Practicing Self-Love Despite the #$@$% Checklist By Jen Kraft, BIB co-founder
Practicing Self-Love Despite the #$@$% Checklist
Last month, The Body Image Boutique hosted Bhante Jagatha, a Buddhist Monk who spoke of lovingkindness – specifically as it relates to self-love. He asked us to consider practicing the following two-minute lovingkindness meditation for two weeks:
I am Well, I am Happy, I am Peaceful
I found myself wondering how I would know if I really, truly love myself unconditionally. I’m certainly capable of feeling well, happy, and peaceful. But for most of my life, feeling these things has been contingent on a daily checklist that looks something like this:
– My weight hits my “acceptable” target number
– I exercised that morning
– My house is neat and organized
– I answer every text, email, and voicemail
– All of my relationships are good and no one is mad at me
– I am doing well and being praised at work/school
Clearly, this is a pretty tall order! It’s nearly impossible to check off 100% of these things on any given day. And although I’m a relatively new yogi, the more I practice, the more I realize how anxious this list makes me. The reason? All of the things on it are temporary, and many are out of my control. When we attach to things that aren’t lasting, it creates anxiety.
After 8 years of a practicing yoga, I’ve come up with a way to try (try being the key word!) to manage the checklist. When items from the list start to creep into my head, I turn to my favorite yoga sutra, 2.23: “When encumbered by negative thoughts, positive ones should be thought of.”
Looking at each item on my list, here’s how I try to counteract it with the opposing thought:
– My weight hits that “acceptable” number: Weight fluctuates every minute of every day due to many factors, not just what I eat. I connect with people because of my qualities and how I make them feel. They could care less about my weight. (I still have a tumultuous relationship with my scale, and I am working on it every day.)
– I exercised that morning: My body is not going to change if I skip a day(s) of working out. In fact, my body craves rest because it doesn’t get enough. When I work out too hard, I abuse my body instead of treating it like my most precious gift. Focus on the miraculous things my body does, rather than what it looks like.
– My house is neat and organized: It feels good to be neat and organized, but with two kids and a business to run, it’s unrealistic to have everything in place at all times. And talk about temporary – as soon as I clean up it gets messy again!
– I read and respond to every text, email, and voicemail: We are inundated with communications today and we simply cannot be expected to react immediately. Someone just called me, apologizing for “dropping the ball” in our communication trail. We need to be realistic and revise our expectations. Forgetting a message or taking a while to return one is not dropping the ball. It’s just the new reality.
– All of my relationships are good and no one is mad at me: I am a people pleaser to the max and it is not healthy. The truth is, people are rarely mad at me for the things I expect them to be mad about. And they are mad at me about things I never anticipate.
– I am doing well at work/school and being praised: Work is a roller coaster, especially growing a new business. Focus on our mission, put it out into the universe, and let go of the outcome.
So this has become my practice, and it is bringing me closer to loving myself unconditionally. Of course, I’m still me and it’s hard to reverse a lifetime pattern. I don’t know that I will ever fully let go of the list, but now I know there is another way and I am grateful for that.
Looking at the checklist today, as I am writing this, I can check off 4 of the 7. But now I know that despite not accomplishing the other 3, it is possible for me to be well, happy, and peaceful.
ON THE MAT: Being Well, Happy, and Peaceful
In the physical practice of yoga, called asana, I often talk about how the poses are metaphors for our lives off the mat. Here is one way you can practice being well, happy, and peaceful on the mat by coming into Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
– Stand at the top of your yoga mat or wherever you happen to be.
– Close your eyes.
– Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet.
– Continue to ground your feet and begin to imagine that there is a string at the crown of your head pulling you up to the sky, making you taller and taller.
– Imagine that you are a mountain. On any given day, it may rain or snow on you. People and animals walk all over you. You may even be struck by lightning. Yet you remain completely unaffected by what is going on around you. You are well, happy, and peaceful.
This mountain is you. YOU are well, happy, and peaceful no matter what goes on around you.