“Love your neighbor as yourself”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” A beautiful and possibly completely misunderstood platitude.
It’s written on the baseboard around my studio. When I began yoga, I studied words like a fiend. I would look up words I thought I already had a thorough understanding of only to find there were many different ways of processing the ideas they symbolized.
Having been raised in a very small fundamental religion, yoga was a scary thing, so I would sprawl on the floor of my bedroom surrounded by books….bible, Latin and Hebrew dictionaries and concordances, yoga sutras with Sanskrit translations. I was a mini etymologist! One day, I began looking at this phrase. Particularly the small, seemingly insignificant word ‘as’. That’s when I discovered the secret that made it come to life for me.
I had always been taught this phrase to mean that I was supposed to love my neighbor as much as I loved myself. But no one taught me how to love myself, so it really just became the southern religious female creed of ‘put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own’.
But on this particular day of scrutinizing what I had been told to believe, what occurred to me was that ‘as’ could also mean…..’at the same time’. Concurrently.
Here are a list of synonyms for the little word ‘as’: at the time that in the act of during the time in the process of
What if, when I cared for myself I was also at the same time caring for my neighbor. What if I cherished myself, put myself on the front burner, so to speak. What if I took time for self care, rest, said ‘no’ to things that according to the rules I should say ‘yes’ to and vice versa. If I was honest with myself and trusted my body and my intuition rather than being ruled the ‘shoulds’ and ‘supposed to’s’, could that also, at the same time be loving my neighbor?
But, isn’t that selfish? No. “Be free. Set others Free”, is part of the YogaGypsy mission statement. If I don’t do it, how can I teach you? Or, my children. We aren’t put here to pay bills, follow rules and die. Life doesn’t happen in a straight line (unless you are following a line someone else drew for you). When I honor my inner most self, when I say ‘no’ or in some cases ‘goodbye’ to people and situations that are no longer true for me, it ends up freeing everyone. It’s hard to do at first because there will be hurt, disappointment, judgment and misunderstanding.
I learned to hold compassionate non-judgemental space for myself as I grew. The greatest enemy to authenticity is consistency. The people in your life will want you to be the same for them today as you were yesterday. That is not loving yourself, it is self-abandonment and it will drain you and leave you feeling resentful in your relationships.
Loving yourself is a fiercely honest way of being. You will hear yourself saying ‘No’ in order to be Kind rather than ‘Yes’ just to be nice. It won’t always be received well, but in the end it is better for everyone because it is Loving and True.
I don’t want you to believe me. Just try it.
Everything you do in a day is because you want to do it. Day by day, you have created the life you want. If you find yourself trying, struggling, straining to keep it all together…..if you’re not happy….start questioning thoughts and beliefs, start doing things differently.
If you are not willing and open to the process, then be honest (loving) with yourself enough to know you don’t really want things to be any different than they are. And that’s OK too.