Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:57PM
Remember Narcissus? He looked at himself so much he literally died staring at himself in a pool. But at least he loved what he saw! From a yogic standpoint, I think in a way Narcissus had it right. He mirrored himself so lovingly that he actually fell in love with himself…
Recently a (very slim and beautiful) friend told me she felt fat because she had a new mirror: she said “I haven’t liked how I’ve looked since. I hope it’s not a fat mirror! Or even worse, what if my old mirror was a skinny mirror and this one is actually reflecting the REAL ME!?” If you saw her you’d roll your eyes—she’d look amazing in any mirror! But, as her friend I took her concern seriously. I looked at her and said the truth: “I’m in reality so let me be your mirror. I can tell you, you look perfect.”
A few days later my small group of (again beautiful) yoginis got to chatting—the topic of “body issues” came up. One person hated her arms, another her belly, all of us could relate on how age and having children is taking its toll on our skin and shape. We reassured each other, laughed, and shared the ways we deal with (camouflage) our least favorite parts. And as their teacher, amidst this life lesson, I explained the importance of self-love and gratitude. To see the humor in the human form, but to love and honor this vessel and all it allows us to do. And I again said the truth: that each of them was perfect.
It got me thinking…why can’t these women see how beautiful they are? Each one unique, but all unquestioningly beautiful! I want them to own those curves and rock their bods with the confidence they deserve. I want them to see the light, wisdom, and emotion that I see play on their gorgeous faces. Week to week I watch them gracefully floating through planks, offering their hearts as they bend backwards, facing their fears in headstand with such openness and vulnerability. And they radiate beauty! As much as any sunset or any rainbow (or any celebrity)! If they could see what I see—they would be content staring at themselves in a pool. I set an intention to show these women how to see and appreciate their beauty. I decided I would teach them how to have a loving, generous, and kind mental image of themselves.
Have you noticed that every time you put an intention out there the universe tests how committed you are to it? Cue Universe…
Not long after that conversation…some photos of my yoga training were posted online. I spotted myself and scrolled in close to check my form. But all I could focus on were how BIG my muscular arms looked compared to the row of windshield wipers next to me! Oh how quickly I slid down the slope…I stared at those arms and thought “I don’t look like other yogis, I look like a weight lifter! I can’t believe I thought that tank top looked good!” My husband had to hear about it. He sighed and shook his head. Very seriously, he looked at me and said the truth “You are too hard on yourself. You REALLY need to stop it. You are beautiful. You look great—you are strong.” I heard him. I looked at his sincerity I saw myself through his loving eyes and my doubts and negative feelings vanished.
I brought all of this up to my Friday class. Does everyone’s self image depend on how much we trust what’s reflecting it—whether it’s a mirror, friend, husband, or puddle? Survey says yes. Most of them even knew which stores had “fat” mirrors with bad lighting (Target) and which stores had “skinny” mirrors that flatter you (Ann Taylor Loft)!
Suzy brought up a fabulous point…”have you ever noticed you really only like to think of yourself as looking one way? In a perfect pose with your head angled to hide the double chin, great lighting, your best smile…those are the images you’re willing to post on facebook or put on Christmas cards. Then someone else posts a picture from a party and tags you…and you’re horrified! You tell them to take it down! But in their mind it was a good photo of you—a real representation of what you actually look like!”
Um…BINGO! That’s not me! That’s a bad angle, a bad outfit, a bad mirror!
Out of everything that comprises this amazing infinitely intelligent being, every nuance and fiber and charge, how we choose to see our Self is based on one little sliver of imagined potential physical perfection: one two-dimensional, well-angled, glam-lighted, white-smiled version? Talk about narcissistic!
We are told we have a “big ego” when we feel confident about ourselves. We are “cocky” if we like how we look! I say BS to that. A big ego is when we think we are so important that we elevate ourselves to a level and standard beyond what we’d hold anyone else to. It’s when we easily can acknowledge the beauty in others but refuse to see ourselves that way. We create this indulgent little category just for us, one where we will never be quite good/pretty/thin/tall enough and strangely, that’s comforting. Know what else? It’s easy. In this place, on this lonely not-good-enough pedestal we can ignore our need for laughter, nature, food, love, movement…because we are nothing but this package. We can abandon important self-inspection with the distraction of keeping a food journal and creating buns of steel.
We are doing it all backwards. The reason you’re not seeing the gorgeous person I see is because you’re letting the reflection determine how you feel—not the other way around. We need to start with feeling the love! Just as we do when we are looking at our friends and loved ones. We first need to open our hearts to everything that is good about us (and I don’t just mean our personality. I mean all the wonderful things in our bodies too). And we then let that love shine through our kind, gentle, loving eyes to see TRUTHFULLY our many attributes.
So I ask you: How do we get to a point where we can mirror ourselves honestly? Possibly to see and acknowledge those parts of us we may not like…and choose to love ourselves anyway. To recognize this body and this being as a divine whole, connected to and a reflection of spirit (God). How can we be MORE like Narcissus? How do we fall in love with our reflection?
you know I’m going to say yoga…but it’s true. Yoga, specifically asana, gives us a chance to abandon our issues when we step on the mat and see ourselves as we FEEL ourselves. Layer by layer and bit by bit we quiet that ego and tune in to the very base and animal vibration that is our physical body. It’s how we begin.
“Where else but the body can we experience consciousness? As Patanjali so clearly lays out in his exposition on the means of attaining a realization of this Self, we have to go through the body. We cannot go around it. And thus, unlike so many traditions that have viewed the body as something to be transcended, the Yoga tradition tells us to make the house of the body a fit place to live.”
An intention…I suggest we start by not reducing our sacred body to the sum of its parts. Let’s become less attached to defining the body by its exterior and instead tune in to the magical ability our body has to communicate its needs. Let’s cultivate sensitivity to the deep inner workings of our systems, and divest ourselves of the attention we place on minute changes to our legs, face, skin. Instead of feeling wishful and separate, even resentful, let’s unite with our body in a loving embrace and attune our senses until we tingle with awareness. At those moments we catch a glimpse of divinity. We can’t find the one without the other.
Does divinity lie in how your rear-end looks in a pair of jeans? Well, if you think it does, then yes!
Constantly choosing to love what you see when it’s reflected back at you—not excusing the quality of the mirror, the bad lighting, the outfit—but to accept that version of yourself in that moment is just that: a choice. It may take time, but it is possible. Own the amazing being that you are and the package it comes in! Let this be your goal—it is one worth working on! More than a certain weight or a face free of wrinkles, make choices and create lifestyles that foster self-love and gratitude for your body!
“When we realize that what we are advancing toward [in yoga and in life] is not some physical form but an inward recognition of the truth of who we are, then we will not feel ourselves to be failing…Then the body becomes a sacred sanctuary in which that which is worshipped, the worshiper, and the place of worship merge into One. This oneness is the meaning of the word yoga and is its goal.”
*quotes from “Bringing Yoga to Life” by Donna Farhi