Recently I taught a Yoga Therapeutics course at Kripalu and it was wonderful. The students were incredibly receptive to the teachings and I felt a very strong heart-connection with them. After the course, being in high spirits, I did what I often do in the summer after teaching – I took a “victory ride” on my bike through the beautiful Berkshire Mountains.
I was so high on life I honestly do not remember pedaling. Something greater than myself was doing the work. All I remember is the feeling of the summer late afternoon breeze on my face, the smell of the farmland, the heat of the sun, and the beautiful summer light cast upon the colorful hills of green pastures and fields of multi-colored wild flowers all around me. It was mesmerizing. My senses were alive. I saw everything as if in bright “HD” clarity. When passing some very large cows, I felt a connection with them, as though I knew the experience of “cow-ness”. I had a feeling of love and connection with everything.
Then an insight arose. I was happy because I had served something greater than myself and gave it my all. There was no residue left behind. I was sincerely pleased with myself. I consciously acknowledged myself for the good work I did, not in an egotistical way, but in an authentic way.
All too often when I look at myself, my habit is to judge and become self-critical. I think we all do this at times, which is normal. But judgement and self-criticism is related to a sense of lack and not being good enough. This is one of the symptoms of perfectionism. You set unreachable goals for yourself that leave you feeling less than perfect. I think perfectionism is a disease of the mind that creates a pressurized standard too high to reach. It clouds your ability to accept yourself just as you are. But perfectionism does keep me on my creative edge.
It’s healthy to want to be better and improve. But perfectionism uses shame to get you there and shame erodes the very core of your ability to love yourself. Shame is a form of the Anava Mala (dust on the surface of the heart) that obscures the light of consciousness. When perfectionism and shame arise, they sap your energy, making it difficult to find anything good to appreciate about yourself. This starts a negative downward spiral.
Yoga teaches us that one of the keys to happiness is self-recognition – your capacity to see and appreciate yourself. When you truly appreciate yourself, and recognize your goodness, the universe lifts you up. When you feel good about yourself, when you are in agreement with yourself, you align with how grace sees you. Grace doesn’t judge. It sees your goodness. It sees your deeper intention.
But what should you do when you can’t appreciate yourself? The answer is acceptance. To accept yourself as you are is the gateway that leads you to the threshold of appreciation. Once there, your heart, which longs for appreciation, opens and you recognize your true nature which is joy.
What do you appreciate about yourself? What was something you did today that was good? Have you taken a victory ride today? If not, saddle up and get riding. Life is short!