For me, as hyperactive woman running sometimes faster then my shadow the practice of meditation was and still is the hardest one. I am not the only one. I see this regularly when I teach asana classes: students ask for doing more, reaching farer, when we will learn headstand, how much time I need to practice for Hanumasana…and they enjoy silent sitting for while. Now when I suggest to some exhausted friend or client to “do less” and “be more still” in their life out of mat, I usually hear tons of good reasons why they cannot slow down.There is always one more thing to organise, one more visitor coming, one more activity to do… or what the kids and husband will do if we don’t ? I can only watch and assist when this life style and attitude lead to repetitive injuries and sometimes even to more serious illnesses of my friends and clients.
I am more then aware of the problem. I went trough this process and I am regularly trapped in it even now. Years back when we lived in India, I went to Prasad’s class “for stretching”, with the clear objectif to put “my leg behind the ear”. I’m grateful to him for showing me beauty of yoga, of stillness, of simplicity and for the great inspiration as he coped with my impatience and ignorance. His teaching is coming back to me every day, not only on the mat, but in many different life situations. Without practicing “sitting still”, I could never reach the inner peace, detachment, broader perspective and health I enjoy today.
Sometimes people ask me: How do you do it? Always travelling, always “doing” something, moving around, taking care about everybody”… well, there is not secret. First, I DO much less then before and I had to learn to say NO. When we realise that our self-worth is not about DOING, it is just here and it was always here, we have less need to run somewhere and do something to prove to others and ourselves our worth. I observe this tendency a lot with “expat wives (but not only)” because this is what I knew thefts. . As most of our time we “don’t work”, means we do not lead the carriers as our husbands and friends do, we feel like we have something to prove. So we feel guilty and less worthy for not “working” (hey, when some friends come to visit and see what “not working” mean, there is not many tempted to exchange the place;). We feel also guilty because most of people saw us as privileged pampered ladies, going from coffee morning to party or dinner at the local embassy. If living in some exotic country, we have often the privilege to have domestic help. (I am not writing about expat life, so I will just add for those who live in the same delusion that there is MANY shades of the expat wife life and many difficulties that are overlooked. Perhaps materiel for other post).
We often overdo as mothers too. Yes, shocking as it can sounds,it exists: OVERDOING MOTHER. We focus so much on our role that we actually cut the wings of independence of our kids, we assist them in the school, with their homework, in their activities, we live their success as our successes, their failures as our failures, we compete with other mothers for the grades and honour roles, healthier food in the lunch boxes, and, oh, time of application for University it is like who has more successful kid (understand: who is better mother). We merge with the life of our kids so our life and our worth become linked to their. As much as I am proud of my children, and I see often congratulation of my friends to ME as mother, I wish to be very clear here: ours kids achievements or failures are theirs. And ONLY theirs. Our role is to love them unconditionally and support them whatever happen. Make them feel loved and safe so they can reach their dreams or fail safely and get back on their feet. Anything else I consider stealing the life of my children and giving them the responsibility for my life that they don’t have. Asteya, non-stealing principle of yoga.
In community it is traduced as what I call “MOTHER TERESA” syndrome. Always ready to give a hand, help with whatever is needed, taking much more interest in troubles and problems of others then sitting for while silently and face our own life, our own troubles, our own problems. We cannot sit quiet because there is “a friend in need”. If you try to tell such “Mother Teresa” that she is doing this for herself, to avoid to face her own life, and actually to fill her own empty cup of self-worth, the reaction can be quit ugly. Now, don’t get me wrong. The world need Mothers Teresa and more they are, better we are all. But the authentic Mother Teresa was a “karma yogi”, working selflessly and with detachment of the results, not waiting for the prise or sucking her own worth from her help to others.
I am actually for to go and help others when we feel down because sometimes the best way to help ourselves is to help others, alleviate the pain on the both sides.But let’s do it consciously, knowing that we are doing it for ourselves and not only for others. It is the clarity I get during my life in India. I was going myself to slums in Mumbai for 4 years and I was clear about the fact that as much as I am helping those girls and women I am helping myself first because it was the only way I felt I could stay in this country. I could not face all beggars and homeless kids on the way to the school in my air con car (and with the driver, thanks Sunil) if I would not know that I am giving back somewhere else.
We cannot save the world but we can help in our own little way, but before saving others we have to save ourselves. How many women I saw and see they are overstretching their own ressources, energy, time for friends and community while they end up themselves with burn out syndrome, exhausted or sick and with bitter feeling of lack of gratitude?
For years Prasad watched me to “go and help” somewhere, to somebody. And he just repeated: save yourself first. Many times I did it anyway. Many times and more and more I have to remind myself this sentence and respect the fact that even if I know and have tools that can help, I can share them only with those who ask for. I did the mistake in the past to propose the help… and I am not doing it anymore. I am working with those who reach for the help. It is called respecting the path of each of us and set the boundaries for myself and others.
Another type of the self-worth issue I observe often is the “SOCIAL BUTTERFLY”. And why not. Going from one coffee morning to other, from one party to another, know what is happening in the life of other families of community and basically taking deep interest and pride in knowing “who is who”. It is another way how to feel worthy, because the information is the power. The sloppy side is the “Gossip Girl syndrome” . The gossip is not always negative, it is going with our “Navigating Instinct” as I recently learnt from Mario Sikora, executive coach from US. He shared the article about the “gossip” that I find very valuable.
“In recent years, research on the positive effects of gossip has proliferated. Rather than just a means to humiliate people and make them cry in the bathroom, gossip is now being considered by scientists as a way to learn about cultural norms, bond with others, promote cooperation, and even, as one recent study found, allow individuals to gauge their own success and social standing.” from Have You Heard? Gossip Is Actually Good and Useful.
Now sometimes this interest in the life of others and saying more then we really know brings more troubles then we expect. First, because we are not always in the Truth (Satya, Truthfulness, one of yogic principles), and our deformation of the information can hurt (then we are not in the highest principle of all, Ahimsa, non-harming). Second, because all this interest for others is again the distraction from our own life, our own issues, and the interest we avoid to give to ourselves. I think this is one of those reasons as well that we have a difficulty to sit still in meditation, contemplation or concentration: we don’t want or we cannot face ourselves.
The Holly Graal of expat wife is the “WORKING GIRL”. While it is often not possible for the simple fact that we are living in the country where we are not allowed to work (and we have to sign the documents affirming we will not even try), we are on “dependent visa” that is not giving us the right to work, in some countries we can and if did not completely cut off the working world, we will go for it. What sometimes happen here is that the “working mother” take other mothers in the community for the surrogate mothers and she put part of her responsibilities on the back of them. It makes great tandem with the “Mother Teresa” type till it end up in the clash. Picking up the kids from the school, keep them for the afternoon because she is working, ask for the favour to bring them to the doctor and sometimes even do some shopping/cooking for her… as she is working. Nothing wrong with asking for help. I am even teaching it: ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT. But it is all about the respect and responsibility for the choices we make. On working and not-working side.
Sometimes it creates as well the feeling of animosity from non-working mothers toward the “newly – working – mother”. She is not one of us anymore. How much we are here in the embracing our own shadow and see what trigger us here? Another self-worth matter?
If we cannot get the paid job, we will maybe find our solace in PTA, or some other association (but the school work is important, this is how we keep updated and we feel influent in the life of our kids and community), we might to find our worth in some fund rising or in local charity associations. We become the “FIRST LADY” model. I witnessed the ladies putting their fonction in PTA on their name cards and the fight for power between “Amazons” of Prague end up in embassy where we were talked to “reason” and “make peace” between 2 fractions of PTA members. I saw recently one of my “co-mothers” to put our fundraising activity on her LinkedIn profile as “project manager” job. And why not? We are using and learning our skills and our potential in everything what we do and we make the best from what life bring to us. But I am again pondering the question what needs and what motivation is behind it?
I was and sometimes I am in all above roles and situation. I can be an Overdoing Mother, Mother Teresa, Social Butterfly, Working Girl or First Lady. I am checking over and over again my own motivations and needs. And issue of self worth is the issue I face myself and I see it to face all my students and clients, wherever it is on the yoga mat or in a coaching session. I dare to say i am finding my balance more easily now then few years back.
Contrary what sometimes my friends think, it is not because of crazy asanas somewhere on the beach or in front of monuments around the world they see on FB. It is funny part of not taking myself too seriously. My balance in life comes from practicing stillness everyday. Sometimes less, sometimes more. There are difficult moments, there are emotions taking over, there is an anxiety, sadness, anger, fear… they come and they go. There is lack of clarity, questionings, doubts…they come and they go. They check in… but they don’t stay over night anymore. The check out is very fast. From the roommate to overnight guess they became the bystanders : they take coffee with me and they go:)
I feel there is still very long way ahead: less moving, less doing, less worrying, less talking, less agitation. More silence, more sitting, more breathing, more flowing.
My life very recently took a new “shock” of how the things are not “going as I want”. I saw one more time my dream just disappear when I was nearly touching it. And I was asking myself; what the Universe is trying to teach me again? What is the lesson I am not learning over and over? The answer is so simple: PATIENCE. STILLNESS. SELF-WORTH.
Thanks you Prasadji for all your Love and Trust you have in us. ❤