I grew up at war with myself.
If you've read previous blog posts, by now you know that I have a sensory processing disorder, manic depression, and an eating disorder.
I grew up as a dancer. I grew up perfecting myself in the mirror because I believed I was enormously flawed. I also loved how beautiful those movements, those pointe shoes, those costumes made me feel when I viewed myself as awkward and doofy otherwise. It was an escape.
I was shy, panicked at the idea of class presentations... and school in general, and feared being terrible.
I got sick a ton growing up. I also got injured a ton. I injured myself so badly that my knees gave out when I was 14 and my feet are chronically sprained.
I've learned a lot since my childhood. Sometimes I feel old because that kid doesn't even seem recognizable sometimes. I'm not old though, I'm only 27. And I do catch glimpses of that kid, still. I have a lot more learning to do.
Here is what I have learned so far:
1. Embrace what you have. If you can't tie your shoes because you're brain can't make sense of it, you get to save time by wearing slips ons. If you can't function in a "real" job, be an entrepreneur. If you think that all you are are flawed, explore things that you are good at. If I'm focused, I'm good at yoga, music, and was good at ballet. If I'm distracted and manic, I'm good at art. and coming up with idea. Get creative.
2. Embrace reality. Kind of repeating the above statement, but that's how important it is. We can wish all we want, but what is real is what we are working with and what is in front of us. I spent so much time wishing that my whole life was different, but all it did was aggravate and depress me further. Reality isn't always ideal, but it is real and we can work with what is real with much less frustration. I think the practice of yoga plays a huge role here in that we face ourselves every time we step onto the mat. We face the condition of the body and mind. We face the fact that we had too much to drink the night before, not enough to eat. Maybe we also learn the difference between too much alcohol and the right amount of food and hydration. We learn to find challenge without pushing too far, practicing acceptance of where we are on any given day. We learn to be grateful for what we have and the simple notion that we can practice yoga in the first place.
3. Do not fight yourself. If you are sick, rest. If you feel like you are getting sick, rest. Same thing if you are injured. If you are hungry, eat something nourishing. Learn about what foods make you feel supported. If you aren't as strong or flexible as you want to be, don't push. Practice patience and discipline. Take good care of yourself and you might just find that you start to love yourself. And when you love yourself, you can love everybody else a lot easier.
4. If it's hard for you, but you want it, do it. My favorite example right now is this: I grew up with horrible stage fright if I had to speak in front of anyone. I was terrified of answering questions because I didn't want to be wrong or sound dumb. I started to feel like I was disappearing because I was so fearful. Fast forward, I am studying in the 500 hour Yoga Medicine program with Tiffany Cruikshank. In grand attempts not to be starstruck and to get myself out of a rut, I decided from the first day that I would answer one question per module. And that is what I have been doing. This past module, I answered a question every day! I want so badly to be bold, confident, and myself. I want to let go of fear. And I am learning that the only way to do that is to do really scary things. **If you are an extrovert you might be laughing right now. Replace speaking with... whatever extroverts are afraid of.
5. If you are experiencing emotions, allow yourself to feel them. Sometimes emotions can be scary. Sometimes as yoga people, we feel like we aren't allowed to feel anything but peace, love, and joy. But I think that if you don't let yourself feel all of them, you will stop feeling the good ones, too. A long time ago, I started by allowing myself to feel anger again, then all the other ones, and finally, this year, I have felt more joyful emotions than I can ever remember. Please know that I still feel anger, too. But also lots of joy. I think it's important to experience and process every emotion that comes up, whether it's rational or not, so that we can be complete human beings. My meditation practice plays an enormous role in uncovering unexpressed emotions and observing what they feel like. **Experiencing and acting are two different things. Do your best not to punch a hole in your wall if you are angry.
6. Biggest lesson: making love, not war, with yourself can result in better health, more confidence, and more ease. Let go of the struggle. It's not as bad as it seems, even if it's bad. Go with the flow.