My name is Cindy and I am a recovering health and wellness addict.
For many years of my life, on any given night, I could have been found getting my “fix” — cuddled up with a warm blanket, candles lit, a hot cup of tea, some good music, a pile of books and with a pen and paper, determined to chart out all of the ways I could rid myself of negative thought patterns, heal my allergies, sleep more deeply, optimize my yoga practice, reduce my carbon footprint, meditate more effectively, and become a better wife, mother and friend……all while efficiently managing my household and my work.
Oh, how almost very relaxing were those nights.
And with all of the glorious information out there…..the books, the internet, the practitioners, the gurus……could you blame me? I mean, whatever we want to learn (or unlearn) about these days, whatever spaces that needed filling or deficiencies that require correcting, it seems we only have to ask the question and an answer (or 1000) will magically appear. And then when we feel satisfied that one area of ourselves has been sufficiently “healed”, we need only look as far as the next Facebook post to see where to shift our focus next. WOW, never have there been so many “ascended masters” all in one spot! I mean, it’s truly remarkable!
Ah…..yes, but the journey is the destination, right?
I admit, I have used this famous phrase again and again. I have tried to cling to these words when the mountain of “self improvement” seemed so impossibly high that I could have collapsed just from trying to glimpse the peak. These words might have offered me some comfort or a way to feel less inadequate, but do you know what? I didn’t find them to be very consoling at all, really, because if the journey is the destination then it means the work is never done. That we will always be travelling. That there will always be faults to find and parts to fix.
Down. Right. Exhausting.
If you are asking whether or not I was seeing this whole situation the “correct” way, then you are on to the question that had me stumped. I mean, one might ask, “Where was the self acceptance? Where was the self compassion? Where was the self love?”
All good questions, and I’ll get to that, but first let me explain that the information and messages I was receiving were quite confusing and contradictory: “Here are the many, many ways in which you can better yourself, but you should also love and accept yourself as you are, because you are enough.” Yes, alongside all of this information on how to “fix” ourselves is the equally emphasized and all important concept of “self acceptance”.
I can’t be the only one who finds this confusing. I mean, really. What does this actually mean? And is enough ever enough? If I am wonderful and perfectly acceptable as I am, why exactly do I need to “improve” anything in the first place? Well, maybe I don’t. OR is it that I should love and accept myself, but just not totally, because there is still work to do and I need to stay motivated?
Which is it for you?
For me it was the latter. I wasn’t able to love and accept myself completely at that time, but that was always my end goal. Love was my intention but the true path eluded me. I see now that the idea that love could even be an end goal was undermining that very intention. Let me explain. I saw “loving” myself as a place I would reach when I dissolved the anxiety, mastered the asana, cured my leaky gut syndrome; when I had myself all “healed”. Then I would be worthy of my own love. It was always in a future time and place rather than a way to see myself now….an ongoing process of building the foundation from which to heal upon. The idea of love as a destination was alluring, but deceptive.
The destination was self love when it could have been the starting point!
What I found in my life, was that contemplating and trying to implement so much of this “health and wellness” information did nothing to help me be healthy or well at all. It did quite the opposite, actually. It kept me cycling in what seemed like an endless spiral of non-acceptance and self criticism. Rather than being okay with where I was at, I found myself striving to “become”, and being constantly grabbed and pulled out of the present moment by thoughts like, “That wasn’t a healthy choice….or, I really should…..or, I shouldn’t have…..and next time I will…..” And on top of that, when I was done beating myself up for all of the things I did (or didn’t do) I would then judge myself for my lack of self love, acceptance and compassion.
This is not what I call “healing”. It is what I have come to call putting the cart before the horse.
Getting on and falling off the wagon again and again and again is exhausting, but the most beautiful thing about exhaustion is that it leads to surrender. And how perfect is that? From that place, when I finally said, “Enough is enough!“ I really and truly meant it. Because I hadn‘t the energy to strive any longer, I stopped trying to change myself. I could no longer be fooled into believing that it was really even a possibility. Confucius said, “Wherever you go, there you are” and that used to make me chuckle. In the end though, it didn’t matter how many books I read, laps I ran, bad habits I broke or good habits I formed, I would still be stuck being me. And if I saw that situation as “not good enough” (which I had) then it was high time to change my perspective (and I did). As it turned out, my perspective was really the only thing that truly needed to change.
Ironically, since having that realization everything has changed. From that exhausted and fed up place I had no choice but to be still and look at myself in the most pure, honest and humble light….and what a beautiful sight it was.
It was finally enough.
These days I spend a lot of time doing things that bring me peace, and I muse about the things I love in life rather than concentrate on what is “lacking”. If I set a new intention in my life it is much more likely because I love myself, rather than because I’m trying to love myself. I make a point of not using words like “fix”, “correct” and even “heal” anymore because I am seeing perfection where I once believed it didn’t exist. My new favourite word is “evolve”. It’s just a way of honouring that perfection and accepting myself and others at every step along the journey. And my life is very different as a result, even though I surrendered to changing it. Actually, my life is very different because I surrendered to changing it. Also interesting is that many of the intentions I currently hold are the same ones that I have held in the past, but there is one major difference: Where my actions were once motivated by fear, or a sense of what was lacking in myself and in my life, they are now inspired by love. Yes. I love myself! That is what motivates my thoughts and my actions these days. And doesn’t love charge things with a different sort of energy altogether? There is no need to strive anymore. Life flows effortlessly from this place.
And when it sometimes doesn’t…….
I remind myself that love is a process that is constantly evolving; a starting point, a journey and a destination.