Sometimes showing up and being fully present feels too painful. So the mind carries us elsewhere, we move away from our experience. But the pain is still there. Left unacknowledged, it resides, every painful experience lodges in our body. Think about what happens in your body when you come under stress. Your belly tightens; the shoulders rise and hold, we may clench our jaw.
When we are in pain, when we are faced with a challenge, our deeper yearnings are for support, and for care. We don’t want someone telling us how horrible we are, or berating us for not somehow being better. Yoga is not about becoming someone better. It’s not about throwing away the parts of you that you don’t like or want. It’s about knowing who we are, re-claiming ourselves, discovering our very nature and feeling at home as ourselves, it’s a coming home. When we are at home with ourselves we experience greater ease. Ease is found when there is kindness, where there is care and warmth. The expression “we are our own worst enemy” is something most of us understand. That’s not what we really want; to be an enemy to ourselves…we want loving-kindness. We can practice offering ourselves more love and acceptance, a practice so rich and rewarding, but a challenge – a true “practice”, because we have deep grooves and scars for all of the unloving.
When we sense an area in the body where there is pain, or a place in the body that feels uncomfortable, noticing holding, gripping perhaps, see what it feels like to treat that part of your body like it’s an individual, that pain in that area like someone you could know. You can speak to your body, “I know this is hard. I know you’re in pain and I’m going to stay here with you, I want to be here for you.” What does that feel like? Do you notice in saying that, there is a little less tension, even if it’s minor, there is a shift, a change? Being with ourselves in this way, with our body, and being here for ourselves, like an old friend, offering to stay, to be present in this way fulfills a yearning we have; we sense that immediately in our bodies.
We yearn to connect; we yearn for harmony, for acceptance. The Tao Te Ching says the journey of a thousand miles starts right beneath your feet. Cultivating greater compassion, harmony and acceptance begins with the practice of learning to offer this to ourselves.
So staying in that place, telling that place in the body, I’m here, I’m going to stay with you, letting that open you, and staying with your breath, breathing in, and seeing if perhaps when we breathe out, we can soften our grip, we can feel love, tenderness, and perhaps, in feeling that security, release and let go a little more.