A Lesson in Loving Myself

Love is in the trees

I learnt an important lesson this morning in learning to love myself. As mentioned in a previous post that is something I’ve realised I am yet to have really achieved and have made a commitment to work on while I am on this journey.

I didn’t sleep very well last night and woke up at five this morning feeling hot, uncomfortable, distracted by the noises outside (which haven’t yet in six nights bothered me), and REALLY HUNGRY.  I have been doing a juice fast for the past three days (that’s 72 hours of no real food) while getting up at 7.30 each morning for a two-hour yoga practice, sometimes also attending an afternoon yoga class as well. Yesterday afternoon I was feeling great – strong, fit, flexible and amazed at how much energy I had. But by the evening I really just wanted food, so I had a vegetable soup and a little bread. That felt good.

The food kickstarted my metabolism though it seems, which I think is what kept me up last night and woke me earlier than normal this morning. I frustratedly tried to get back to sleep and stop thinking about how hungry I was, eventually giving up and making myself hot water with lemon and honey which curbed the cravings slightly. Then, as usual, I went off to morning meditation and yoga at 8 o’clock. But I really didn’t feel up to it.

From the minute I sat on the mat I felt agitated and almost a bit resentful that I was there – which is stupid as it was completely my decision to go. Then as we started the meditation I became even more frustrated as all I could think about was food, and could not get into it all. When I was lying on my back doing breathing exercises I had to force myself not to fall asleep and did actually nod off a few times which was adding to my agitation. I really was not enjoying myself. Then we started the physical yoga practice and I knew I wanted to leave. My muscles were exhausted and it was a struggle going through the basic postures I’ve been doing every day. My arms were shaky and I felt empty and weak.

I carried on this way for a good ten minutes, with my mind not in the practice at all, but on whether or not I should walk out. I was right at the front though, just in front of the teacher, and my first thought was that it would be awkward or embarrassing. I even thought that it might be rude and would upset the teacher (who I’ve gotten to know a little bit, so he would have definitely noticed, but I doubt he’d be ‘upset’).

I had to have a word with myself then, and thankfully, realised that I was being ridiculous. This is my life, my body, my ‘holiday’, my money, etc., and no one else can know, or should really care, what I do. I was more concerned about others’ impressions of me or their feelings than for my own wellbeing in those moments than my own.

Once I’d made the decision to leave I sat back and rested in Child’s Pose and the teacher came to ask if I was alright. I said I didn’t feel well and was going to leave and he tried to encourage me to rest a bit and stay, but I stuck to my guns and quietly left, thanking him and apologising (still a bit ridiculous I felt the need to apologise! Damn English trait.)

I went straight down the road to the Juice Shack, where so far I’ve only been able to sample their juices, and ordered a big fruit salad, muesli, yoghurt and honey, a boiled egg and toast and a mint tea, and ate it all.

I felt SO much better.

I am glad that I finally listened to my body and gave it what it needed – not only nourishment, but also rest. I’m going to take a nap once I’ve finished typing this as I’m exhausted.

Although the above may sound trivial to some, who’d have no qualms with putting themselves first and looking after their own needs, this is something I really grapple with. Somehow I’ve convinced myself to believe that putting oneself first equates to selfishness and as such have always tried to be giving and look after others over pursuing my own wants and needs. I don’t call myself a saint, or believe anymore that this is a good thing, as inevitably it didn’t make me happy, as I never got in return what I really wanted (the same level of care and consideration I was giving others). So it just made me more and more resentful, which I would take out on the ones I loved and manifested in passive aggressiveness, and eventually, depression.

What I believe that I’m learning now is that I need to take responsibility for looking after myself, as at the end of the day, I am the only one who will be there, always, for the rest of my life.

I’m going to turn thirty this year, and have gone through most of my life until now searching for and yearning for others to look after me. And inevitably – usually not out of choice or by any bad intention of theirs – they have failed me. And each time someone let me down (whether parents, friends or boyfriends, in particular) I felt a huge sense of rejection, loss and abandonment. What I never considered before is that actually I could look after myself; that I could make myself happy… that I could be enough on my own, without needing someone else to support me, to make me feel safe and whole and loved.

Well, with each day that passes I am working towards this, as I know it is the only way to move positively through life. And I am really excited to get there actually. I think I can. I just need to keep listening to my body and my mind, being observant of my feelings and desires, and then responding with kindness – affording myself the same kindness that I try always to extend to others. I also need to learn to slow down, to relax, to let go, to do nothing…as that is the only way I will really get in tune with myself, and try to understand the thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing. That is a real challenge, coming from a fast-paced job, having grown up in a huge capital city, had private school education – and the inevitable expectations to accomplish many things, fast and to perfection, that all of those societal and environmental conditions bring.

Lastly I need to learn to trust my intuition, because my intuition is my truth, and that is all that really matters. If I can trust myself, then I will be ok.

Like this morning for example, when I walked into the Juice Shack, I saw the lovely French guy, Matteo, who I met yesterday on the beach and ended up sitting and eating with him. He and his American friend Max have just finished their Yoga Teacher Training course here in Kerala, and after spontaneously introducing myself and chatting to them yesterday on the beach, I ended up joining them for a sunset yoga practice. It was just the three of us (in fact we then ended up being joined by a girl and her huge dog, which rather got in the way) and was such a lovely experience.

Yoga on the beach

Chatting at breakfast this morning Matteo told me they are heading tomorrow to stay in an ashram a couple of hours from here and when I looked interested he encouraged me to join. So, I may now have a different and unexpected plan for the next stage of my trip. I was planning to go to Alleppey to se the backwaters, but I haven’t booked anything yet and staying in an ashram is definitely something I would love to do on this trip.

Whatever I decide to do, I am so glad I listened to my body and followed my intuition today, as not only did I feel better physically and made a new friend, just by trusting myself and loving myself I felt so much happier and more at peace.

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