"Kindness is the greatest wisdom."
It's been a whirlwind past few weeks — I moved in with my beau, got sick, started an Advanced Teacher Training, tweaked my neck, then got right back into the swing of things. Time stands still for no one and, at the same time, metaphysics says that time is an illusory linear idea. We start where we finish and everything is happening all at once and not at all.
At the start of our training, we were asked to set an intention for the 10 days that would follow. I was asked to be the first one to speak and was struck by the idea of compassion. "I'd like to practice compassion and kindess towards myself, in the way of Kwan Yin, because I am often told that I exhibit these qualities towards others, but have the hardest time nurturing myself in that way."
The Universe immediately delivered plenty of opportunities to practice. It started off with a cold I could not seem to fight, which then became a physical injury in my neck, when I tried to get bodywork done to alleviate aches and pains. Then, it came to managing pain while sitting for long hours in captivating talks by master teachers, finishing my move with my beau, and trying to complete freelance projects, too. By the end of the training, I realized how challenging it has always been for me to care for myself, ever since I was young. Everything was topped off by a conference call with my business coach who gave it to me straight...
"We're past the one-month mark now, so the gloves are off, Judy. Are you ready to hear what I have to say? It's going to be a fun conversation — and I mean that ironically."
"Okay..." I said, hesitant yet ready for what was to be delivered. I've had a rough upbringing, I can handle harsh critiques.
"Based on the emails you've sent me and the interactions I've had with you up until this point, YOU ARE WAY TOO HARD ON YOURSELF."
"Tell me something I don't know," I responded, and laughed. "People have been giving me that feedback for as long as I can remember. It's almost become a badge of honor."
"That laugh, the way that you responded. The reason you're even laughing is because you know how deeply ingrained all of this is in your behavior and how challenging it is going to be to change," he continued. "You need to be more compassionate with yourself. There is no way that you are being this hard on yourself and not taking it out on others or showing it outwardly somehow. This is actively blocking you from attracting the type of people you want to work with. Clients, especially in your industry, want to be working with someone who's compassionate. At some energetic level, they can sense that you're not this way to yourself, so there's no way that you can be like that with them."
His feedback immediately got me to thinking about my relationship with my beau. What I have appreciated deeply about the two of us together are the incredible lessons being together teaches me on a daily basis. I see reflected more clearly than I thought possible that what I believe about myself, I outwardly reflect and project onto my partner. I see how critical I can be, how judgmental, how much I do not allow any room for error. Truly, what I focus on — the good or not-so-positive — are immediately compounded, and he holds a mirror up to me to walk the talk that I espouse in class.
"You always talk about compassion and acceptance," my beau said to me a few weeks ago, "and I see you doing this with all of your students. But, I don't see you doing this with yourself and I don't feel like I get that same kind of leeway either."
On the last day of our training, we concluded by tying a red string around one another's wrists, reminiscent of many eastern spiritual practices. Whether to ward off negative energy, to remind ourselves of the light we hold within, or to remember how to stay calm in any situation, with every knot that we tied onto one another came a blessing our fellow teachers would bestow upon each other. After this, I ran into Mo on the way out, a phenomenal teacher who created the entire program. She said softly to me, "If I were standing beside you in our circle, I would have blessed you with kindness and encouraged you to be more gentle with yourself."
My business coach gave me three things to do: 1) Awareness: I need to look for it, I can't wait for it to happen to me. Because this judgment and harshness is always occurring, I need to be on the lookout for where in my life I'm expressing it today. 2) Practice discernment. Catch myself that I'm being hard and punishing in the first place. In our training program, we learned that Yogananda was often referred to as the Great Swan, because given a mixture of milk and water, the swan will suck out all the milk and leave the water. 3) Make a choice. I can either choose to keep being the bully within or choose to have fun and compassion, to acknowledge myself.
Marianne Williamson says that when you ask the Universe for help, when you are speaking your truth and setting your intention, it responds in great magnitude. And that's exactly what it did for me, the moment I shared my intention with the group. From every area of my life — personal to professional — I was offered one opportunity after another to choose differently.
Sometimes, I did. Sometimes, I didn't. But I do have amazing support all around me to remind me that I can do this. And I see it every day in a little red thread around my wrist. It's the little things that make the biggest difference. For this, and every breath I take, I am grateful.