Self-acceptance and self-improvement; the Goldilocks approach
When I was in grade school, I remember a teacher reading "Goldilocks and the 3 Bears." At the end of the story, she told us the moral of the story was about respecting other people's property. Sure, Goldi was kind of a thug when she broke into the bears' house and damaged all of their stuff, but even at a young age, I was more impressed by her sense of finding the middle place. And now that I am older, I think Goldi (if she tempered her thugness) would have been a great yogini.
At the beginning of the year, it's easy to fall into thoughts of self-improvement as we can be bombarded by ads encouraging us to become the next best version of ourselves. Social media can inspire us to adopt an exercise program, eat healthier, lose weight or start meditating. Nothing wrong with a growth mindset and wanting to improve our bodies and minds. But without a practice of finding the middle place between self-acceptance and self-improvement (using compassionate awareness), we run the risk of feeling unsatisfied and never enough.
Do we want to start yoga or a meditation practice because we want to look like that Instagram yogi? Or, do we want to feel good in our bodies, keep certain mobility and flexibility in our bodies and minds as we move through the ups and downs of this one precious life? Are your goals about self-care and the ripple effect that our own compassion has on others or does self-improvement come from a place of punishment or feeling "not enough?"
This is where our mindfulness practice comes in handy. When we have a regular practice of mindfulness meditation, we start to notice what types of thoughts we tend to visit (loving and kind thoughts towards ourselves and others? Or, harsh, judgemental thoughts?). When we notice judgemental thoughts, we don't push them away or try to replace them with positive thoughts. Simply acknowledging these harsh, judgemental thoughts is enough to create that space between the thought (like a cloud in the sky) and your true nature (the vast blue sky itself). When we notice positive thoughts or emotions, we don't cling to them. We notice them and watch them change; never getting too attached to any thought, feeling, or sensation that comes our way. With regular practice we become truly grounded for the highs and lows in life; the good, bad, the ugly.
When we unroll our yoga mat, it's a moment for us to practice our goals for self-improvement as well as acceptance...to practice like Goldilocks, not too hard, not too soft. Using mindfulness as our guide, we consciously move our body to be stronger as well as at ease, moment to moment. Using our compassion muscle (yes, it's a muscle that can be developed) we can practice acceptance that our hips might feel a little tighter today or our balance can feel a little off. With mindfulness, we can practice more challenging poses safely and gradually reach our goals of strength, mobility and flexibility.
If you're interested in a whole weekend practicing this middle-place; increasing your strength, flexibility and mobility while developing self-compassion (with a group of wonderful yoginis!) please join me for my next Women's Yoga and Mindfulness Retreat in the beautiful Swiss Alps.