self love

Being compassionate to myself

My chin, lower lips and inside bottom of the mouth have been very tight. I often hold tension there. In the last few days, I noticed it more. I massaged my jaw and face last night. I tried to open and close my jaw slowly. These only helped temporarily. 

I had a long therapy session with a trauma therapist three days ago. I’m feeling more space in my pelvic floor, lower belly, lower back and upper chest. I only acknowledged very recently that I had trauma. I had thought I have functioned well and it didn’t leave significant scars. My dad committed suicide when I was 13. Emotions from that time were coming up recently. I didn’t grieve at the time. I didn’t know how to grieve, nor did people around me know how to support me. I started to sense that things I haven’t allowed myself to feel have been all in my body. I knew I have to feel it eventually in order to heal. I finally feel safe to do so now. I spent a significant part of my yoga therapy training in the last two years slowly and steadily opening up to feeling emotions that I would have consciously or unconsciously avoided before, as if building up my feeling muscles.

I was doing some breathing this morning. Letting the body breathe has always been difficult. As soon as I start to pay attention to the breath, my mind wants tot control. I tighten the upper palette, blocking the flow of air through the nostrils, and tongue and throat tense up. Given that I have carried grief and sadness for so long, it makes sense I don’t feel safe to let go of control. This morning, I lay down on the floor with my lower leg on the couch. As I breathed, an instruction “have compassion to myself” came to mind. I kept repeating that. The upper palette relaxed and the nostrils opened. The lower belly started moving up and down, so did the pelvic floor. The area between the eyes and my entire face softened. The breath was easy, soft and connected from the pelvis, ribcage to the nostrils. It’s rare for me to experience a breath like this. 

I think of my inability to breathe easily as something I have to fix, to get rid of. I know that a particular way each person holds tension helps the person feel safe, and have witnessed that in clients. I still have difficulty seeing my own tension with curiosity as something that exists for a reason. The self judgement makes my breath even more rigid and tighter. I know my jaw tension is a sign that I don’t feel safe. Could that be I don’t feel safe with myself, with my own judgement? 

I know the power of positive feedback. In my yoga therapy live training in January, my fellow yoga therapists and I team-taught each other a movement through using only positive feedback. As a person being taught, I felt that positive feedback made me relax, breathe better and as a result, I did the movement I was taught with more ease. After two rounds of positive feedback from four of my ‘teachers,’ I even moved better. When I was teaching, I saw what I experienced in others who did the movement. We were all blown away by the impact of positive feedback. It makes sense that how we talk to ourselves could make us more rigid or free.  

I started practicing self-acceptance and love in the last year or so, and I’ve had moments where I really felt it in a way I’d never experienced it before. Michael Stone, my Buddhist teacher, said that once you experienced enlightenment doesn’t mean you are an enlightened being forever. Enlightenment happens in the moment when you are really present with what’s here and now, and you need to keep meeting the moment. I have checked off self love as done (even though I'm so new at this!). An experience like this makes me realize that self-love, like enlightenment, happens in the moment, and reminds me to keep coming back to being compassionate with and loving to myself each moment. Looking at my previous post in May, yes, I definitely see a pattern. ;-)