Recently I had the opportunity to do some teaching to brand new yoga teachers in Madison, Wisconsin. While I was there, I went to a predominately Black Baptist church on Sunday morning.
I love how when we make the space to try something new, we receive generously.
From the moment I entered the space, the energy was high and loving.
My husband and I were warmly welcomed by everyone there.
A woman named Cecilia gave the sermon, which was titled “How to break up with your issues.”
She said that in order to let go of old patterns and things that make us miserable we need to make space.
We need to break away from what ails our hearts.
And we can’t do it if we just keep imagining that our life is already set.
Or if there is nothing new on the horizon.
We may know this intellectually but still we don’t act on it, or make space for it in daily life.
When we make space to feel more Loving Kindness, we have more space for our own humanity. And the humanity of others.
Cecilia’s sermon reminded me of how much I long to help people make new space for Loving Kindness and true self-care. It’s something I care very deeply about and I aspire to keep teaching and exploring this topic in all that I do.
I wrote extensively about this in A Heart of Gold and I want to share with you a few thoughts from the book and also a meditation that you can use to re-imagine a more beautiful way to live. More space for you, dear heart.
From A Heart of Gold:
Deeply embedded in our culture and way of being is the profound need to produce, move forward and compete to make our way to a successful happy life. Living this way is so common and habitual that we don’t always know how deeply entrenched we are. We have been wired to think that we are supposed to be busy and tired, so it’s going to take a huge shift in awareness to bring us back to wholeness.
Loving Kindness helps us get off the train of continuously suffering and longing to be a different version of ourselves. When we get off that train, we can sit still and know that we are okay just as we are.
Of course this practice is not easy, because the world is constantly trying to bring us back to a different wavelength, one of struggle and striving.
Women in particular have a really hard time leaning into self-love. We are so conditioned to care for children, partners, family members and others then we often come last. Culturally there is a huge push on women to excel at everything for everyone else, and then maybe if there are a few minutes left at the end of the day, they can squeeze in five minutes of yoga.
Self-love is one of our greatest struggles. Most women I know are exceedingly hard on themselves. We’re pretty sure that we have to accomplish a huge list of things before we can be worthy of our own love, let alone anyone else’s. We don’t really like who we are so we keep trying to solve something, which keeps us stuck in an exhausting daily grind.
Often in order to let ourselves off the hook, we need one-on-one intimate helpers, guides, wise woman mentors.
Helping women tend to their own self-love has become my life’s work. I began teaching yoga out of compassion for myself, and for the women around me who needed permission to love themselves. Then I started leading sacred retreats out of a desire to help women clear space, make time and embrace the importance of loving themselves.
I have had retreat students tell me that being on retreat is the first time in their lives that they actually felt self-love and had the space to fully embody it in real time.
I long for women to love themselves in daily practice, not just once or twice in a lifetime.
I want women to have all the space they need and desire, so I wrote you this meditation. Use it today or print it out and carry it with you as you consider making space for your beautiful self.
A Meditation For Women To Make Space For Something New
After all the time you have spent tending to others, now is your time.
You are a magnanimous human being and you deserve all of the love and tenderness life has to offer.
I give you permission to take your foot off the pedal. Your body won’t tolerate the pedal-to-the-floor stress forever.
Your life is too precious not to generate more qualities of equanimity.
You need cozy little nooks of inner okay-ness.
You need a place for a respite. Where can you rest, dear one?
Your life is not a race to the finish line. Where can you just stop?
You are beautiful just as you are. Your heart, your soul, whatever is emerging as you begin to know yourself, it belongs.
You are worthy of all the love you can give yourself in this lifetime.
You can love yourself without conditions and without limits.
Every moment that you take your gaze inward and love yourself is a moment that you are coming home to your true self, who you really are.
Let yourself pause today. Leave the dishes or the laundry. Take some time to sit in your own love for yourself and be warmed by it like the sun thawing out the ground in spring.
Begin to notice if there is something new on the horizon for you?
Can you sense something else coming?
In order to make space for new growth, maybe there is something you can let go of that is no longer serving you.
Where can you open your hands to let go?
And then hold them open to receive?
Begin to imagine a world in which you live fully awake to that which the universe is generously giving to you.
I wish you generous amounts of true rest, wide open space and love for yourself, dear heart.
Today I want to share this lesson from my book A Heart of Gold.
Spring Equinox Ceremony
Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing, as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.
March is the month of all things unfurling, seeding, expanding and…
All things Magnanimous.
Doesn’t that word just evoke a sense of big-hearted love?
Spring is a good time to feel the greatness of your own spirit. It’s a claim I have attempted to make for myself and I have worked to pass that wisdom along to my clients.
The virtue of being great of mind and heart is a soothing balm for what ails us.
In Buddhist thought, the quality of being magnanimous stems from the loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity.
Questions for reflection during the Spring Equinox could be:
How can we grow more Loving Kindness into our heart?
What practices help us embody more loving feelings, each day?
Tell me, has there ever been a time in humanity where those qualities wouldn’t serve us? Has there ever been a time where those qualities wouldn’t help us to let compassion rule our emotions and strengthen our hope for the human condition?
I highly recommend spending time journaling on this topic during the rest of March. Follow the breadcrumbs and see what magic you will encounter. Remember that journaling may be viewed as a spiritual practice, one of great self-care for the heart.
When you externalize your feelings, dreams, yearnings, sorrows and joys, you shift the way you process and think about them. It’s a cathartic and healing practice where your voice is allowed to take flight.
As we approach the spring equinox, the body, mind and spirit may become restless and anxious. We’re shedding winter and entering a new season so it’s natural to feel a deep shift within. We can move through seasonal changes through the art of being more tender and gentle with our days.
We need space and places to untether, to align, to come back, to dream again, to practice all forms of self-care and love, to be with ourselves. To really know ourselves and return to self-belief. To hush.
On the Spring Equinox, write down on a small piece of paper what practices you want to grow more of, ways you can bring more Loving Kindness to life. Bury the list in the ground, along with a new plant or some seeds, so that you can literally watch it grow this spring.
Have a loving Spring and keep peace in your heart.
The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating.
— Indian philosopher Krishnamurti
Can you think of the last time that you noticed something that someone was doing, and you made a judgment about that person?
We do it every day.
Instead of seeing the wholeness of a person, we label.
We use all kinds of words to describe people. Even if we don’t use them outloud, simple words like rude, mean, ignorant, or stupid float in and out of our minds as we take in the world around us. We are always assessing.
We see someone doing something we think is wrong and we immediately begin to draw conclusions about that person instead of just observing them.
We have been taught this way of viewing the world for so long that we can hardly tell the difference between simply observing and evaluating.
But observing is the way of Loving Kindness.
In Vipassana Meditation, the most often repeated phrase is “Just observe. Just observe. Just observe.”
You learn the practice by observing your breath. In Vipassana, you don’t try to change your breath or even to control it. You just observe it. Just observe.
When you observe, you are in Pure Presence. You have no need to evaluate. You just are.
One of the reasons we evaluate or judge is that it helps us to defend ourselves. It is on the basis of making others “wrong” that we are able to declare ourselves as “right.”
Byron Katie says that “defense is the first act of war.”
If we observe instead of defend, if we remain present instead of beginning to judge, we choose an act of peace instead of an act of war.
Choosing peace is always the way of Loving Kindness.
And with all the practices of Loving Kindness, first you begin with yourself.
As soon as you walk away from reading this email, you might catch yourself in the middle of a judgment. You might be tempted to make a judgment about yourself for being judgmental. Instead, try to just observe yourself.
That’s interesting that I made a judgment of that person.
Just be with yourself in Loving Kindness in the moment of observing.
The more you practice observing yourself with Loving Kindness, the more you will be able to offer Loving Kindness to others.
And in doing so, you will be decreasing duality in our world.
May you live more and more, dear heart, into the practice of Loving Kindness!
PS. If you’re unfamiliar with Byron Katie’s work, you can listen to her interview with Oprah on her Super Soul Conversations Podcast.
PPS. Also, if you want more Loving Kindness in your life, I wrote a whole book on practicing Loving Kindness. Order it right here.
A few words on Awakening Bodhicitta.
In Buddhism, bodhicitta is a spontaneous wish for a compassionate mind.
Bodhicitta is a combination of the Sanskrit words bodhi and citta. Bodhi means “awakening” or “enlightenment.” Citta means “that which is conscious” or in other words, “the conscious mind.”
Therefore, Bodhicitta may be translated as “awakening mind.”
Or it is the mind that strives toward awakening and compassion. But the more you study bodhicitta, the more there is an element of the spontaneous about it. In many ways, you happen upon this wish for empathy and love for all beings.
An interesting benefit of breaking my leg last year is that I have begun to pay attention to movement differently. Ironically, it is the inability to move that has given me this special attention for movement. I notice the feeling of my feet touching the ground. I notice slow steps I take. My senses are awakened. I don’t just feel the steps. I hear them. I see them intentionally.
The gift of being forced to move carefully and with great intention is that I watch how I move through my day. I am keenly aware of what a miracle it is that our bodies carry us through life. Each day they hold space for our way of being in the world.
Before I broke my leg, I was perhaps pushing too much. In fact, maybe my body found a rather drastic way to slow my movements down. The universe is showing me a slower, gentler way of moving through the world.
Now that I am moving slower, I observe that others in the world seem to be moving so quickly. I am not evaluating their movements as “good” or “bad.” Rather, I notice that I have a compassionate wish for others to experience the joy of slow movement. I wonder if it would give others more joy to feel the ground beneath their feet.
When someone is walking with me, naturally, they are keeping a slower pace, as my injury has given me the gift of being the one to choose the speed with which we walk. I notice the way my daughter moves slowly alongside me as I step slowly. I feel the spontaneous wish for her to enjoy all the ways her body is carrying her. I believe that is bodhicitta.
My husband and I have resumed our walks together, but at a much slower rhythm than we used to take them. We go shorter distances, but stay out for just as long. With slow steps, we see more wildlife. I’ve seen trees I’ve never noticed before. I see something new every time we go out. Where I would normally expect to be frustrated by how much my injury is slowing me down, I observe that am experiencing joy just to be able to walk. Even to stand up can feel like a miracle.
I encourage you to give yourself the gift of being, walking and standing in your life in a pace that allows you to feel deeply into body, mind and spirit. Noticing is such a beautiful way to practice loving kindness.