Tag Archives: #coaching

Self-Love: The Crux* of it All

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Yes, none other than the Buddha says we have to love ourselves. Not just love, but be affectionate. We must feel endearing to that person we so often ‘other’ because that is what is done to us daily. That mountain called self-love is one most people seem to think is bigger and farther away than Mt. Everest. What creates such a disconnect from something so basic to our health and well-being?

The other day a friend wrote me a despairing email about meeting someone for whom she felt a romantic attraction — how it brought up all of her insecurities and feelings of not being worthy. We then moved to WhatsApp and continued the conversation. She, like most people, wants to feel loved. She, like most people, still look outside of themselves for that validation. Too risky and too often a panacea, an addiction so we can dull the pain. I wanted to nail her ass to a tree and shove love and affection down her throat. Not really, but my own despair bubbles up inside when so many beloveds cannot see their way through the forest of self-hate. As a woman of color and an immigrant, messages about her lack of importance in the dominant culture tumble her fragile self-love down a rocky hill again and again.

I will share what I told her and what I do to practice love and affection toward myself. I told her love had to come from herself, that she had to love herself. And she said she couldn’t. Una mentira, I said, the crap you have been fed and you then chewed and swallowed, thinking it was nourishment when it was toxic.

Today, I said, note down everything you do to love yourself. Reaching out to me, drinking water, taking care of yourself. This was the way to swim against the current of hate. Swim towards love. Otherwise, I told her, we live in the past. We go back and keep opening our mouths out of habit, hoping this time we will get from someone else what we already have inside, the power to see our magnificence.

I consider almost every act of every day an act of love and affection for myself. Getting enough sleep, meditating, being grateful for life. That is even before I get out of bed. Then rolling over on my side so I don’t stress my back when I sit up. Putting on slippers so my feet are comfortable. Getting on my roller and relaxing my sacrum, then rolling up and down my spine to make sure any tightness is released. That is before I even climb down from my loft.

I think you get the picture of what I am saying here. Love and affection are right there, every day, every action, and more than anything, every thought. I play tennis and all too often I hear two kinds of chatter from other women. The first consists of apologies for, basically, not being perfect. Sorry I hit the ball out, sorry I walked by you a little too closely, sorry my ball toss was offline so I had to toss it again. The other chatter is talking negatively about other players or coaches. When we throw our negativity on others to see if it will stick, we are too often trying to convince ourselves we are good because they are bad. You would think lives hung in the balance. The biggest loss in these conversations happening beside tennis courts and in workplaces, cafes, and homes is that it is time lost. Time and energy that could be used to give and receive love and affection.

It is no surprise the Buddha created an 8-fold path to end suffering that included right thought, right speech, and right action. Not as in oops, sorry, I did that wrong. More as in detached, loving and non-violent thoughts, honest and useful speech, and authentic, honorable actions. To ourselves first—you, yourself, said the Buddha. That then seeds our approach to others. It does not mean we cannot be angry or disappointed. It does means blame, shame, and attacking ourselves can only result in doing so to others unnecessarily. I was training with a lovely, vibrant woman and we agreed that life was too short to sweat the small stuff. It does not mean ignoring micro-aggressions, but it does mean measuring our responses with what we want to feed, told beautifully in this Cherokee story.

And then there is the other way we attempt to address the crux of self-love. The flip side of the negativity towards ourselves and others is bending over backwards (not good for the spine or our well-being) to give love and be compassionate to others. The problem is that if one’s love for self is not clean and well fed, then that external love gets tangled up in unconsciously expecting reciprocity from others that is not asked for directly. We think that if we give what we want, then those around us would get the meta-message. That would work if we were all well-fed and saw ourselves as beloved. We know that is rarely the case. We know because we understand hunger—it is too often our motivator rather than self-love.

The question is not “How do I?” practice self-love. The question is: “Why don’t you see that you do?” “Why don’t you see that you can easily practice even more?” “Why don’t you accept that your power has never left you?”

Email me for my Health & Wellness Checklist – you will get to see what you do everyday to love yourself, you can see how to easily practice even more, and you will see your power manifested every day. #52essays2017

an unsolved question
an essential point requiring resolution or resolving an outcome

Finding Your Breath

What is breath to you?

I have the unwelcome opportunity, as you probably do, to ponder this often. One day in particular, I woke up with a clear plan for my day. I drove to my yoga studio. After parking my car, I realized I had forgotten my yoga mat and had a moment of irritation that I would have to pay for a loaner mat because I had not been mindful enough to bring mine. As I locked the car door, a woman said: “Do you know you have a flat tire?”

“I didn’t. Thank you.”

I did not feel grateful. With a big sigh, I unlocked the door and sat back down. I looked up the weird warning that had started flashing that morning and sure enough, it meant a problem with tire pressure. I felt myself sinking into the frustration of missing my class and now having to go to the rental agency to get another car. Closing my eyes to re-center, I recalled an email I had received the day before from a friend asking for prayers for a mother whose daughter had been missing for five days. Fortunately, she followed up with an email a few hours later saying the daughter was found and safe.

Getting Assistance
Pulling out my phone, I called my VISA, who transferred me to their emergency road service number. Another moment of annoyance rose when they said there was a $60 charge to change the tire. I debated changing the tire myself, but quickly talked myself into the benefit of getting assistance. An edge of irritation invaded my voice as I answered the woman’s questions. Do any of you ever do that to customer service people? You know it is not their fault but they are the ones saying what you don’t want to hear. I pulled away from that edge in my voice until it was lower and quieter, reminding myself I was safe and didn’t have a daughter that was missing.

The tow man arrived, kneeled down, and inspected the flat tire. “That is a really big nail!” he said, pointing to the large head in the tire. He raised the car and used his high powered tool to unscrew the lug nuts. “These are on really tight.” I cracked a small smile, glad I called him, imagining myself trying to take them off with a small hand tool, imagining the curses that would have started to spew out of my mouth.

After he finished screwing on the last lug nut, I started the car and turned out of the parking lot. Hot tears spilled down my cheeks and I started sinking underwater again. I wailed: “I am suffering, I am suffering, I am suffering.” A laugh bubbled up and interrupted my tragic lament. That laugh was like someone reaching down and pulling me out of the water. That laugh brought breath to my lungs that spread to my heart and along my limbs until my toes tingled.

What Helps Me
As I drove across the Richmond bridge in the slow lane with my donut tire, I looked out at the great expanse of the bay and asked myself: “What helps me find my breath?” What helps me when I sink into a place where I forget beauty, trust, and gratitude?

First and foremost, breathing deeply. I often hold my breath when I am sinking, and that cuts off oxygen to my brain. Laughter is another way to breathe deeply, as is dancing to a song rich with rhythm and beat. Perspective is another hand that pulls me out – like thinking about that mother who did not know where her daughter was for five days. I did not attend the prayer circle for the mother because I was having dinner with my precious, safe daughter. Perspective reminds me I am not the only person feeling minor annoyance or deep despair. Yoga is another hand that pulls me up and gives me breath, which is why I was sad to miss my class. I pondered more ways I find my breath as I transitioned onto the 80 freeway. I had gotten up that morning and set my timer for 15 minutes to meditate, counting my in-breath and out-breath to 10. Whenever I noticed I was on number 34, I returned to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

As I exited on Gilman Avenue and passed the soccer fields, I thought of my twins, now 21 and embarking on their own journeys. They are finding the hands in life that will pull them up when they go underwater, stop breathing, and forget their resiliency.

On this day my faithful, strong hands, born of constant discipline, pulled me up from a minor drama. Sometimes, when someone we love goes away or executive decrees slap down justice unrelentingly, we really do feel like we are drowning, like we cannot breathe. Many people in my circle are reeling day to day, as if there is a boot on their necks, pushing their precious faces under water. Many I don’t know have had their faces pushed under water for decades, for centuries, for many lifetimes.

So again, I ask you: How do you find your breath?

Finding your breath means looking unflinchingly at the larger picture and also being one with every single detail that grounds us. To make a good cup of tea, I have to be that tea, and the cup. I have to be the hot water. Sometimes I am the honey and the spoon and the coconut milk.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a buddhist teacher, said it well:  If you can hold the pain of the world and never forget the vastness of the great eastern sun, then you can make a proper cup of tea. #coaching #breath #greateasternsun