“Stop criticizing and judging yourself and start a journey of self-love and self-acceptance.” These words popped out at me in a recent email from Hay House, a publisher of books to nurture one’s soul and to encourage living life to the fullest. The words resonated so powerfully with me because this is a choice I made years ago–to stop being so harsh in my self-judgement and to instead embrace self-love. It is not always an easy choice to honor because modern life is fraught with images and messages of who and what we should be; where and how we should be doing it, and with whom. To step away from the “shoulds”and listen to that little voice deep within–our intuition, the always-true voice of our soul–requires courage, determination, and faith.
Fortunately, I was graced with determination at birth! I’ve always worked on myself, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Keeping a journal for most of my life and writing my thoughts allowed me to sort through confusing feelings and connect with what really mattered in my life. It gave me a passageway to my deepest, truest self. Even if I could not yet find the courage to always honor this higher “self”, at least I knew it was there and how best to access it.
Later in life, yoga became another important vehicle to manage the inner conflicts of life, cultivate courage and connect deeper within. In the gentle movements of yoga postures that are called asanas,I found greater self-love through understanding my body in new ways. Postures that strengthened my cardiovascular system allowed me to truly appreciate the power of my heart beating 24 hours a day, carrying blood through over 60,000 miles of vessels, arteries and veins (most of which are microscopic) and feeding oxygen and nutrients to every cell, organ and gland in my body. Asanas that open the rib cage so the lungs can expand and yogic breathing exercises to increase the capacity and elasticity of the lungs connected me more deeply within my being. Breath is life. It create the union of body, mind and spirit. Deep breathing calms the mind and soothes the soul. Oxygen revitalizes the tissue throughout the body and infuses the 50 trillion cells that comprise me with life.
Most recently, meditation is a modality I embraced to bring even deeper relaxation and peace to my life, and to enrich my faith, my connection with the Divine, my understanding of God, my stronger embrace of spirituality. Writing, yoga and meditation are all sacred tools that have empowered me to release self-judgement and continually wrap myself deeper in self-love and self-acceptance, and therefore have more love to give. I was inspired to write a poem, a sort of mantra that I read every day:
My Life is a Treasure
I treasure my life.
I am thankful to God for this wonderful gift of life.
I am gentle to my body.
I eat wholesome foods.
I eat with the natural rhythm of my body’s internal work.
I stretch and exercise daily.
I nurture my soul every day.
I rest my body to contentment.
I love my body exactly as it is.
I appreciate the wonderful miracle of life.
Kathryn D. Leary is a writer; adjunct professor; certified Bikram Yoga teacher; and celebrant writing sacred vows and performing weddings and other celebrations of life, who resides in New York City.