“Self-knowledge promotes choice and action, and many people feel unready for either.” –Caroline Myss
Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit has been a transformative read for me this year. I bought the book two years ago, but didn’t start reading it until January 1st when I felt that I was ready and open for spiritual guidance. I was also starting to realize how important yoga was in my life, and I wanted to learn more about the seven chakras of Eastern spirituality. Myss explains how each chakra in our body is part of our spirit, and if we are depleted in one or more of those areas, it can lead to physical ailments or illness.
Learning about the chakras has been eye-opening to me, but more important is her message of listening to yourself and developing your intuition. We all have it, she says. We are just very, very out of practice.
So much of American culture is based on science, data and research. We don’t believe in miracles anymore, in the world that’s experienced and felt rather than simply read about. Many of us assume that psychics or intuitives are quacks, that everything in the universe will eventually be discovered and known in an intellectual way. (Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, after twelve years of college, graduate school, and teaching English.) No wonder there is such spiritual despair, people fleeing their religions and finding comfort in Christopher Hitchens’ angry rants. We’ve been taught to believe that anything that exists can be seen–and perhaps because we’re so patriarchal and associate feelings with women, we neglect to pay attention to what’s going on under the surface of things. In fact, a lot of the messages we get are that we’re not supposed to have any feelings at all, that we’re supposed to be 24/7 perfection machines.
My Quaker faith and my yoga practice are at odds with some of these societal messages. I experienced something deeper and profound the first time–and any time thereafter–that I spoke during meeting for worship. Quakers believe that anyone in the room can be called to deliver a message, and the pounding in my chest, the shortness of breath told me this was a message that needed to be spoken out loud. I had never had an experience like that before, and I trust it when it happens now. In fact, in searching weekly for that inner knowledge, that connection to a divine force, I am challenged to cultivate trust——both in myself and something greater.
Yoga is similar; it teaches that truth is within us. In a yoga practice, you must move from posture to posture, some difficult, some easy, all the while trying to maintain steady breath and stay in touch with yourself. A yoga practice is a metaphor for life. No matter what you face, what situation you find yourself in, you must remember to breathe and be present. Change is constant. The most we can do is be true to ourselves and honor where we are.
I am learning to honor myself lately by being gentle. Each day is different, and I can’t expect to have the same energy level all the time. Now that I’m home more, it’s tempting to berate myself about all the laundry I haven’t done, the dust on the surfaces, floors that would be mopped clean if I were a better housekeeper. But I’m not. (I’m really, really not.) Or the number of pages I should be filling with words, the people I should be connecting with, the money that needs to be budgeted, the bills that need to be paid. Here’s what I try to remember: I am not a machine. There may be some days when I accomplish little and other days when I accomplish a lot. Balance doesn’t come like a flat line on a heart monitor. All human beings are part of nature and have the same ebbs and flows. If it’s raining, I tend to stay inside and turn inward; when it’s sunny, I’m more inclined to go out and become easily inspired. There are days when I’m very hungry, and days when all I want to eat is crackers and peanut butter. Acknowledging who I am, accepting it, being in touch with myself and not judging, is how I’m choosing to honor myself. I’m finding that it’s great practice in honoring those around me as well.
Do you make an effort to honor yourself?
Image: “In the Blue” by sharkbait.