Do you ever wonder, What’s all of this for, anyway? What’s it all about? What am I doing here? What’s my purpose? I’m guessing that you do, because these are very human questions. It is very human to seek, to wonder, to question. It is also very human to be frustrated when we don’t know the answers. Or when we do know the answers, but they don’t match up to our reality. We know that life is about love, but where is the love? We know that we’re here to be ourselves, to be creative and helpful, but how? Sometimes all the reading and talking and searching in the world doesn’t help to distill or define the yearning in our hearts.
There is so much importance placed on what we do to make money, what we have, how we live. External things. That’s why it’s easy to get caught up in the shoulds and woulds and coulds, the if-onlys and what-ifs that I’ve so often written about here. There’s so much importance placed on our calling, our purpose in life. It’s dizzying and terrifying when we don’t know what that calling is, or when we think we know and it suddenly changes shape, or when we don’t know how to get there. There. What if I told you that perhaps the way to get there is by being here?
I don’t just mean being present, being in the here and now, but also by being yourself in your body. By going within to illuminate some of the answers we seek. By endeavoring to improve our lives by improving ourselves. It is the simplest and also most difficult thing any of us can ever do. To face ourselves, to face the chattering voices within that tell us what we can and can’t do. To acknowledge them and seek their origins, to find out why and how these voices ever took up such valuable real estate in our minds in the first place. To discover why we treat ourselves and thereby others with such disdain.
During my recent intern days, working for a cause that I still believe in, I came to the rather startling conclusion that while living sustainably is important, how we treat ourselves and others is even more so. That true sustainability starts from within. I discovered that if we are not treating ourselves or others with respect, our actions or good intentions are rendered meaningless. We can be “saving the world,” but if we are not operating from a place of humility and grace, of love and respect for ourselves and other people, we might as well throw the towel in now.
Through my own slow process of learning to respect myself, I have seen and experienced what comes after this relationship is tended to. When you treat yourself well, you can then extend love to others. This love translates as more than fortified relationships, but also as a kind of conscious living that changes the face of everything surrounding you: your health and wellness, your buying choices, your wonder in and for the world. When I endeavored to finally take care of myself, I found that I was also living more sustainably by default. By caring for myself, I began to ingest healthier foods from local, organic sources. By nourishing myself, I was supporting local businesses and living more sustainably. Who knew? When I began to pay more attention to my food, I also began to pay more attention to my other buying choices, like what I was putting on my body.
If you are caring for yourself, you will care for others because you will be coming from a place of well-being, well-being which is only natural to bestow upon others. You’ll not only treat your partner or friends or coworkers with more patience and respect, but you will also care about the fate of all beings. Because we are all connected, every living being on this earth. Acting with love and care creates a ripple effect that radiates out to everything and everyone you come in contact with, as long as you are coming from a place of doing your best and constantly trying and wanting to improve. That’s more important than anything I’ve ever learned.
On this quest to love yourself and the endeavor to improve, don’t forget that loving yourself means you are also gentle with yourself. Endeavor to leave the smallest footprint you can, but don’t stress if you’re on the go and forget to bring your travel mug. Beating yourself up for using a disposable cup one out of ten times does not benefit you or anyone around you. Just remember to bring it next time! Don’t go on a crazy spree throwing away all of your old products with chemicals; use them so you are not wasting them and then buy less harsh products when they are gone. Keep life as simple as you can so you can get down to the real business at hand: giving yourself the space to grow.
As you grow, continue to cultivate a relationship with yourself by quieting your mind and honoring your body as often as possible. You can do this in one swoop, which is one the many reasons I love yoga so much, or you can carve out a time to meditate and a time to work out. Being active releases endorphins, gets the blood pumping to the brain to generate new ideas, creates strength and resilience, and forms bonds with others if you work out in a group setting.
Quieting your mind introduces you to a world that is more magical than any fantasy novel. Meditating or just sitting and staring into space for a few minutes has changed my life more than anything else has. It has taught me to trust myself, to doubt and question the negative voices of my ego, and to realize that the past no longer exists and the future is a construct. These realizations have helped to release me from a lot of guilt, shame, anxiety, and worry.
As a recovering perfectionist, it is all too easy to fall back on my old ways of stressing and applying pressure to get results. It is quite difficult to surrender to the present moment and return to my breath in times of stress, to show myself love and care rather than tough love. But it is necessary to live the life I wish to live. If I want to fulfill my mission of helping others by sharing my struggles, I can only do so when I am living from a place of love and respect for myself.
I wish you a wild, free life.