Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Wall: On Being Gentle With Yourself

We finished our yoga teacher training weekend intensive and I was so exhausted by Sunday night, that I had to miss my Monday morning class in order to recover.  Saturday was especially challenging. I taught my sock knitting class prior to running over to the studio.  We were at the heel flap, heel turning and shaping gussets, which is the trickiest part of shaping a top down sock.  Sock shaping is magical, but it's not intuitive for a first time sock knitter, so everyone left the class feeling a bit frazzled, including me.

By the time I got to teacher training, I was tired, hungry and stressed (mistaking those sensations for My Self); as the day progressed, I was hit by a wave of fatigue that left me on the studio floor (literally), able only to watch others move into poses. That fatigue (which hits at the most inconvenient times) is frustrating, so much so that I was ready to quit the teaching programme, because, in that moment, it seemed like something for younger bodies and minds.

A few years ago, I would have done just that-packed my bags and headed out the door, convinced that this is the way things will always be.  One thing time has taught me is that everything is in flux; if we wait, change will come.  I have learned to step back and observe My Self as if I am watching someone else.  I would never tell someone struggling with their knitting, spinning, yoga, etc. to give up, nor would I feel angry if what she was learning didn't come easily.  (I might feel frustration because my teaching methods weren't effective just then, but I wouldn't quit teaching because of it.)  So, why would I punish My Self by being angry and judgemental?

Challenges are inevitable.  Often, we face them by being much harder on ourselves than we would be on others.  We expect to start where the experts finish; we refuse to acknowledge that our bodies, our skill levels and our learning rates are unique.  We don't give ourselves the time we need to absorb lessons learned.  It's our default mode and it would do us good to "unlearn" that practice.

When I hit a Wall, I try not to continue throwing myself against it.  Instead, I step back and survey the surroundings.  What do I need to change my experience, both practically and emotionally?  This weekend, what I needed was a good night's rest, lots of food and water for the Sunday class, and acceptance that things don't always go the way we wish.

The Sunday teacher training went more smoothly.  My energy levels and confidence actually improved as the day progressed (although discovering that my Virabhadrasana II required so much correction was a bit of a blow to my ego).  I didn't quite pass my Sanskrit exam (passing grade was 70%), but I was pleased that I'd at least made a start in recognizing Sanskrit words and asanas.  I decided to stay in the teacher training programme for a while yet.

I looked exactly like this in Virabhadrasana II, minus the smile.

If we judge others harshly, we can step back and ask ourselves if we are practising loving kindness. As we work to apply loving kindness to others, we can ask if we can apply the same gentle acceptance to ourselves. Learning to be gentle and tender with Our Selves can help us to step away from the Wall of Frustration.  Who knows, we may even learn to read what is written there.  At least, we can learn to accept it and know that, in time, a maze of yarn becomes a sock heel, that Wall becomes a Door.

A lovely pair of hand spun and hand knit socks at a craft sale.  Photo taken with permission of the maker, whose name escapes me.



  1. Great post - words of wisdom here. We would never expect so much from anyone else, and yet, when it comes to our own self...we can be so harsh.

    Sounds like an amazing weekend on all levels!

    1. Oh, it was amazing. It also gave me the courage to participate in 54 cycles of Sun Salutations last night. (We're getting desperate for spring here--Heather decided to salute the Sun at the equinox.) I didn't do them all, but I did far more than I've ever done in one session.