I accept myself unconditionally right now
Yesterday I returned to the sweat shop, my weekly hot yoga class, an opportunity to immerse myself completely for an hour. The room kept at 105F, my body slick with running perspiration, drips falling noticeably from extended limps, onto my sodden towel. My body and mind in unison, occupied, completely, developing strength and flexibility. Afterwards, during the final savasana, our teacher reads a mantra for us to meditate on. A mantra to take into our day, and consciously act upon. Last night the mantra was “I accept myself unconditionally, right now”.
Regrettably, easier said than done, and I were to be honest, I don’t accept myself as I am. I think the acceptance of one’s self is predicated upon self-love, or self-compassion. I am struggling with the need for self-improvement whilst attempting to have compassion for myself as I am right now. My right brain tells me, however, that the need for self-development is a continuous part of the human condition, and thus, waiting to reach some arbitrary end of development prior to self-compassion means one might never be internally compassionate. Should one instead simply acknowledge that where one is “right now” includes the flaws and the engagement in self-development?
I have at least acknowledged that I need to be self-compassionate. This acknowledgement may seem a small step, but for me self-compassion will be granting myself the permission to engage in something that I did not feel I necessarily deserve. How can I be compassionate when I know I am flawed? I would use broken as the adjective but that is perhaps admitting defeat in the face of adversary and I refuse to be beaten by my personal demons.
My personalized interpretation of last night’s mantra is “I have self-compassion in my current state” for me that is a desired state. It is not a simple matter of declaration. Instead it means I need to shift my way of viewing myself. In a recent article, I read a discussion about how we treat ourselves far worse that we would ever treat another individual, that we talk to ourselves more harshly than we would ever consider appropriate to talk to others. In fact, we are downright nasty to ourselves.
Self-compassion, as described by the psychologists, appears not to be about acceptance or forgiveness of actions, but instead it requires one to acknowledge one’s own flaws, to talk to one’s self about how to avoid repetitions of flawed actions, and to do so in a kind manner. It is basically about giving yourself the respect that you give others.
The first step seems to be learning to separate one’s history from one’s present state, and accept that the person you are, in this moment, is all that you can affect. Is my present state worthy of respect or self-love? What needs to change about my thoughts or actions before I can accept myself today?
I am actively engaged in self-development; meditation practice, yoga practice, Cognitive Behaviorally Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, research and reading into self-compassion, treatment for serotonin dopamine and norepinephrine imbalances. All steps necessary to improve. And yet it doe not seem enough to allow myself to give myself a break.
I understand why self-compassion is powerful. I appreciate the value it will create and the benefit for others around me. And yet I still find myself unable to grant myself the privilege to pursue my own happiness. The US Declaration of Independence states “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”. The value of this statement seems predicated by the existence of a Creator, a grantor of these rights. The word “unalienable” means incapable of being repudiated. However, here I find myself, refusing to acknowledge that such a right exists for myself, and therein lies my personal challenge.
Today I was back in the yoga studio, another hour on my mat, another Savasana through which to meditate. As I breathed in and out, focusing on the movement of my chest up and down, my concentration was tested thrice by abstract thoughts that slipped in, were acknowledged, and then pushed aside. Finally my thoughts drifted back to yesterday’s mantra; If I believe I can improve, should I accept where I am? Does acceptance decrease the desire to improve? Should I not yearn to be better and set that objective for purposes of self-improvement? However, challenges my left brain, “don’t you have the Right to be happy whilst doing that?”
I find it easy to grant to others the Right, yet am unable, at this time, to give it to myself. I can see the light within others, but not within me. I will keep looking.