Self Image

Members of the Mascho-piro tribe in Peru, seen through a telephoto lens. A member of this isolated tribe skilfully shot and killed the only person from the outside able to speak their language with a single arrow through the heart. The clarity of that message speaks to me somehow.

 If we meet no gods, it is because we harbor none”.

˜Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Your appreciation of who you are

and your place in the scheme of things gives you a good self-image”.

˜Swami Dayananda Saraswati

 We don’t always know clearly what we want (though we should), but I think sometimes we just know what it is that we don’t want, even if we can’t articulate why. And I think this is the divine speaking through us. I’ve heard it said that to respect our longings is to honour the voice of God within us. I know it sounds terribly un-yogic (imagine giving life to all the longings which arise in the mind), but I think there is truth to this.

I know it’s very sad however I must confess that when I pack to travel somewhere I do so by process of elimination. It takes much more time, but I never forget anything. I go through my belongings and eliminate the things I know I don’t want to take. Then I slowly reduce the pile of things I might want (luckily I don’t own too many things). It seems thorough and honest and, I suppose it spares me having to decide what it is that I really want.

Often we live our lives this way, unable to articulate what we want but vehement about what we don’t. Once in a while though, something can happen in life that forces our hand. Maybe it speeds things up a little so that we’re forced to clarify. We no longer have the leisure of eliminating.

Knowing where you stand is the key. This is actually what yoga teaches us. It doesn’t mean in comparison to others as in, ‘I am better at this than this person, worse at this, or smarter, or I have less experience than this one, or I don’t know as much as I should’. Knowing your place in the scheme of things involves the quiet dignity of understanding your vast importance, honouring your deepest longings as being divinely inspired while at the same time extending that dignity and respect to your treatment of others.

When we witness a climate of fear, power structures or even bullying of others, it is because those involved do not know where they stand. Sadly, we can see these situations being played-out in the yoga community as well…the very place we turn to develop our sense of self. The practices build strength and confidence. This is never an armoured type of strength, but a yielding, receptive one.

Symbolically, I would say to start with the body. Stand in Tadasan (Mountain Pose). In this version, the arms are extended overhead with palms together, arms pressed to the sides of the head. The body is firm and straight. The eyes should be closed. Symbolically closing off the senses (eyes and ears), not listening to what comes from outside. Here we have an opportunity to examine the axis of the body. Like the mountain, we can discover that our base or support is much broader than we might have imagined.  But at the same time we are extending upwards, striving for something higher. Grounded in the earth but not of it, we are energy, intention. Now is a good time to ask the question, “Where do I stand?” It’s a good place to start.

 “Thou art divine.

Live up to it”.

˜Swami Sivananda




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