Self-Worth

Imagine this: A two-year old girl falls down a well and is in danger of drowning. Without hesitation, the community invests incredible amounts of time, effort, and money into saving this young girl. And fortunately for everyone involved, they do. But why would they do this? Why would they save this baby girl, who has done nothing noteworthy in her life, and has contributed nothing to society? I mean, she has no money, she is often self-centered and naughty, and she doesn’t have many friends or loved ones besides her immediate family. So why would people even care if she is ok or not?

These questions sound cold-hearted and harsh, don’t they?  They do, because as we all well know, it is because this two-year old girl, this loveable toddler, has unconditional human worth. Regardless of her age, her status, or her contribution to society, this tiny little person has inherent worth and value, and she is just as precious as any other person on this earth. Perhaps she has not done much of “worth” in her two short years, but she certainly has worth as a human being. Regardless of who she is, she has a core-self, and that core is worthy of love, respect, and positive regard. Just as everyone’s is.

…As it is defined by psychologists, self- or core-worth means that all people are indeed equal. It means that we are equal because we are human. This kind of value or worth is not comparable. It is not competitive. And it is not conditional. The worth or value of a person does not need to be earned, nor does it need to be proved. It just exists. It always has, and it always will.  And this worth is to be recognized, appreciated, and accepted.

So, if it so easy to say that must absolutely must save this sweet little girl, to see her value as a person because she just IS, I wonder why so many of us do not value ourselves in such a way. Why do so many of us struggle with self-worth and question our value, even while we are able to recognize the value of others? Why we might think that because we may not fit a certain mold, that we are not as worthy as those who do. I wonder why we are so hard on ourselves when they make mistakes, when something does not go as we had hoped, when people treat us poorly. Too, I wonder why some people assign more or less value to a person because of what they do or do not have, how they do or do not behave, the mold that they do or do not fit.

…Quite often, we allow ourselves and others to be defined by externals: by successes and achievements, families and friends, abilities and appearances, social status, material belongings, and the perception of other people. Of course, external things may influence many parts of our lives. They may impact our thoughts, our feelings, or our behaviors, and they may influence how we relate to others and the world that we are surrounded by. They may influence how we experience our worth, but they do not change our value in and of itself.

So what happens when such things do influence our core worth? What happens when we allow external factors to define or equate who we are, be it for better or for worse? When we undervalue ourselves, and overvalue our surroundings?

When this happens, when our core value is based on something extrinsic rather than intrinsic, we become unstable, conditional, and undervalued. This happens because we have allowed something outside of ourselves to trump the internal, most true parts of ourselves. We then lose sight of our core essence, of who we are and the beauty within us. We lose our authenticity and our security and we cheat ourselves of self-love.

…When worth is separate from externals, however, we experience life much differently. All of a sudden, we are much more resilient, much more stable, objective, and reasonable. Our perspective transforms and our thoughts and feelings become more positive. We are able to distinguish feelings about events from feelings about ourselves. We are kinder to ourselves, more patient, rational, compassionate, and loving. When we separate our worth from externals, we experience both ourselves and our world much more openly.

And so, my precious babies, look within yourselves and see your worth. Embrace your human core and the essence of who you are. Appreciate that which you are surrounded by and have gratitude, but do not measure your worth by these things. Instead, hold them tightly to your heart and revel instead in the beauty that is uniquely you. Remember that your core, your worth, is whole and complete, but it is not completed. That you are an ever-changing work of art of immeasurable value to the world, to your loved ones, and to yourself.

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The Core

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In yogic terms, the body’s core is defined as the workings of the entire torso.  This includes the major and minor, inner and outer muscle groups, the stabilizer muscles, the connective tissues, organs, and energetic bodies of the entire midsection.  According to a yogic definition, the core is not just a body part, rather it is an entire system that is to be incorporated, at least in some way, during almost any and all yogic practices.

As I teach, I often hear myself repeating such phrases as, “engage and activate the core”, “lift from the core”, “draw from the core”, “deepen the core” and so on…

And as I listen to myself describe these body movements, I cannot help but to draw a parallel to what it is like to live from our core in a subtle and figurative sense of the same verbiage.  For, as I have said many times, in yoga, we can emphasize one part of our being, but we cannot completely isolate it.  Therefore, when we engage, activate and draw from our core in asana, we do the same from within, but this time, from the core of our very being that has nothing to do with our physical bodies.

If you think about that for a moment, I think that you will find it to be true.  For when we live from the core of our truest selves, draw strength and direction from our core values, and live in accordance with the deepest aspects of who we are within, and we are aligned with our core, we are at our very best.  And we know this to be true, because we feel our inner strength, we are in tune with our source, and we are able to draw from within and live according to this reservoir within.

So while we may be able to emphasize our core physically in asana, we really are doing much deeper work than we may realize at the moment… and THIS, this is yoga.  And this is a beautiful thing.

Breathe Through It

Every now and then, I have to remind myself that it is okay to let go and do nothing, to sit in silence, and just breathe.  The past few days have been a prime example of such a time.  I have encountered something that has left me feeling unsure of how to make sense of my thoughts and feelings, uncertain about what it is I should do next.  And while this lack of clarity is certainly uncomfortable, I take comfort knowing that I don’t have to make a decision just yet.  That I can take the time it requires to listen to myself and sort through my thoughts and feelings.  To pause and reflect on who and where I am, at this time, and just be in that moment, living, and breathing through it.

Sometimes the best advice that we can give ourselves is to just breathe through the moment that we are, inhaling the good and exhaling the bad.  It is quite similar to taking a much needed pause that I have referenced so many times before. Remembering to “just breathe” helps us center our minds and our hearts while also encouraging the body to relax.  Research has proven time and time again that the power of the breath has calming and healing properties, much as it does in yoga and other mindfulness practices.  And while it might not exactly cure what ails us (though some say that it does), it certainly does help us bring our awareness back to where we are, and what we are experiencing in that present moment.

Mindfully breathing, especially during times of distress, helps turn our awareness into ourselves, slowing our minds, relaxing our bodies, and encouraging them to become one. Taking a moment to breathe, center our minds, and synchronize our bodies is truly mindfulness at its best.  It is mindful because it forces us to let go of the noise inside of our heads and bring our awareness to what is going on right now.  As we do so, we must let go of what has gone on in the past, no matter how recent, and ignore our thoughts about the future, no matter how near.

Simply stated, we have no choice but to take our minds off of everything except our most immediate experiences as they occur.  In essence, as we breathe and turn our awareness inward, we are able to mindfully experience our most immediate internal and external happenings, and open ourselves to clarity, self-awareness, and peace.

So today, if you do nothing else for yourself, at the very least, remember to breathe.  Inhale the good.  Exhale the bad.  And know that simply breathing through the moment can be enough.

Resistance Makes the Heart Grow Stronger

 

Fun fact: I almost never remember my dreams. However, when I do, I am usually in flight. Ever since I was quite young, in fact, my preferred mode of transportation while dreaming has been flying. I had not thought much about this dream-theme of mine until I studied dream analysis in college and learned that dream flying is considered the perfect metaphor for living the soul’s longing, or life purpose.

Upon learning that, I did a forehead slap and thought to myself, “Duh!” The symbolism is unmistakable: For many, flight is associated with freedom, ascension, exhilaration, and peace. Yet, not ironically, many of us have a fear of flying. The idea of free-falling, losing control, letting go, and most obviously, the hard landing is incredibly frightening. The metaphor still holds true, does it not?

And so it is with fulfilling our life purpose, for doing so involves navigating obstacles, conquering incredible feats, and then making a conscious choice to evolve and grow. Living out our soul’s longing means choosing the challenge of change over the difficulty of remaining the same while conquering fear and overcoming resistance every step of the way.

If you have ever set out to accomplish something meaningful, you will know that resistance is an inevitable part of the journey. And if you are anything like the rest of us, you have likely experienced resistance as an adversary. And this was likely so because you did not understand your resistance well enough to make it your ally. You tried to avoid, persist, and resist, rather than carry on with intention, commitment, surrender, and trust. Because resistance really is nothing but a form of fear and insecurity, we are much better off examining it with self-awareness and honesty, getting to know it, and thus better understanding ourselves. For the sooner we are able to do that, the sooner we are able to live out our higher aspirations.

So in practice, what can we do about the resistance we experience? We can start by being mindful of all the big and little things that distract us and slow us down as we set out to do the things that our hearts are telling us to do. Notice when you procrastinate, when you make excuses, when you are highly defended, and take note of the things that you worry about. Likewise, acknowledge any patterns that you discover, the limitations you perceive, and the strength of your resistance, and remember that most often, the greater the resistance surrounding a particular longing, the more important it likely is.

As you make a habit of examining your resistance and get comfortable with it, you will become increasingly aware and empowered to move beyond these distractions and forge ahead into the creative and authentic territory of your soul. With more and more ease, you will bring your mind, body, and spirit into alignment and make decisions during each and every moment that support your higher purpose.

And ultimately, you will feel at home with yourself as you fly, and live joyful  life of conviction, intention, and peace.