Your happiness is the best gift you can give the ones you love.
For a big portion of my young adult life, I focused on the thorns and obstacles that supposedly barred my way to self love. I was tangled up.
At that time I started flirting with the practice of yoga. . . going to a class here and there, not really getting it. Holding on stubbornly to my thorns. Lying on my mat in savasana one day, drifting in and out of listening to the teacher’s words, I opened my eyes to see the teacher looking down at me. He was a big, tattooed guy with a gentleness. He said quietly, so only I could hear, “So young for such seriousness. You are the storyteller. Tell the best story — the one that you love to tell.” And he walked on, talking to the group. I lay there, listening to the happy shifting in my head. Sometimes all it takes are well-timed words from a caring stranger.
He was right.
I started making subtle changes. I focused less on the things that barred my path, and more on the things that I wanted in my life. Peace, artistry, reasons to laugh, good love. I found that the less I thought about or wrote about or talked about the snags and obstacles that kept me unhappy . . . the weaker their hold became.
It didn’t take breaking out the microscope and dissecting every reason why I was unhappy and felt disconnected and drifting. That would be like looking over your body after a long bout of not being good to it and detailing every little thing that is wrong. What good does that do? Does it make you feel good? Does it make your body feel good? What instead feels good to do? (Do that.)
The magic is this: when you dedicate yourself to the cultivation of self love, just like when you dedicate yourself to the practice of yoga, the snags and obstacles in your life one by one get dislodged and float away.
You don’t have to do a damn bit of pushing or straining or shoving or suffering. Maybe a few ancient and stubborn rocks will hold their place for a long time. Your inner-wellness, like water, will smooth them down and render them more and more obsolete.
Taking my story back into my own hands, I make sacred time for me every day. It’s sweetly surprising how much time frees up, when you’re no longer counting down the hours and the tasks on your list, but instead finding more and more ways to expand your time. I wake up a half hour earlier than I used to. I make my strong coffee. I take Ajie the pup for a walk out by the creek. I listen to the way the trees talk. I look for little plants to recognize.
When I make the time to be good to myself, I find I am much more peaceful. Before I began this ritual, I was much more reactive to my environment, like a caged animal. It is different now. I feel empowered and emboldened in my life.
Wellness and satisfaction web out naturally from self love in the real world, with no conscious effort of your own. Your health improves. Your physique improves. Your energy lifts. Your self image improves. Your skin clears up. Your food choices naturalize. Your sleep deepens. Your dreams awaken. Your relationships grow. Communication, like muddied water left alone, clears.
Imagine it this way — You are a cup of water. Each one you love is a cup of water.
If you are half full — lacking in self love — you are thirsty.
So you ask of your loved one to give you some of his or her water, because you need more love! So he pours some of his water into your cup, and now you are full, but now he is more empty than before.
Soon he gets thirsty; he asks you from some water. So you pour of yourself into his cup, and he is briefly full and content, but now you are left thirsty and void.
Isn’t it a better idea to become, each of you, full cups of water?
Why not brim over?
Why not allow the love you share to be the water that brims abundantly from the both of you, mixing into true relationship on the earth?
This is a relationship worth having.
This is a story worth telling.
You have become a gift of comfort, cheer, health, inspiration and love to the world.
. . .
Grace is a yoga teacher and artist. Her writing has taken her from Anthropologie to journalism aboard a ship in Congo. When she gets to wander, she’s in the woods with her dog, soaking up the beauty.