I’ve been teaching a breathing practice lately that I get the sense makes some peoples skin crawl or they just choose to completely ignore me. It’s the “I Love You on the Exhale” practice. You take a big inhale through your nose and on the exhale you mutter quietly (but outside your head) I love you as many times as you can. It is a great way to easily extend the exhalation a long time, which is going to help you calm down, get centered in your body, and show up. Everyone is lying on their backs with their eyes closed. I’m not asking people to look at themselves in the mirror or get in touch with the broken-hearted 7 year old inside themselves whose best friend moved away. I’m just telling them to mutter I love you as many times as possible. Because I have my eyes open I can see people squirm so I have started to suggest that if muttering I love you to yourself is so uncomfortable they can mutter it to me. I promise not think they are creepy, but just following my directions. Why Is This So Difficult, People???
This past MLK Day Yoga Love Raiser I read from one of King’s sermons called the Three Dimensions of a Life of Faith. He wrote that the first dimension is to be in right relationship with yourself; love, respect, and recognition of yourself as worthy, beloved, essential. The Golden Rule calls us to love one another as you love yourself. King suggested that you love, respect, and care for yourself in such a way that others want to be loved, respected, and cared for by you too. HA! Seriously. I have broken so many dates, promises of changed behavior, and commitments with myself – why would anyone else want me to treat them with such disregard? I have let myself hanging so many times — no wonder I don’t show up for me. The meditation mantra for this section of the practice was “More Compassion” .
The invitation and gift in a meditation mantra is to help you stay focused and present. It gives your busy brain something to hold onto so you don’t get as distracted by every thought or speck of dust. Then when – not if – when you realize that you are having a completely imaginary conversation (this happens to me while I’m teaching a class!) the meditation mantra can bring you back and anchor you down into the present again. And again. And again.
King wrote that if you stop at the first dimension then your life is shallow and too small. You might think of this as a typical self-serving personality; arrogant, self-absorbed, accumulating wealth for themselves alone, defending their stuff and their status. And I think that’s true. But, I also think you can stay stuck just as deeply in the first dimension because you can’t/don’t/won’t love, respect and recognize yourself as worthy, beloved, and essential. This is seemingly the other side of the coin, but one that is given lots of praise and adoration for their sacrifices and selfless ways. But, maybe this constant deference of your own needs, putting others first, all attention & affection towards all thing outside yourself also makes your life shallow and too small. I’m going to be super gender traditional here and say that women, throughout the history of time, have learned and been encouraged to embody this side of the coin of self….selflessness…like truly there is less and less of you. Making yourself SO SMALL that you don’t even remember that you have needs that aren’t being met. GAHHHHH. I know this tendency in myself in so many relationships. Honest to goodness, I think the most authentic way to get “over yourself” and connect more with others is to figure out how to honest to goodness Love Yourself in such a way that YOU, of all people, recognize yourself as worthy, beloved, and essential. Why is this so difficult???
So, WHAT IF the meditation mantra for this moment of learning how to love ourselves again was More Compassion. Just try it on. If it feels stupid — why? Why is that hard? Mutter to yourself (maybe silently if your at the store or something, right?) more compassion/more compassion/more compassion, over and over to stay present in whatever it is your doing – and just see what happens. What is the worst thing that could happen, really? Is there any possible failure or tragedy to repeating over and over again More Compassion to yourself? Or if you want to go for gold, try muttering I love you. But, again, you might do that silently when you are out and about because that might seem creepy and weird.
The Saturday Morning Retreat this weekend [9a.m.- noon @ Philo Presbyterian Church, $30, don’t be late] is all about the call and commandment to Love with All Your Heart, Soul, Might. It requires ALL of YOU — not less of you. All of you and then some. This is no time to get small. Does thinking about this make your skin crawl or maybe you want to ignore me a little? I get it. Who knows, give it a try. Saturday Morning Retreats are most appropriate for people who are able to get up and down from the floor with ease. Some previous experience with yoga is recommended, but beginners are always welcome. If you are interested in coming please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace on your very lovable head,