“LOVE YOURSELF”…and other clichés we cringe to

Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher based in Bali, with a masters degree in psychology.

Sometimes I come to understand words that I have overly used without realising the meaning. It’s as if the penny has finally dropped and I can properly integrate the expression. The reason we cannot relate to certain things is simply because we don’t know them. We haven’t experienced it, so we don’t have the knowledge. There’s a beauty in that realisation – when we go from ignorance to understanding. Not only have we gained an insight but we also become aware of where other people are in their understanding of a concept. It creates a capacity to relate to some and to understand or help others. So we feel like sharing this new light on life that we have stumbled upon. However, since we learn through experiencing, there is no use trying to convince others. If they haven’t been down that rabbit hole yet, it will still seem like a cliché that they can’t relate to. So with the risk of waisting my time, here’s a contemplation on a few of those expressions I used to find meaningless…. 

JUST RELAX – what is necessary for you to restore your muscles and recover your mind? It might not be what you think it SHOULD be. It might be something very different. I notice that I have time recovering with sleep. Sleep doesn’t help me to get refreshed sometimes. And the reason for that can be narrowed down to the nervous system. Since my vata-pitta mind and body complex is easily wired up on fight or flight, if I cant find the cue that will turn on my relax mode, I will be agitated when I go to bed and I will wake up in that same state. So naturally, even though the organism lays there for 6 or 7 hours, I wake up just as wired as before.

I need to find what works for me. And it might not work for you. Or it might seem stupid. And maybe it is. Maybe it’s due to some strange “madeleine de Proust” moment from child hood that triggers in me in a situation and that will finally make me relax. In more yogic terms, my samskaras, the impressions that I have from past experiences will colour my perception. So for me, I need to lay in the sun, for several hours and ideally go back and forth between the ocean and the sand. I get so relaxed that I need to go home and take a nap after my hours just laying in the sun. Yes, you’d think that is exaggerating and some might say that hours in the sun gives them so much energy that they can then go all night long. 

IT IS WHAT IT IS – The more we fight our current situation, the more we entangle ourselves in it. Like being caught in a fish net. Allowing does not mean agreeing. We can say YES to the situation but it doesn’t mean that we want it. By saying yes we acknowledge it, that’s all. Then we take it from there. By constantly trying to change things, we keep resisting to what actually is. The more we resist, the more it persists. We are so addicted to the idea of change, improve, make more/better/less that we don’t even see how we’re pushing ourselves even further away from what we wish by doing so. I think something clicked when I heard the meditation teacher and psychologist John Churchill say “as long as we objectify, we separate.” This means treating something as IT (your body, the current situation that you are in, another person, an animal….) and not taking it as part of ourselves. We separate from, we fight against and we resist. On the contrary, when we are fully focused on something without effort, we are in a state of accepting.  We have merged with it, become one with the object. Churchill said “If you want to focus on something, just fall in love with it”. 

When we love, we take as part of ourselves. We do not objectify anymore and this is when we are incapable of harming because it would mean harming ourselves (makes you think “how often do we really love in that case?”). As long as I keep the relationship as “I” and whatever is external to me, I do not accept “IT” fully. Now this takes quite a lot of work because what I’m saying here is that ultimately it would mean to fall in love/to merge with the NOW, with my BODY, with HE/SHE/IT … in order to take it as part of myself and therefore accepting it for what it truly is. Without need to modify anything. Accepting it just AS IT IS. 

LOVE YOURSELF – The phrase that used to make me cringe and especially if said in an “after school special” American series. But what does that even mean, how can you “love yourself”? Its like Alan Watts saying to love yourself is like two lips kissing themselves. It isn’t possible. What is more possible is to ALLOW yourself to be exactly the way you are. We always try to improve. But striving for better means that what is now, isn’t enough. So, we aren’t enough now. Every time you push down what you would, in an allowing state, authentically express in a situation, you are not accepting yourself just as you are. And to love someone or something is to merge with it, to actually “become one”. So that means, accepting them/it exactly the way they/it are/is. If you don’t allow yourself to express what authentically is you, then you are not loving yourself. Our limbic system that reads our emotions, affections and controls our reactions doesn’t separate physical pain from emotional. So we can spend a lifetime in emotional pain and develop illnesses due to this because the body cant nurture us properly. It is too occupied with focusing on this pain. It starts with the emotional abuse that you have put yourself through for as long as you have tried to be something that you are not. 

IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD – As if that would make it any less real? It is ALWAYS all in our heads. Actually, reality is perceived. The story you keep in your mind, the idea of who you are, is, in fact all in your head. This is probably why we find it so hard to agree with some people. Everyone is convinced that their version of reality is correct. But the simple fact that you chose coffee instead of tea this morning has already altered the look you have on your day. The fact that your father raised you on his own or that your parents have been together all these years and are very much in love still will make you prefer certain people, feel comfortable in certain situations and even chose to eat a certain way. You do not walk around conscious of it but nothing that you do is by hazard. It is all a part of the filter you have on your goggles. And as long as it’s in your head: your reality will be that and your whole being functions accordingly. Body/mind/heart. It makes you think though: is there really any use to argue over what happened in any given situation?

BE GRATEFUL- this is another one that I never understood and would more cringe when the words were spoken. But it really just means that I had misunderstood the concept of being grateful. Gratitude is appreciation of what is. I always take the same example of when I think about feeling grateful. When I’ve been sick and I’m starting to get back to health. When the shift comes, that morning when you wake up and you feel that you’re starting to leave rock bottom, that’s when you feel a complete appreciation of your being. It is the power of contrast. When you know, really know, what it is like to not be in your full health, then you experience fully what radiant health is once it comes to you. Now, here lays a truth that we must all find hard to swallow. If I have never experienced lack, I cannot appreciate abundance. I cannot really feel the gratitude of everything around me because I don’t know what it’s like when it’s not there. So, in the west, our quest for meaning, our desire to experience fulfilment, is blocked by our incapacity to be grateful. I’m not going on the crusade of blaming us for being materialistic, on the contrary. I believe there is a wind of change that has been blowing for some time already. The reason we dive into yoga, buddhism, taoism, quantum (and the list goes on) is of course, a part of our quest. But consider this: what if we are blocked by this guilt of not being able to appreciate what we have? Positive affirmations can certainly do harm to you in the sense that we substitute the religious index finger pointing at our flaws with affirmations about gratitude, love and compassion. If I haven’t experienced the opposite to what I actually crave, maybe I’m not capable to appropriate the sticker on my front door that has me repeat every time I leave the house “I’m grateful for being me”.