When standing in Warrior Two pose one of my favorite yoga teachers likes to say, “We are looking into the future as we gaze out to the tips of our fingers on one hand, and leaving the past behind us with our opposite hand, standing firmly in the present.” Bridging my past, present and future has been key to the success of my self-care journey. Maybe it could be for you. Self-care starts with recognizing where we’ve been, accepting where we are and knowing where we want to go.
I was moved by poet and philosopher David Whyte’s recent TED Talk where he speaks to the relationship of past, present and future. When is the last time you heard someone recite a poem? Mr. Whyte’s poems are lyrical for me – and his message this time could easily be applied to self care.
Whyte recites two poems inspired by his niece Marlene and a journey she took along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, an ancient pilgrimage route in Spain. She did the 500-mile pilgrimage to find the courage to walk into her future. Although her journey was not about self care per se, it was about doing what was best for herself, despite the hard work and discipline, and realizing she was worth it. Whyte’s niece was a recent college graduate with a degree in Irish drama and aspirations to be a playwright, that future seemed uncertain to her — frightening even. “What path should I take?” “Who am I supposed to be?” “How do I deal with all the voices in my head saying I can’t do this?”
Aren’t those questions we’re all asking and re-asking ourselves every day when we are choosing to take time for ourselves, to make healthy eating choices or to go to the gym?
For Marlene, and for Whyte, the pilgrimage became a metaphor for how we should walk that path through our past, present and future. Just as I believe we should travel along our journey of self care.
Paraphrasing one of two poems Mr. Whyte wrote in honor of his niece’s experience, he suggests, “We have to walk the uncharted waters of the ocean, not just our shadows. We have to call an end to the way we have come. You have to ask for help making it possible to stand in the ground of our life.” I believe we have to ask ourselves, “What do I want for my health in the future based on what it has been in the past and how I’m feeling right now.”
Standing in Tadasana or Mountain Pose, with my hands at my side, feet firmly planted in my mat and my eyes closed, I like to feel like I am “standing in the ground of my life.”
Mr. Whyte so eloquently describes the struggle of walking uncharted waters, “The moon rising behind you as you stood where ground turned to ocean: / no way to your future now / no way to your future now except the way your shadow could take, walking before you across water, going where shadows go, / no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass except to call an end to the way you had come.” We need to say good-bye to those old ways of unhealthy eating, procrastinating exercising and telling ourselves we don’t have time to self-care – and especially to those voices in our heads saying we don’t deserve to be healthy, happy and whole.
In his poems, Whyte says that every step along the way we have carried the heart and mind and promise that set us off in the first place – and that helps us realize “You were more marvelous in that simple wish to find a way than the gilded roofs of any destination that you could reach.”
In shavasana at the end of a particularly difficult yoga class, I will celebrate that I made the journey with grace and arrived more marvelous not because it is over, but because I wished to take the journey in the first place and successfully bridged my past, present and future.
Please enjoy watching David’s 20-minute TED Talk at David Whyte TED Talk and may you arrive more marvelous in your own self care journey.
For more self care ideas and information go to Fuzzy Red Socks.