October 13, 2016

How to Receive a Compliment, even When we Feel like we Don’t Deserve it.

“If you can set an example through your positive choices, success, survival, happiness, confidence or whatever, how is that a bad thing? If you can inspire someone to aspire to a happier, more active, more productive life, isn’t that what any of us could hope for?”  ~ Dawn Shaw, “Being an Inspiration”

The other day at yoga a woman came over to me after class and said, “You inspire me.”

Was she kidding?

I thought to myself that it was a good thing all she saw was me struggling to do the poses, struggling to move myself from supine to standing—hell, struggling to move, period. Thank God she didn’t see what was going on in my head.

“I’m so fat I can hardly move.” “I used to be able to do all this stuff.” “Why do my muscles hurt so much?”

Because I was so wrapped up in the words in my head I didn’t realize that what I was actually doing with my body was something that would “inspire” someone else. In fact, I was hardly even in my body. I was in my mind.

Except for a few classes, I haven’t been able to do even the most gentle of yoga for over three years. Once the muscle weakness and breathing disorder from my illness took over, I simply didn’t have the strength. Even chair yoga was beyond me.

But for the last three to four weeks, I have been able to return to yoga and to participate. Doing all the poses or actually holding them is another storyhowever, and I spend a lot of time in child’s pose, but I fully expect that I will get stronger.

The thing is: I believe in yoga. I believe that it will do more for me in the long run than anything else I am doing to address the ravages of my illness. I also believe that it will not only heal my body but, in the process, calm my mind as well.

I remember once talking to my now 60-something-year-old sister, a Krishna devotee since she was 16 years old who lived in India for a big period of her life. “If you want to remain vital and strong, do yoga,” she was telling me. Where she lived, yoga was a way of life as well as a way to maintain health and strength and to heal both the mind and the body. It wasn’t just “exercise.” It was—well, as I refer to it, “body prayer.”

I took my sister’s words to heart and have done yoga on and off most of my life except when three years ago I simply couldn’t do it—or much of anything—anymore.

In the meantime, back in my yoga class, someone had noticed my struggle. They noticed that I was overcoming something and that I was persevering.

When the woman who noticed me spoke to me and told me that I had inspired her I realized for a split second that I had a choice. I could either recognize the truth of what she was saying or retreat back into the hinterland of my mind and deny it—“Me, inspire you? Are you kidding?”

Or I could listen to the message I later realized that the universe was sending me.

“You can be an inspiration to others, no matter what you feel you have or have not achieved. Even if you feel that you have not yet reached the endpoint, and even if you feel like you have reached a low point, you have the ability to inspire.”  ~ R. Kay Green, “What Is the True Meaning of Inspiration”

Ultimately, what did I say to the woman who had approached me? I said, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Her words had taken me by surprise and in the moment I didn’t know quite what to respond but the next time I went to yoga I thought about her.

I thought that what she said had touched me.

I thought about what I might have said to her that I didn’t say.

“Thank you for noticing my struggle and for telling me you noticed. It means the world to me that someone is ‘holding me up in my poses’ with their thoughts and kind attitude. Thank you for watching me through the lens of love.”

Most important, “Thank you for reminding me to do for others the same that you did for me. You inspired me.”

If we think that the poses we do in yoga carry forward into the world outside of yoga, so too will the words of tenderness and compassion said there.

Yoga is not a “mind your own business” static kind of world. Yoga is a dynamic, namaste kind of world.

The inspiration in me recognizes the inspiration in you.


Author: Carmelene Siani

Image: Elephant Journal on Instagram

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

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