Since this September, I’m doing a yoga teacher training. It’s been an inspiring journey, and a great challenge to combine it with taking care of my son, my work and therapeutic endeavors.
There is one thing I’ve noticed that many of the – all females -participants share: we are much too hard on ourselves. How our teacher Mandy Lathan states it: “In our culture, we have too much tapas”.
Tapas is the Sanskrit word for self-discipline. And I believe it is true, that we are trying to discipline ourselves with strict and rigorousness. But judging from the conversations with my fellow trainees, it actually fails to bring us the effectiveness and good results we so desire.
Actually, being so hard on ourselves is a perfectionist endeavor. We want to try to be ‘perfect’ and to achieve something worthwhile. The harshness we put unto ourselves is tremendous. It is definitely ‘himsic’ – meaning violent.
Ahimsa is the Sanskrit word for non-violence. It’s one of the yogic Yama’s, the first branch of the eight-limbed tree of yoga. I’m sorry to say this Yama is very hard for me to uphold. Although I reject it with all my consciousness, I’m honestly very violent. Not only towards myself, but also towards others once I hold onto my ideals of perfection for dear life. It’s a very sad conclusion, and it takes practice to let go of this rigidness.
Regarding my spirituality, I truly aim to be a kind, loving and peaceful mother. Thankfully my anger has never been directed towards my little one. He summons up reservoirs of love and care I didn’t even know I have. And gratitude and bliss are states I bathe in regularly as well, knowing and seeing how richly we’ve been blessed, with a healthy, happy child. When I’m breastfeeding him and staring at his pristine and beautiful face, I know, I’m the luckiest woman to live on this earth.
Sadly, there is a darker side to myself always. Like we all have, I believe, although I struggle with it more than others. The emotions I experience might be normal, but my being hard on myself, my too strong ‘tapas’ – if that is the right word or concept matching my experience – is killing my joy. I’m currently taking therapy to make amends with my negativity and try to understand this side that rises up, like bubbles coming up from a deep lake and I hardly understand why.
I know why I have these dark moments, the fear and loathing that starkly contrasts the way I seem to many people as bright and bubbly. My past seems to have instilled these negative patterns in my life, and I’ve been spending my entire life since adolescence fighting against it. I hope my son won’t have to spend as many years in therapy as me so that he can have an inkling of a better life than me. And I’m already doing quite okay, most of the time. At least it’s starting to feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank goodness.
Are you also a perfectionist? Do you recognize what I’m writing? And what do you think causes your perfectionism and excessive strictness towards yourself? Do you think future generations might not have this inner anal monster bothering them?