As you know, I’m on the Yoga Teacher Training journey since the beginning of 2016 and I’ve a lot to learn. I’m certainly emptying my teacup regularly. It’s essential if I want to make it to the other side of this experience. It’s exhilarating. It’s also, at times, a painful process.
Growing pains can take many forms, including lifestyle shifts, physical aches and morphing relationships. But the ones I’m thinking of involve looking at myself honestly. There are shadows to my being that I can’t ignore and that, I hope, I will come to accept and even love.
My Pity Party
This past training weekend, I saw so many unattractive qualities in myself that I felt a little nauseated. We had to practice asanas, we had to share, learn in lectures and meditate. Over the course of the weekend, I managed to feel angry, vulnerable, threatened, slow and anxious. My head spun a bit, as I’d sit there observing and listening to my ego boast, bask in its crowd-pleasing humour, tell self-deprecating stories or complain. I also came face to face with unresolved anger as I was working through asanas (dang eagle pose, yo!) and caught my comparative-competitive demon ham it up in my head until I booed it off stage.
I felt so sad that I was still harbouring this temper and terribly embarrassed that I still sought validation. Despite my practice of self-compassion, my constant work on forgiveness, this fiery anger and impatience was still so deeply seated in myself. I was frustrated that I was still criticizing myself for my “weakness” in a pose, or for needing an adjustment. Despite my work on self-acceptance, I was still trying to be liked.
Here I was, still angry, still blaming, still shaming myself in one place meant to empower me. Isch. I have a long way to go…
Or am I in the thick of it?
I was pretty deflated and I felt really childish and silly. I’m on the spiritual path – have I been wasting my time on a lost cause (me)? Does this mean I am not evolved and I haven’t learned anything at all from my life’s challenges (health, family, work, otherwise)?
Awareness of My Shadow Self Empowers Me
Uncovering shadows within myself is normal; most of us live in the dark when it comes to our shadow selves (pun intended) because we’re not even aware of its existence and how it impacts our lives. Our shadow selves can skew our perceptions and veer our decisions in some pretty nasty directions if we don’t know where they’re coming from.
The more you look at something, the more you notice. It’s just the way it is. In my training, I’m looking at my mind, my emotions and my body more carefully and regularly. Of course, if you stare at something long enough, you start to see its imperfections. Even if you look at a masterpiece close enough, you’ll see brush strokes (or pixels!).
Some shadows have been a part of me for a long time, some have gone into light and others have shifted into darkness over time. That’s because we grow, we get hurt, we scar. Let’s be honest here. Will I ever become a zenned out monk? No. Will I ever heal or change my temper? Probably not. But will noticing my triggers and tendencies help me overcome some of its limitations? I think so.
I’m not making excuses for myself and nor should you…but don’t make the mistake of thinking awareness is not hard work.
The kindest thing I can do for myself, in the spirit of ahimsa, is to accept that I will keep seeing these shadows and not to look away. Not to judge myself. I remain the observer.
In these moments, I need to look at the big picture and see that I am perfectly imperfect. I am perfectly worthy, and so are you.
Have you ever caught a glimpse of your shadow self? Did you judge yourself for it or did you accept it? How did you shift into love?