It’s February—which calls forth images of love, relationships, even singledom, as Valentines is glorified for all of us regardless of our relationship status. Perhaps if we are single, we are left feeling bereft of connection or reminded of our wanting; whereas if we are coupled, there are expectations and hopes that seem to get magnified. What strikes me in either camp is the fact that our greatest relationship is truly with ourselves, yet we miss out on celebrating that. Perhaps this valentines and for this whole month, we can place our attention on that relationship.
When we examine our relationship to our Self, it may feel a bit daunting. There are parts of us that we surely admire and love, as well as parts of us, we would really not have to see or even acknowledge. In Yoga and in The Practice, we talk about union, a ‘yoking’ together of our parts so that we come back into balance and into wholeness. When we don’t integrate both parts, we are missing out on the wholeness. In recent years, Jungian philosophy has had a resurgence of interest, especially his work on the shadow aspect of self.
The “shadows," is the part of that you are ashamed of, that you disregard, hide, and deny; you can see it when you are triggered by another person—the aspect of them that you dislike is usually a sign of the part of you that you don’t want to acknowledge within yourself. So what do we do with our shadowy parts? We bring them into the light. We acknowledge that they actually exist within us! Then we examine ourselves to understand their purpose in our lives, we see where that split off part may continue to serve us in some way. For example, if we are always the victim, we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions or our words, because there is always someone else to blame (this is the villain-victim triangle). If I’m always saving the people around me, then I am complicit in not saving myself. That shadowy part allows us to keep behaving in a way that continues to keep us small and hidden.
On the other hand, we also have expanders in our life. People who embody traits or ways of being in the world that we wish we had ourselves. Recognising these aspects and emulating them is also a practice; to practice being more spontaneous or more poised while standing in front of a room ready to present. You know…the thing that most humans are terrified of…public speaking. We may picture someone in our life that does this effortlessly, and we can begin shaking some of that on for ourselves. We may also see other men or women exhibiting, doing, or working, in the world with something we could only dream of; but seeing someone else actually do it, shows us that it is indeed possible. We call that the Bannister effect, based off when Roger Bannister broke the record for running the 4-minute mile, after him this impossible task suddenly became possible. That threshold of impossibility had been crossed; lighting up the imagination of others that what was once impossible was now feasible. This is expansion.
This February, take this month to try out a few new things—the things that terrify you, the dark hidden aspects of self you can begin to admit to, and doing something that pushes you across your threshold of discomfort. Maybe take an Improv acting class, go to dinner by yourself without your phone, or book a Body Flight (where you are basically sky diving), or hell, actually go sky diving. Maybe have that conversation where you are brutally honest with yourself, and others around you. Then reflect: how does it feel? Is it something that lit you up and offered you an opening of “yea, I want some more of that!” Or, was it something that you can say “Good experience, but not for me.”
Here is the big ticket part—Can you honor yourself as you explore, both the darker shadowy parts of your self, as well as, the big, bright, fabulous parts? In this self-examination you will discover you are so much stronger than you know. You will also discover more about yourself, and your relationship to yourself. As you tried these new things, were you judging yourself? Holding yourself back because of some societal conditioning? Were you rooting for yourself? Were you scolding yourself for not being better at it, from the first try. Interestingly many of us do this, still!
Witnessing what happens in that internal mind, will give you so much information about your relationship to yourself; that inner voice within you that us guiding you. If that inner voice is unkind, unsupportive, or unwise, then you will see the parts of you that need that loving kindness and tender compassion. THAT is the relationship that needs your attention. Work on that relationship; integrate these parts of you so that you may accept yourself fully. This means to be in complete awareness of the parts of you that need some practice AND the parts of you that you should shine even brighter!
With so much love,