By Jenny Ní Ruiséil, 200 hour Bali yoga teacher training student
The time will come when,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
—Love after Love, Derek Walcott
“Come to greet yourself,” it is sometimes said at the beginning of yoga, meditation, or mindfulness practice. Say hello. Consider yourself with the curiosity, politeness and kindness you would a new acquaintance. Who are you? What do you like to read? What traits do you most respect in others? Do you possess these traits? By greeting ourselves at any given moment, our mind and body are brought back to the forefront of our consciousness. Our awareness is directed back to the reality of the present moment instead of being allowed to swirl somewhere in between the regrets of yesterday and the uncertainty of tomorrow. We start anew. As you ask yourself these and other questions, including those that follow, remember to maintain an open mind and be honest with yourself.
1. How are you today?
This should rarely be as simple as a one-word answer such as “good” or “okay.” Elaborate. Really dig deep into your emotional and spiritual state at the given moment. If you’re anxious about a particular thing today, respect that confusion during your yoga practice. Practice heart-opening postures to open up to the struggle instead of pushing it away. Make space for your emotion. The struggle may not have been there yesterday, but today is today.
2. What is it that you’re currently struggling with/worried about/working on?
Again, honesty is key. Be open and nonjudgmental with yourself, just as you would with a friend in need who’s confided in you. Perceived frivolity should not be an issue. You wouldn’t belittle another’s struggles, so why do it to yourself? After you identify your concern, sit with it. Be with yourself and your struggle, whether it’s an ill-fitting pair of new shoes or pending medical test results. Emotions are there to be felt. If no attention is paid to them, they amass into a more difficult mountain of worry. This build-up of tension and stress often manifests physically, hindering everyday life and yoga practice in the form of tight muscles, clenched jaws, furrowed brows and shallow breathing. Being able to sit with ourselves in comfort as opposed to surrendering our energy and emotions to our perceived troubles is an excellent approach to calming anxiety. By breathing through each issue or difficult emotion, as you would breathe through a challenging yoga pose, a slow and gradual acceptance can be found. You may even achieve the mental clarity necessary to find a solution.
3. Is the situation within or beyond your control?
So often we concern ourselves with issues that are ultimately outside of our control. Being able to recognise our influence (or lack thereof) over certain aspects of life is crucial in accepting circumstances as they are and being able to appreciate the present moment for what it is. Defining the reality of our relationship with the worries we possess can be liberating as long as you understand that succumbing to our powerlessness in relation to certain situations is essential in overcoming anxiety and worries. When we accept our lack of control, we can hone our ability to discern those thoughts relevant to the task at hand and selectively delegate energy only to them. This is how we fulfill our potential to its capacity rather than squander energy on what is not even within our control..
4. Are there any immediate solutions available to you?
Still struggling with whether the situation is within your control? One way of determining this is by looking at your options. If there are immediate solutions to the situation, what are they? If they require work or effort on your part, are you willing to undertake them? If there is no immediate solution, chances are your worry concerns something that has either already happened or not yet come to pass. This means there’s not a lot that can be done right now to solve it, signifying that what’s troubling you is beyond your control. The related thoughts, worries, or preoccupations are not serving you in the slightest. In fact, they’re hindering your current life by obscuring your ability to exist right now and to be part of the environment around you. Yoga teaches us to observe these thoughts and let them pass. In this situation, the best thing to do is to let it go.
5. What are you grateful for in this moment?
What do you appreciate right now? Contemplate this at any moment during the day—as you sit, stand or walk. Assess your situation, your emotional state, your physical comfort or discomfort. Observe what is. Not what was yesterday. Not what may come to pass later. Greet yourself now and give thanks to the fact that you are where you are and who you are. Walcott’s poem above is a testament to the importance of being able to sit comfortably with oneself as opposed to losing our emotions and getting caught up in worry. To nourish our our spiritual self, we must practice a mindful acceptance of what is. As in yoga, each breath is a new movement, and each movement brings a new moment. So take a deep breath and start anew.