Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lessons Learned on the Yoga Mat: Acceptance, Courage and Growth

Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature.
                                                                                Henri Nouwen

Nouwen is speaking of the importance of solitude, but what he says I could also apply to the practice of yoga. Yoga helps us to extend grace to ourselves, because we learn our limitations and not to view these as deficiencies but rather acknowledge that it is how we are made. When we can accept and honor the limitations in ourselves, it then becomes possible to accept and honor the limitations of others.

We come with our wounds. We may have injuries or conditions or aches and pains that bring us to yoga in the hope of finding relief. It requires vulnerability to accept and work with the wounds we have, be they physical or emotional, but as we learn to love our bodies and what they are capable of doing, we find healing of attitudes that may be more limiting than the actual wounds are.

And finally, just as there are difficult situations in life, there are poses in yoga that challenge us. Yoga poses are a metaphor for life’s circumstances. Attempting challenging poses encourages us to move past fear of failure. Yoga coaxes us to try, in a safe space, something we may not have thought we could do. Practicing yoga helped me to be strong in the face of fear. I learned to not be frozen in place by fear, but to “breathe through the pose” and come out on the other side more confident than before.

In yoga, I find strength within me that I was not aware I possessed. What I learn on my yoga mat I am able to carry into the rest of my life. Being able to accept myself as I am and tapping into my inner courage to stick with that which is challenging have caused me to grow both spiritually and in my yoga practice.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Letting Go of Victim Mentality

I read a quote recently that I cannot recall verbatim, but it spoke of how freedom comes when we choose to no longer be a victim. Victimhood is a heavy burden to carry, yet many choose to live the victim story.

Things do happen to us, some of which we cannot control. Disease, crime and accidents can change the course of our lives. Discrimination of any kind may deny us opportunity. We may or may not be able to change the outcomes of circumstances, but we do have a choice in how we live within them. We can choose to be free or we can choose to be a victim.

Victim mentality thrives on blaming others. It is nourished by a poor sense of self, by a failure to love oneself. Very often, victimhood is claimed when one has not even been harmed. I have known people who claimed victimhood because of their own poor decisions.

There are many problems with choosing to live with a victim mentality. It wraps us in neediness, causing us to pressure others to pity us or shaming others for “causing” us to be victims. It keeps us from accepting personal responsibility and from claiming our self-worth. Victimhood drives others away from us, especially the ones who love us, because nothing they ever do is “good enough” to cure our victimhood.

Letting go of victimhood brings freedom. One would think that would be enough to entice one to let go of a victim mentality, but to lose the victim mentality means you have to not be identified as a victim, and this may reduce the attention or pity one receives.

When we can come to the deep knowing of God’s abundant love for us, we no longer need to manufacture attention and the pseudo-love of pity that is a poor substitute for deep, generous love.