Tomorrow is my birthday! I have always loved birthdays. It is the day that an individual soul took birth in this form, in this lifetime. It is the day that I came to see the world with brand new eyes. It is the manifestation of the soul continuing on its journey. When I was younger, I looked forward to birthdays with intense excitement and celebration. Although I still get pretty excited (evident by celebrating my birthday month…yes, the entire month!), entering my 30’s has also brought quite a bit of self-reflection with each passing year. I find myself looking back to where I’ve been, considering how all of my experiences have unfolded into this moment, and also getting curious about what lies ahead on my journey. So, here I offer some reflections on lessons I have learned from my 36 years:
1. Love yourself. This is perhaps the biggest lesson, with many layers and complexities. Self-love. Although it seems quite simple, it is something that many of us don’t really give much attention. I never even realized that “self-love” was a thing that was lacking or that needed to be worked on until a few years ago. Through my yoga and meditation practices, I learned to watch my thoughts and what I found shocked me. I found all the ways in which I was not loving myself: engaging in self-judgement and negative self-talk, saying “yes” when I really meant “no,” ignoring my gut feelings, not trusting my inner voice. My meditation and yoga practices taught me to develop awareness of these deeply conditioned patterns. I learned that many of those patterns do not serve me; they do not serve my higher good and, in fact, prevent me from being the absolute best version of myself that I can be! It is now my daily practice to engage in acts of radical self-care: to listen to my body’s signals, to trust my inner voice (even if it means doing something I fear or that is out of my comfort zone), to saying “no” and being totally okay with that, to truly and deeply honoring my Self.
2. Forgive. It is the only way to set your heart free. Forgive everyone who you feel has hurt you. Forgive, not for their sake but for yours. Forgive because it pushes you deeper into the depths of love within your own being. Forgive so that you may shed the layers that cover the beautiful light of love within your heart. And, most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for all of your “mistakes;” because there are really no mistakes, only lessons to be learned. Forgive yourself for all of the hurt you have caused others; because, we only hurt others when we are wrapped in our Ego-based fears and this is not our true Self. Forgive yourself for not being “perfect;” because, in reality, we are all perfectly imperfect. Our imperfections, our scars, and our wounds are what open us up, but only if we let them; they allow us to connect with others; they give rise to compassion and empathy. So, forgive. Forgive others and forgive yourself.
3. The only way to combat fear is with love. Anytime fear crops into my being, I know that I have drifted away from love and trust. Learn to put two hands over your heart, bow your head down and say “I love you; I trust you; I honor you.” Do it. Do it now. And, do it anytime that fear arises.
4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Perhaps the greatest modern-day teacher on vulnerability is Brene Brown (if you haven’t seen her ted talk, watch it here). Society teaches us to cover up our real Self, that if we reveal our true feelings, thoughts, and emotions, then we will be seen as weak. Yet, my path has taught me something different. It takes great strength to speak your inner truth. It takes great courage to share your deepest thoughts, feelings, hopes, and regrets. And, when we do, the rewards are priceless. Through starting Shakti Vidya Yoga, through writing these blogs and sharing personal lessons in my classes, I have made the conscious decision to make myself vulnerable. For those of you who know me well, you know that it isn’t easy for me to open up, having always prided myself on being a “private” person, stubbornly independent, and “figuring things out all on my own.” To share, to ask for help, to rely on the love and support of others has not been easy, yet it has been so deeply fulfilling. My friendships have grown stronger. My every interaction has become more meaningful. It has led to deeper connections and more genuine heartfelt dialogue with every person I meet.
5. Play, laugh, and dance! Stop taking life so damn seriously and have a little fun! Let go of the “how will I look?”, or “but, what will people say?” Let yourself be a little silly. I’ve started doing this thing in my classes where in between poses, I invite students to close their eyes and shake it all out; shake their arms, shake their legs, move a little outside of their comfort zones on their mats, and even be a little silly. Laugh like a child, dance like no one is looking, and notice your heart begin to smile. Yes, now this is what life is about...
Allow your heart to smile, my friends :-)
With love and light, in service and gratitude,