Why do I return to the mat each day? To make and keep peace with who I am. I practice compassionate self-acceptance in the safety of the yoga room. Through that practice, I stay present to what life offers me breath to breath, email by email, thought to action to observation. We are all a work in progress, but letting ourselves be who we are (and the awareness of that) is vital to positive mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Think about it: you can come to class at any time without having to meet any single prerequisite. You just come as you are and the power and beauty of yoga embraces you. I can tell you during times of challenge, the mat was the only place I felt like I could be myself. And I mean my real self–not the façade put forth for neighbors, colleagues, and even sometimes, family.
Finding Peace Through Self-Acceptance
"Accepting means you allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment. It is part of the isness of the Now. You can't argue with what is. Well, you can, but if you do, you suffer." –Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Finding peace inside through compassionate self-acceptance is not that easy, but only when we find peace within can we live at peace with others. It is a straightforward spiritual law. You cannot offer to others what you don’t practice for yourself. If you don’t have peace, you can’t make peace. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t really love someone else. If you’re not compassionate towards yourself, you will never have compassion and acceptance for others.
My response to the most critical, judgmental person I meet is compassion. I feel compassion for them because I know they are only treating me like that because they are first criticizing and belittling themselves. That is not a healthy energy exchange for any of us. This is why I want the world to practice yoga.
Acceptance vs. Apathy
“Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there`s all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it.” -Anne Covey
At yoga’s core is learning how to accept ourselves in this moment, not be apathetic about it. It teaches us to not get stuck apologizing who we were in the past, or hyperventilating about who we might be in the future. As Fulton Oursler writes, “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.”
When we allow ourselves to accept our innate goodness, we begin to ask ourselves better questions and listen to the answers (i.e., What do I want? What do I feel? What do I need? How can I give myself what I need right now?). In other words, we aren’t trying to “fix” ourselves as if we were broken. We nourish ourselves with compassion. This leads to a sense of feeling lighter, freer and healthier.
Today, make the choice not to keep yourself in a prison of your own making through self-criticism and harsh self-judgment. Instead, as Rumi says, “only from the heart can you touch the sky!” Through the heart of compassion, accept yourself. And also, love yourself, love your day, love your life!