It had been years since I had these old critical thoughts about my body and the way I look come up… and they were so familiar. The 20 year-old thoughts were pulling at my 31 year-old self like a strong undercurrent in the ocean. My old way of dealing with it, through cutting back on food, was a thought… maybe if I stop eating so much, or just eat vegetables with no oils and no seeds an no, no, no….. But there was this new part of me, this witness, that was seeing all of it… and I reached out to my Shiatsu teacher for help.
She asked me… “What are you looking for? What kind of love are you looking for? Are you looking for conditional love? Love that depends on how you look, how you dress, how your body is shaped, the material possessions you have… or are you looking for love, real love, love of who you REALLY ARE, the essence of Kendra? That deep, deep, deep and big hearted philosopher that you are….” She said, “All this stuff is so transient and impermanent… You have to decide what is most important to you and live in alignment with that.”
I felt the pressure of all the imperfections, that I was trying to perfect, lift off of me. I am not looking for conditional love so I don’t have to look for someone who would only offer conditional love. If someone decides to leave because my hair gets thin and my skin gets white or my thighs get a little bigger every month before my period… then GOOD RIDDANCE! I could never uphold that kind of perfection forever and…the anxiety of thinking that being loved depends upon all of these things and that if one thing goes wrong I will lose the most important person to me…!! No way.. not looking for that kind of love. GOOD RIDDANCE.
This “good riddance” is the kind of letting go that Sutra 1.12 speaks of. It is the willingness to let go of any belief, thought, judgement, perspective, or story that limits our ability to see reality clearly and to stay aligned with what is most important, what is real and true.
Sutra 1.12: abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah
A large part of practice is teaching yourself the ability to see reality and to perceive correctly. If you ask a Buddhist or a Zen Student what reality is, they will say that reality is what is before you have a thought about it. That all suffering occurs because you are resisting or misperceiving what is real and true or that you are believing in a thought that is at odds with what is, what was, or what may be.
There are many things that change the way that we see reality.
- Our past – ex: I grew up in one of the top ten most red-neck towns in Wisconsin and my idea of what is an acceptable amount of noise to make in the back yard with power tools is completely different than my new Massachusetts neighbor’s idea! The cultural norms that I grew up with are completely different than the cultural norms here.
- The stories we have about ourselves
- The judgements we have about ourselves – good, bad, right and wrong
- Our beliefs
- Our perspectives – Glass Half Empty / Glass Half Full
- What things we are attuned to see – We all know the classic example of 7 witnesses at a scene and 7 different stories about what happened. For example: Say your friend buys a new red Honda that has two doors and a hatchback. Before your friend bought this car, you might have never seen it before, now when you are out you see red Hondas with two doors and a hatchback everywhere! I have a friend who, when we go walking, notices all the birds and I notice all the dogs… She wouldn’t see the dogs if I didn’t say something and likewise for me. We would go out on same walk and have totally different experiences.
To be able to see clearly we need to know ourselves deeply. We need to know our beliefs, our judgements, our perspectives, what we are attuned to seeing, our stories that we have about ourselves, and how our past influences what we see. A lot of the practice is this self study. AND along with it comes the letting go.
Letting Go / Non-Attachment:
The willingness to let go of any belief, thought, judgement, perspective, or story that limits our ability to see reality clearly and to stay aligned with what is most important, what is real and true.
These two, practice and non-attachment, are like two wings of a bird. You cannot fly without one or the other. They work in unison.
A Sexy Car for California:
So I asked her… “Well D, why did you get this car in the first place???” It turns out she got the car because she wanted to be sexy and cool and hip and arrive in her new place as if she were like a magnetic dream of a woman… drawing all the most amazing people right to her… (those are my words, not hers!) AND so I passed the lesson from my Shiatsu teacher on and asked her… “What kind of love are you looking for? Are you looking for love that depends upon you having a sexy car? OR are you looking for people who are interested in who you really are? The essence of you?? What is most important to you?”
Could That Kind of Love Really Exist?
Connecting Through the Imperfections:
So I have been experimenting with talking about my judgements and what my own struggles are in class and with people that I usually try to be perfect for… AND also talking about how I am using the ancient teachings to help me through it and something really incredible is happening! What I am beginning to realize is that these things that we hide about ourselves are the reasons people love us. ! It turns out that our vulnerabilities and imperfections are a ground that can really connect us all and when we let ourselves be seen just as we are, as we REALLY ARE… other people let down their armor and real connection is made. As Brene Brown says in her book on “The Gifts of Imperfection,” You cannot numb the dark and not also numb the light. There is no such thing as selective numbing. You can’t only present the perfect parts of yourself and get real connection. The real connection comes from the dark and the light together, not one or the other. AND, not only that, but also vulnerability is a part of feeling joy… and to expect vulnerability. It is a positive feedback loop that feels scary every time!
A Yoga Practice:
- Supta Badda Konasana (5-30 minutes)
- VIparitta Karani (5-30 minutes)
- Savasana (5-30 minuts)
Experience the moment as it is before you have a thought about it. Experience each moment free of your minds interpretations of it.