just from the sheer number of quotes with this type of message, we can assume that there must be at least some truth to them. When I was younger I used to roll my eyes at the many cliches and generic sounding phrases and quotes people would use so often. But as I’ve gotten older, it has become obvious why these words have created such a lasting impression upon humanity. Time and time again we find ourselves faced with the inherent truth of quotes such as the one above, quotes that have weathered the ages and remained for centuries in the mouths of humanity. They have spanned the vast oceans and appeared in one form or another in every human culture.

I find it interesting the way I’ve seen some people interpret this message. I’ve known several people who felt attacked by these innocuous words of guidance. I myself used to feel somewhat crestfallen upon being reminded of them. For some people, the idea of loving themselves, especially without first having the love of another, seems unimaginable, impossible even. A lot of us seek that validation from outside ourselves before we will even consider ourselves worthy of our own love. Therefore being told we must love ourselves first or all other love will fall apart seems like a life sentence of solitude, a quite cruel thing to say.

Now I see that these words are actually some of the most uplifting and hopeful that I’ve heard. Another way to interpret this message is that we already have all the love we need inside of ourselves. Even if it’s hard, even if it takes years of practice, we will always have ourselves at the end of the day. If we are able to love ourselves, the rest of life will come easily. With this inner love, this inner sanctuary we can create for ourselves, we never have to be alone. Other people in our lives will come and go, they may even harm us or reject our love, but as long as we have loving kindness towards ourselves, we will never truly suffer. No one can take us from our sanctuary, because our sanctuary lies within ourselves.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mixed Emotions

I’ve mentioned that I have a lot of unhealthy behaviors that I’ve been struggling with this past year in quarantine. Even though I’ve begun to feel utterly fed up with performing these behaviors, they still seem to persist. It feels like, despite all of my best laid plans to change, I always fall short in the end. However, yesterday the idea of letting all of those things go, my rigid schedule, my smoking, my eating habits, seemed possible. If you happened to read my post from yesterday, you may understand why.

This is not a new phenomenon, and I’m sure other people have experienced this as well. That special motivation and excitement from the idea of changing for someone else. I know sometimes that can be a toxic thing. You shouldn’t aim to change important parts of yourself for another. But the thought of improving your image in the eyes of someone else by finally changing things you’ve already been wanting to change seems different.

While I’m grateful for this new sense of energy and motivation, I am also wary of it. Curious about it. Last night as I contemplated my complete disinterest in the idea of binging on junk foods like I would have normally done, I wondered why exactly this behavior had no appeal to me whatsoever. Thinking of the shame I would experience if anyone I knew were to find out always seemed to just exacerbate the problem. No, this was something different. It was positive emotion that was guiding me. I finally settled on the idea that this newfound inspiration to turn away from negative behaviors stemmed from an overwhelming sensation of tenderness and self-love.

It’s been so long since I’ve really fancied someone enough to remember this feeling. Somehow being approved of by someone I really like always seems to flood me with not only the happiness of mutual admiration, but of self-acceptance. Everything seems so much more concrete and crisp when reflected back to you through another. And while I am still extremely grateful and happy for this rediscovered feeling, I am also somewhat upset by it.

Why do I need the attention and approval of someone else to finally love myself? I am still the same person I always was. I have always been deserving of this love. I have been trying (and mostly failing) to love myself for years and years now. No matter what I do, no matter how many positive affirmations I recite or automatic negative thoughts that I try to reframe, at the end of the day, I am always left with the idea that I’m simply not good enough yet to be worthy of my own love.

Yet someone I’ve only met twice comes along and suddenly I am capable of loving myself? Why? I doubt I’ll ever fully be able to understand it. Perhaps I am thinking about it too much. It feels like once again I’ve found myself trying to focus on the negative. True, I should love myself despite what anyone else in the world thinks of me, but I am still grateful for being given a helping hand towards that goal for the time being. Despite the initial catalyst for these positive thoughts and emotions, they are still much appreciated.

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

2nd Date

What a strange sensation. To feel so happy and eager to see what the future holds. I can’t even remember the last time I felt like this. I’m really trying not to get my hopes up. I know that just because I am feeling good now doesn’t mean that things will work out in the end, but even so I can’t help myself. I’ve never been very good at stopping myself from getting carried away by the possibility of happy times to come. Today has been the best day I’ve had in such a long time.

Today I went on a second date with my new vegan friend. Once again, considering the pandemic, we opted for another hike, this time at a local state park. We even planned to have a little picnic with some wine. I am still in disbelief about how cute it was. The weather was absolutely perfect. I got to wear shorts for the first time since last summer. We spent an hour or so exploring the woods together, stopping to examine different wildflowers as we went. We have so many things in common and so much to talk about. It never feels like we have enough time to say all that we want to say.

Once we were finished with our hike, we found a picnic bench under the shade of some tall pine trees to have our lunch. He had prepared everything for us so nicely. He had a cooler and a picnic blanket for us to spread out over the pine needle covered wooden table. I brought some apples and snap pea crisps for us. He brought some fresh berries, hummus, veggies to dip in it, and of course a lovely bottle of red wine. In addition to all of this (as if it wasn’t perfect and adorable enough already) he handed me a bouquet of tulips! In the past, I haven’t really been a fan of being given flowers for holidays and whatnot, but as a spontaneous surprise, it was just too precious to resist. I don’t know if anything like that has ever happened to me on a date before today.

It was so nice to see him relax more and more as we sipped on our glasses of wine. This was the first time I really got to look at him while we talked, given that until now we had only really talked in person while walking. I really enjoyed looking into his pretty blue eyes and examining the details of his handsome face. He even has one of my favorite male haircuts. I really wanted to kiss him when we parted ways this time, but unfortunately did not. It’s awfully strange to date during a pandemic. I’m never sure if he doesn’t want to kiss me or he’s just being respectful and considerate. On my somewhat long drive back home, I kept kicking myself, fearful that it was the former.

I have been on so many dates in the past that ended up being the last I heard from the person. Now that I had decided I really liked him, I was so afraid this would be another one of those instances. But just like after our first date, he messaged me as soon as I got back home telling me what a lovely time he had. Past disappointments have made me so wary of romantic optimism, but I just can’t restrain my excitement. I really like him a lot. I feel so lucky to have met such a wonderful, vegan man. Especially given that he is from the city. It’s a mystery to me why he would even have any interest in seeing me, given that I live an hour away in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure there are plenty of lovely vegan women closer to him that would be more convenient to date. Nothing against him, but I doubt I would make the same effort if my area wasn’t such a veritable vegan desert.

Maybe it’s just the wine, but my heart feels so soft and gooey right now. I can’t help contemplating all of the fun activities we could do together this summer. I already have so many more interesting date ideas that I can’t wait to try. There are so many things I want to tell him and share with him about my life. There are so many questions I want to ask him about his own. I’m so interested to learn all there is to learn about him. He was reading a freaking book while he waited for me to meet him at the park for crying out loud!!! It’s all just too much for me. I’m swooning.

I had nearly forgotten what it feels like to have a crush on someone. For years now, I was only able to associate romantic feelings with regret, sadness, frustration, confusion, and pain. Even writing this post right now gives me a nostalgic feeling of being a love-struck teenager again. It’s so similar to when I used to gush about boys in my diary. I genuinely never thought I would feel that way again. After all, it has been nearly a decade since I have.

I know it’s still an extremely new relationship and that there is still plenty of potential to get hurt, but for the first time in a long time it feels like it’s worth the risk. And even if things don’t end up turning out well for us, I want to have this post to look back on and remember to be grateful for these feelings and this moment that I have right now. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how things are moving along. Hopefully after our next date, I’ll finally get that coveted first kiss.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sit With It

When you notice yourself starting to feel overwhelmed, remember one thing. It’s okay to feel that way. There seems to be a constant pressure to make every moment of your existence pleasant or pleasurable or exciting. It is easy to forget that there is still value in the more difficult moments. There is nothing wrong with having an off day, month, or even an entire year. We don’t need to hurry ourselves to get out of these low periods in our lives. Often it is that very desperation to avoid our feelings that causes them to be such a burden on us. I would definitely say that my panicked reaction to noticing that I’m anxious or worrying that something will make me anxious is far worse and occupies more of my time than the anxiety itself.

It’s easy to skip a day of meditation or shorten my practice when I am feeling particularly jittery or restless. Even if I do make it into my seat, it can be an irresistible temptation to fidget, twist, stretch my neck, etc. Sometimes it’s impossible not to give in and allow some gentle movements as I’m first settling in. One of the things I’ve learned, however, is that resisting those urges can lead to a very meaningful, reassuring, and nourishing practice. Letting our minds trail off in thought or moving our bodies around are excellent ways to distract us from what we are feeling. Sometimes it feels like I am afraid of having any free time, because I won’t be able to avoid myself. But the beauty of these moments is what happens when you force yourself to face them.

I’ve learned that when you run from things, they keep chasing you. It becomes an endless race that leaves you exhausted. There is no true escape. On the other hand, when you ground yourself in the moment and allow your fears to catch up to you, they often dissolve in your gaze. It is so strange to be human, to be this unnatural animal living in an artificial reality. The mechanisms of evolution that have led us to this place, given us these bodies we now have, no longer seems to serve us. We are fish out of water. Yet we are the ones that have removed ourselves. We have created technology that allows us to breath on dry land, yet our physical forms continue to send signals of danger and death with every breeze.

While these signals are meant to protect us from real danger, sometimes the signals themselves become the thing we fear most. When we simply allow those feelings to wash over us, something amazing happens. We realize that these feelings cannot harm us. Subconsciously it seems like stress alone will suffocate us, so we continue to run from it every day. Once we finally decide to stop running and sit down to face these feelings of disease, we see that we have nothing to fear. We will survive the stressful moments. We will survive heartbreak and embarrassment. These emotions may never be easy, but we don’t have to let them control us either.

Meditation can be similar to exposure therapy. When a person is put into contact with an irrational phobia, this shows their body and mind that their phobia won’t really harm them. Then the fear can finally begin to dissipate. Meditation can be scary for this very reason. This is what makes it so hard for so many people. The fear of the unknown or even the fear of ourselves keeps a lot of people from every venturing to begin a meditation practice. Even after years of practicing every day, I still get nervous at the thought of sitting in that stillness. But it is always worth it. It is difficult to face your fears, but we must challenge ourselves to do so. We’ve got to have faith in ourselves in order to carry on. We must trust that we will make it through and that we are capable of handling whatever this life brings to us. Even when it seems impossible, take a deep breath, and try to sit with it.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Vegan Dating

Yesterday I had my first date with the vegan guy I met on Veggly. It’s one of the few vegan dating apps I’ve found. It has a lot of glitches and isn’t perfect by any means, but it gets the job done. It allows vegans to find other vegans, and that’s good enough for me. I can’t imagine they were able to put a lot of money towards development, so I’m grateful for whatever I can get.

Anyway, I’ve met a few guys on this app in the past. The first date is always a gamble. And not in the sense that you might imagine. The gamble is whether or not you will ever hear from them again afterwards. I’ve been completely ghosted more than a few times. It’s hard not to take it personally, but I’ve learned not to waste time wondering why or getting angry about it. After all, I’ve done my fair share of ghosting. I’m not proud to admit it, but it’s true.

Yesterday I tried to keep my mind on the present and just enjoy our walk on the trails together. It was a beautiful day, and I was pleased to find I had good company. I knew once we parted ways that may be the end of it. Either way, it was so refreshing to have another vegan to talk to, someone who truly understands my point of view, politically, dietarily, and environmentally. A very rare find in my neck of the woods. Which is why I generally have to search for vegans about an hour away in the city, like I did to find this one.

It’s hard to gather a full impression of someone from speaking with them for only a couple hours, but as far as I could tell, I like him. Then the question became if I would ever hear from him again. I try not to get my hopes up. To my surprise, he messaged me again a few minutes after I had returned home. He even wants to set up another date this coming week, which pleases and terrifies me at the same time. I’ve made a lot of progress over the last several days, but even so it’s been hard for me to divert from my normal routine. Although it is a much needed challenge for me.

My friends and family always seem perplexed at my insistence that my partner be vegan. It’s really hard to explain to them without coming off as aggressive or offensive. The only way I can think to properly explain it always sounds like I’m being a jerk to my non-vegan friends. No one seems to understand the vast moral divide between vegans and meat-eaters. Trying to explain it always leave me sounding harsh. But the truth is often harsh, and I don’t know how else to put it.

What I want to say when they ask me why I don’t want to date non-vegans is this: Would you want to date someone that eats children? Puts dead baby legs in the freezer? Or someone who ate cats and dogs? Buying bulldog flesh at the market and barbecuing it on your grill? Sharing your kitchen with gruesome death? Being reminded of ignorance, selfishness, and suffering at each and every meal? You can see why this type of response wouldn’t go over well with the questioner. Instead of understanding, it just illicits resentment.

That is why it is so refreshing that my new vegan friend, Nick, understands. It’s hard to explain how nice it is to speak with someone who you don’t have to edit yourself around. I don’t need to water my opinions down so I don’t upset or offend him. I can speak my mind. Not only that, but I can be heard and understood while doing so. Dating a meat-eater is accepting that your partner will never truly understand you. Because if they did they would no longer continue their died of death.

All of these things contribute to my excitement about Nick. He even ended a two year relationship because his partner refused to transition. To me that shows that he truly has the courage of his convictions. I greatly respect that difficult decision. Hopefully things will continue to go well between us. For the first time in a long time, I am excited to see what the future holds.

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

Meeting Someone New

Living with crippling social anxiety for most of my life, it is such a strange feeling to not be nervous about meeting someone new. I have a date with a vegan guy I met online this Saturday. It will be the first time we’ve seen one another in person. I think this is an example of a scenario where most people would feel at least a little nervous. But surprisingly even these types of encounters don’t phase me anymore. However, now there are other mental obstacles I face when meeting someone new.

For the longest time, I had basically given up on everyone. It seemed like it had been ages since I met anyone that was even remotely interesting, let alone funny. I began to think that I had just been lucky early on to meet so many wonderful people that have since slowly trickled out of my life. I had little to no hope of finding more people that were able to live up to my expectations. But now I’m starting to challenge that way of thinking. This last year and a half at my new job working with so many hilarious, fascinating, and intelligent people has reawakened my hope in humanity. Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, our minds subconsciously confirm what we already believe, even when it’s something we would really rather not be true. I wonder if perhaps at least some of the people I’ve written off in the past few years could have actually been perfectly nice if I’d given them more of a chance.

As I try to mentally prepare for meeting this person a few days from now, I have a very narrow line to walk. I am learning how to keep myself from expecting too much from someone while also not assuming they have nothing to offer me. Normally I have a tendency to do one or the other. When I expect too much from someone, I begin to get irritated when they don’t meet those expectations. Not only am I disappointed, but I actually feel bitter and resentful towards them at times. On the other hand, when I decide that someone will probably just be another boring waste of time, my mind tends to notice only the details of our encounters that support that predetermined idea.

It is hard for me to allow a new person enough time and space to show me who they really are. It can be hard for me to stick around long enough to get to know someone fully before making my ultimate judgement. That is partly because I feel like I am leading them on or wasting their time if I’m not feeling all in right away. I’m worried I am giving them a false impression of how invested I am in the relationship. It’s also difficult for me to stick around because sometimes it just feels like I am trying to force something that isn’t right. I guess I just feel pressured to make up my mind about people after only a few dates. Sometimes I even keep seeing someone because I feel like by doing so I’m giving them a chance, even when deep down my heart and mind have already been made up.

My intuition is something that I question a lot. It seems like I am usually able to tell right away when someone is a really good personality match for me whether it be a friendly or romantic relationship. But there have been times that unexpected people have become essential parts of my life. I never know when I should trust my intuition or when I should challenge it. Or even whether or not it matters. Maybe my intuition and initial impressions are going to influence me either way.

I’ve noticed that it is often easier for me to get a feel for who someone is when I am able to spend time with them in a relaxed, group setting rather than one on one. This way I am able to observe them. I can see the way they interact and react to other people instead of just me. I’ve always felt it was easier to get to know someone when they are around their friends. This is one of the many reasons that online dating is especially hard for me. It doesn’t seem to work well for me to try to get to know someone in a vacuum. But I don’t know what I can do about that. As an adult I’ve found it exceptionally hard to meet new people, especially people that have the same interests and values that I do. I was hoping once I found a partner that was vegan everything else would come easily. Sadly, however, that hasn’t been the case. To my surprise, a lot of vegans still manage to be terrible people.

So as Saturday draws near, I am trying not to worry about what will come of it in the end. I am trying to stay curious, to stay open-minded. I want to allow myself to just have fun with whatever happens. I want to go into it with a light-hearted, playful mindset. With only the intention of discovering what this new person is all about. Perhaps it will be my soulmate, perhaps we’ll become good friends, or maybe it will just be a one time adventure exploring the local trails on a warm sunny day in spring. I am keeping my heart open to whatever the day may hold.

Photo by Tobi on Pexels.com

Cycles

Everything’s a cycle. You’ve gotta let it come to you. And when it does, you will know what to do.

– Bright Eyes

Happy spring, everyone! I am so pleased to welcome this most lovely of seasons back again. While I adore the summer months, spring is probably my true favorite. There is nothing quite like the fresh, bright, vibrant energy of this time of year. There is so much beauty in contrast. I’ve always found it funny the way 55-60 degree weather in the fall seems dreadfully cold to me, yet the very same temperature is a godsend in the spring. At the end of the year I’d consider this weather too chilly for a walk, but now I am itching to be outdoors in the sunshine again. I used to dream about moving somewhere south so that I wouldn’t have to experience the snow and bitter cold of winter every year, but as I’ve grown older I’ve developed an attachment to this area of the country. Sometimes we need to face discomfort or adversity in order to fully appreciate and savor the rest of life. There is a lot that the cycling of seasons has to teach us if we are willing to witness their endless unfolding.

There is a strange comfort that repetition brings us. This constant ebb and flow that exists everywhere in this life is truly something beautiful to behold. This constant churning keeps life from becoming stagnant. It really is true that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Without the colorless cold, the bitter wind, the once lush trees reduced to creaking black skeletons, we would not be able to fully appreciate watching the landscape come alive again. We wouldn’t be able to experience this bustling, rustling, vibrating energy as the earth comes alive once more. The sensation of new life, of awakening, of hope that spring stirs within us is unparalleled. It never gets old no matter how many years we have had here.

Spring reminds us that we need not fear the winter. It also insinuates that we need not fear even death. Imagine how frightened the first conscious creatures were that lived through winter. Surely with no guarantee, I would have assumed all was ending forever. Just as many of us feel facing death without faith in a god or an afterlife. There are no guarantees. No scientific evidence that we can analyze to suggest that anything exists beyond our final breaths. Still I find my own kind of faith in all of the cycles I see around me every day. Some cycles are as short as the ever-present rhythm of the breath, some are too long for us to comprehend or observe in a single lifetime. But I trust in the cyclical systems that surround us, that are within us, that we are inextricably involved in. While I may not be able to say what the cycle of life and death fully looks like, or even what it means for me, I am confident it is still a cycle all the same. I may not be there to witness the spring that blooms on the other side of my existence on this earth, in this body, in this mind, but I am confident that that spring exists. But for now, while I am still here, I am going to keep trying to learn from these cycles, to be mindful of them, to be grateful for them, to be patient with them, and to honor and accept where I am within them.

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Children

It is crazy how much can change within you in only a year. When I first began working at a child advocacy center, I really didn’t like children very much. I know it sounds awful, but it’s true. I didn’t dislike them. I just hadn’t had hardly any experience with them in my personal life, let alone at work. I have no idea why I was even hired to be honest. My social anxiety has always been extra overwhelming when it comes to children. I had never learned what I was supposed to do or say around them. I had no idea what to expect or how to respond.

Learning how to talk to and behave around children is just another one of the many reasons I am inexpressibly grateful for this job. Now that I have been able to spend so much time with children, it turns out that I actually love them. They are so much better than adult humans. So innocent and loving. So eager to please. So eager to learn and to understand. They are truly amazing little creatures. There is a unique joy that comes from gaining the trust of a child, to be offered a tiny hand or hug. Even though we aren’t supposed to be touching one another right now because of the pandemic, who could deny such a blessed gift?

Part of me began to worry when I realized I actually love children now. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on my blog before, but when I was 22 or 23 I had my tubes tied. I never had the desire to have children, and was always terrified at the idea of accidentally getting pregnant and having to have an abortion. Or even worse, not being able to get an abortion. I am still so grateful that I found a caring doctor that was willing to respect my wishes and my right to make decisions about my own body. Never once did she talk down to me or try to tell me I’d change my mind some day. And I’m relieved to be able to say I haven’t.

I don’t think I’ll ever come to regret that decision. I still firmly believe that human being in general are a plague upon this planet. I would never add more fuel to that fire. Besides, I could never allow myself to bring a child into this world knowing I’d have to watch them die when the earth becomes uninhabitable in a few decades. I still think I am too selfish and impatient to be the kind of mother I would want to be. I’m still more than happy just having my fur children. Besides even if I ever wanted a child of my own, I would never be brave enough to go through pregnancy and childbirth. That whole process still seems horrific to me. I see no difference between an adopted child and one that has my DNA. I’d happily be a foster parent or adopt a child if the urge ever struck me to bring a child into my life.

For now I feel like I am exactly where I need to be. Being a child advocate is the perfect job for me in so many ways. Apparently a lot of people that don’t want to have children of their own end up working with children instead. I think it’s a perfect compromise for the nurturing, motherly instinct I have as a woman. I am still able to have children in my life without having them in my home. I have a place to help them learn and grow and thrive, while also still having my privacy and personal space at home.

I finally understand that deeply fulfilling feeling of being a positive influence in the life of a child. It is such a magical thing to see the world through their eyes, to see how much your words and actions mean to them. I can see now why so many people are able to have limitless hope in humanity. These little beings are capable of becoming anything. They have so much potential to do good in this world. They are so full of curiosity and love. If only there were more people around them to teach them how to hold onto that love as they grow older. The children of this world are definitely capable of learning, sadly the adults are not competent enough to teach them.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Balance

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

Once again it was teacher training weekend at my yoga studio. This month they are learning about balancing postures. I think these poses have the potential to be particularly special teaching tools. We are able to learn so much about ourselves through them. They help us build strong stabilizing muscles. They allow us to connect with our center. They help us develop focus, perseverance, and grace. They help us create beautiful shapes with the body. And they also lead to profound insights about who we are and how we deal with life on and off our mats.

One of my favorite sayings in yoga is: the mat is a mirror. Our yoga practice is a little microcosm of life. When we are performing our asanas, when we allow the mind to be still, when we watch our thoughts, our reactions, we are able to learn a lot. One of the most important things balancing postures showed me is how I deal with frustration. I can still remember following along with challenging advanced yoga videos online and getting absolutely infuriated when I wasn’t able to keep up or move through the poses in time with the video. I was literally almost in tears I was so angry. One day I was able to pause long enough and find enough space to see this. Then I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Why on earth was I getting so mad? Why was I acting so vicious and serious? Why was I being so hard on myself? It all seemed so absurd.

This lesson has stayed with me ever since. I still catch myself becoming upset sometimes when I keep falling out of a balancing pose, but now it just makes me smile. It’s just a reminder to be gentle with myself, to come back to my breath, to remember why I’m here. Falling out of a handstand is just as important as holding one. Maybe even more important. What does doing a pose perfectly teach you? “Failing” to reach your goal is much more helpful for our internal and external growth. When we fall, we learn to fall safely. We learn where are limits are, when to honor and when to challenge those limits. We learn how to keep trying. We learn new things to focus on. We learn how to forgive ourselves. Aren’t these the reasons we keep coming back to our practice? Isn’t that why it’s called a practice? All of these things are so much more valuable to our lives than being able to balance on our hands upside down.

Yoga is a constant reminder that this life is truly about the journey, not the destination. It reminds me of something I saw recently online. It was commenting about how messed up those posters are in schools that say things like: Failure is not an option! How silly that sounds. Failure is always an option. Failure is just another part of the journey, not the end. Failure is full of lessons. It’s an opportunity for growth. It’s not something we should fear or try to avoid. It is necessary. And it’s a perfectly acceptable part of life, no matter what stage of it you find yourself in. We shouldn’t be teaching our children to fear failure but how to embrace it and learn from it. There are so many poses I am able to do now with ease that I never would have imagined I’d be capable of a few years ago. If I wouldn’t have allowed myself to try and fail dozens if not hundreds of times, I would never have found out what amazing things my body could learn to do.

It makes me wonder how many opportunities for growth I’ve already passed up in this life simply because I was too afraid of failure to try. It is these types of thoughts that make me believe that yoga is the best gift I have ever been given in this life. Yoga allows you to realize that you are holding your life in your own hands. It is a soft lump of clay that you can form anything you want out of. Hardships, suffering, failure. Things that once seemed so impossible to face, I now see as lessons, puzzles, mysteries, or riddles. What can I learn from this? Can I find the glimmer of light on the horizon of the darkest night? Can I learn to accept and fully experience whatever this life presents to me? Can I find joy and ease even when it’s hard? If you’re someone who loves to learn like me, you’ll be happy to know that there is a lesson in everything if you look for one. Better still, when you are looking for your own lessons, you will find exactly what you need most.

There is still so much left for me to learn and discover in my yoga practice as well as my life. I’m sure there are even more things like what I’ve discussed today that I will encounter along this strange and beautiful journey. Things that will change me forever. Things that will challenge me, surprise me, test me, and remold me in ways I am unable to imagine as I am now. I can’t wait to keep practicing, to keep searching, learning, finding balance, falling, failing, laughing, and getting back up.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Outgrowing Selfishness

I’ve always thought of myself as a very self-centered person. Autism could be a contributing factor to a lot of my more selfish tendencies. It’s not ever been a malicious selfishness. I’m not acting in my own interest at the expense of others. If I ever have, I’ve only unwittingly done so. It’s more like sometimes I forget to consider other people entirely, because I am too busy being consumed by my own inner world. I can still remember when I was very young, noticing that other people would often compliment someone else’s clothing or hair, etc. I remember asking my mom why I never felt the urge to do that, even if I did like something about someone else. I assumed it was only because I was shy and socially anxious. Only after I began forcing myself to compliment people did it become a comfortable, natural habit. I was surprised to discover that it even made me happy.

As I continue to get older, I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more interested in being of use to other people. And the way that thinking of and helping others is its own reward. I once thought selfishness was just a personality trait. I’ve now started to wonder if it’s simply an aspect of youth. I remember hearing about older people focusing their remaining energies on giving back to the community and supporting their family. It seems like in the later stages of life, giving back, sharing what you’ve learned and acquired with others, becomes the most personally fulfilling thing. I always had a hard time imagining myself in this role. Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

I’ve heard the metaphor of life being compared to a wave in the ocean. In the beginning we are one with the sea, then we crest for a time, the illusion of an individual entity, before eventually falling back into the water we came from. The longer I live, the more convinced I become of two things about this life: Everything is a cycle, and everything is one. These are the fundamental truths I keep coming back to when I have my spiritual experiences with LSD. It is comforting and profound. I can see it everywhere I look. It gives me hope that every ending inevitably leads to a new beginning on both a micro and macro scale.

The idea of the fluctuation of selfishness throughout life seems to fall into that framework as well. When we are born, we are totally dependent on others. Although no longer in the womb, we are still very much an extension of our mother, feeding from her very body to survive. Then we slowly but surely begin to gain independence. We revel in this newfound freedom, we test it’s limits, we find our individuality, just like the wave on the ocean. For awhile we are lost in the intoxication of this illusion. The illusion that we are separate.

No matter what, if any, religion or spirituality you subscribe to, getting older tends to remind us that we are all one, with our fellow humans, other species, the earth, everything. We all depend on one another, we all live through and because of one another. We’ve all sprouted from the same source, just as we will all return to it someday. Like waves in the ocean. But just like the ocean, the tide is relentless. There is no ending to the ebb and flow, there is a constant undulating cycle. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of this. For me especially, it is nice to be reminded of the way things change, the way I change without even realizing it. What may seem terrifying and impossible to accept one day, seems as easy as breathing when the time finally arrives. We don’t need to worry about how we will handle situations in the distant future, because this current version of ourselves won’t be the one dealing with it anyway. We’ve simply got to keep going and trust that when we get there we will be the person we need to be to get through it.

So there is nothing to fear. Not even death. Because no matter how many cycles come to an end, a new one starts simultaneously, spiraling out into infinity. For a time it may be important for us to be selfish, to learn how to best take care of this newfound self. But there is also beauty and comfort in playing with the very idea of “self.” What made me decide to draw the line where I have? Why is this body the only thing I consider me? Maybe I am actually more than this. That boundary seems to be expanding, little by little, every day. And one day this little brief wave that I am will have fully submerged once again.

Photo by Riccardo Bresciani on Pexels.com