Well, it has been quite a couple of weeks for me my dear Readers. It’s ironic that whilst I’ve been teaching others about the change of season, the onset of Autumn, the season to let go, clear out and slow down I have had to do this in both my personal and professional life. And whilst I know I should be all ‘yoga’ about things I am presently at the stage where I feel like the Universe can ‘do one’. But I shall take this opportunity to reflect back and I shall blog for it has been some time since I overshared 😉
One of my main struggles in life has been building and maintaining a successful loving relationship with a Partner. I have fallen for false promises and grand adventures. I have also mistaken loyalty for love and let my stubbornness keep me in a relationship that was really nothing more than friends. And then not even that. And I have carried the expectation of a great romance with me throughout the years (I blame Patrick Swayze and those hips). Love is one of the scariest things to feel, to show and to accept – often accompanied for many of us with the fear that if you let yourself love, show your true self to another person then they may reject you. It’s complete and total vulnerability and most of us are too stressed, hyped up, braced in defence or overstimulated to truly relax into it.
Looking back at my relationships I have realised that I fall in love with relative ease… I think it’s because I easily see the good in people and when they show me their goodness I am ready to believe in it, accept it and value them for it. I’ve also seen Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman way too many times… However, I have also used love to feel sad and scared – of losing that love and of losing my sense of self.
As a Singleton for many years, I couldn’t fail to notice that we are bombarded with advertisements focusing on finding that ‘Perfect Match’ or our ‘other half’. We are sold love like we are sold other commodities. And part of me does believe that falling for someone is rather similar to the sensations you feel when you buy a new pair of shoes (shoes or handbags – they never make you feel fat). That initial high – they’re a perfect fit!. But then you wear them and they pinch your toes or some oaf stands on your feet and scuffs them up… Don’t get me wrong I love the love part – the heart bursting feeling, the daydreaming, the floating on air feeling, the cuddles and the giggles, the insider jokes, the kisses and all the good stuff… But with that sometimes also comes fear of getting attached. That sick feeling that it might end, not work out, and the panic during a fight that it’ll be over. Or that unsettled feeling when you are alone and would rather be with them – when the usual routine of a box set and a cuddle with the dog no longer cuts it in quite the same way (sorry Buster!).
During my yoga teacher training in India last year I began to realise the importance of my self-worth and it was the practice of Bhakti Yoga (one of the four traditional paths of yoga) which led me to making some real discoveries. Bhakti Yoga is a devotional practice – it’s the yoga of love. Nope – not tantric sex, ask Sting about that! Bhakti Yoga is about learning and cultivating unconditional love from within you and for you. It is about connecting to the life energy within each of us (which we acknowledge with Namaste or Om). It can also be more religiously focused than that like praying to a particular God but it is also found within a simple gesture of giving thanks for something within you or around you. Even just giving thanks for that cup of tea and a KitKat perhaps.
Bhakti Yoga teaches us that real love is about embracing the simple beauty of loving someone without needing them to love you back – “In real love you want the other person’s good. In romantic love, you want the other person.” (Thank you Anodea Judith for the beautiful quote). It’s about filling yourself with so much love and self-worth that you give love freely to others and without expectation. You do not need that Partner to make you happy, to fill a wound or a hole in your life because you are already doing it for yourself. This is not to say we should not also enjoy the human experience of falling in love, of romantic love, as we have the right to experience pleasure, be loved and share love. But it’s about cultivating an intention – finding out why you love and what love means to you.
A successful relationship takes time, effort, honesty and investment and I’m talking about your relationship with your Self first. I truly believe that you can only be in a healthy relationship with others if you are healthy and happy in yourself first. Quite often, when we fall in love with someone we see it as a commitment, an investment to work, grow and live together and if we decide to marry we seal that declaration with vows before our friends and family to love each other ‘till death do us part’. I love a good wedding, I love sobbing at a good wedding and I do dream of that White Dress but I have come to the conclusion that a love between you and a Partner can never offer you that level of commitment. No one knows what challenges life will bring in the next 5 minutes, never mind the next 5 years or the rest of your life. Sometimes you have to let people go. Till death us do part is actually only a commitment you can truly make to yourself – to commit to working on yourself, to healing yourself and to loving yourself unconditionally – even your worst bits (your cellulite, your moobs or your quick temper).
My most recent lesson in love has ended with letting it go. I wrote many months ago that I realised it was braver for me to step over my insecurities and my fears and to take a leap of faith, to open my heart up to love again. But sadly, sometimes, it is braver to decide to walk away. To truly consider your own worth first and foremost and know that there can be lonelier places within a relationship than actually being on your own.
Love and loving relationships with anyone and everyone in your life all begin with you and how you treat yourself – so I encourage you to be kind, be fun, be silly and be free with your heart. For me, I am eating hobnobs without judgement and taking stock of the decisions I have made. I am learning to just let it be whilst I learn how to let go. It is time for me to appreciate that by beginning to learn to love myself I can now see when I have compromised myself too much for someone else. I know that whatever happens I will still love, be loved and feel love in my heart. But it takes an open heart, with no fear, and letting go to truly love someone and that is also how you learn to truly love yourself. And that for me is love – real love. That’s what I need to continue to focus on.