The Practice of Contentment.

I saw the documentary “Embrace” recently. To say that it changed my life is not an exaggeration.

It’s about female body image.

It started when Taryn Brumfitt posted before and after pix on Facebook and they went viral, not because of how stunning her transformation was (though it was) but because of how real it was.

taryn-brumfitt-before-and-after

Image found via Pinterest.

It went viral because she went against the norm. The before pic “should’ve” been the after and the after the before. She received thousands of responses. Some hateful and nasty because some people are just hateful and nasty. But most were beautiful and vulnerable and most were grateful to see somebody embracing their real body rather than shunning it and they wanted to know how they could do the same.

So, Taryn embarked on a journey and documented it to see how women around the world view their bodies. It was illuminating and heartbreaking. A word often uttered when asked to describe their body was “disgusting.” Not one woman liked one thing about her body.

Not one thing.

I don’t remember the first time I realized my body wasn’t good enough. I do remember a friend telling me to stop doing the locomotion in her basement because each time I hopped it felt like an elephant shaking the floor. I was twelve.

I remember a boy in the stands at a high school basketball game where I was a cheerleader calling me “thunder thighs.”

I remember pouring over issues of “Seventeen” yearning for the long, straight blonde hair that I saw. The thin thighs, slender calves and ankles.

I remember never feeling quite comfortable in my skin. Not only because of being bombarded constantly by media telling me that I needed to change my body but also because I think a part of me believed that it would be “conceited” to think I was enough just as I am. That I would be full of myself.

Since I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve grown to accept the way my body and energy fluctuate day to day, month to month, year to year. Because I try to practice yoga as a way of life, I’ve learned to practice santosha or contentment. It’s not about being happy all the time but being content in each moment as it arises, not needing to change it or fix it or resist it.

When it comes to my 51-year-old body, santosha is a blessing. It helps me to not merely accept my body (which I think implies that it is less than and I am just settling) but to embrace my body exactly as it is day to day, moment to moment.

Some days I feel strong and confident and head off my mat after a sweaty vinyasa ready to kick ass. Other days I curl up on the couch  and that’s it. Santosha allows me to ride the waves of hormones as my body shifts, my mood meanders and my ability to sleep suddenly falls off a cliff.

Santosha allows me to feel content no matter what is happening in my body, to my body and around my body. It allows me to recognize that, contrary to decades of false beliefs and advertising saturation, I am not essentially lacking. It allows me to embrace and rejoice in all that I do, all that I am.

lao-tzu-contentment

 

The Art of Being Enough.

huge hole

Image found via Pinterest.

I remember hearing that when you turn 40, you stop caring what people think of you.

Or when you turn 50, you will just say what you think.

Well, both of those birthdays have come and gone and I still care what people think of me and I do not always say what I think.

When will it happen for me?

Will it ever?

But lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps it is a gradual shedding and not one big fell swoop like I am expecting.

I care less than I did what people think of me.

I am aware that what they think of me is not my business. That I have no control over it.

I am aware that we all project our crap onto others.

When I find myself judging somebody, I remember to turn that mirror around and it is almost always, without fail, something in myself that I do not like.

I don’t always say exactly what I think. But I do sometimes. I do more than I used to.

I used to be addicted to self-help books. I would roam the aisles of the bookstore, desperately seeking that book that would finally fix me.

Fix me.

That is what I thought. That I needed to be fixed. That in some essential way I was broken.

Now, I will sometimes casually browse the self-help or personal growth section but it is never with that intention of filling up some gaping hole in me.

I used to take everything personally. And I mean everything.

The cashier didn’t smile at me? I must have annoyed her in some way.

A small group is laughing in the corner. It must’ve been at me.

Now, I do that less. Now, I remember that it’s not all about me.

In fact, it is rarely about me.

Now, I have some distance, a psychic buffer between me and the me that never feels like she is enough.

And that, right there, is what that hole is.

The not-enough hole.

Not thin enough, successful enough, bold enough, generous enough.

Just not enough in some deep and profound way.

That’s a pretty big hole to fill. And all my life I have tried to fill that hole by being what everyone around me needs me to be. Caring too much what they think, not saying what I want. I’ve filled it with wine and sugar and TV and amazon.

Obviously, that hole is not going to vanish just because I turn 40 or 50 or 60 or some other magical milestone age.

That hole is always there. It’s part of being human. It’s how I deal with it that matters. Not filling it up with sugar or wine or shopping or TV .

Instead, learning to sit with the hole. Befriending it. Acknowledging that, yep it’s still there. And navigating around it.

That, to me, is santosha—being content with what I have, where I am, who I am.

Or as Pema Chodron says—befriending who I already am.

Befriending myself even when I care too much what others think of me.

Befriending myself when I fail to speak up, speak out.

So, no, I haven’t woken up after a milestone birthday suddenly a new person.

Instead, I wake up each day, doing the best I can, gradually shedding those things that feel too heavy to carry, those things that dull my light.

I wake up each day with the intention of befriending who I already am.

I wake up each day fully intending to embrace and experience santosha—a deep and abiding contentment with exactly who I am, right now, in this moment.

And, in this moment, I am enough.

More than enough.

And so are you, my sweet friend.

So are you.

You are so enough

Image found via Pinterest.