I like to believe I learn by giving, as well as by taking.
Growing up in an affluent small town, I was taught selfishness is bad and selflessness is good. Is this not the lesson for every child to learn to give? Then, as we grow into teens and adults, we learn boundaries: when and what to give.
When I told my mom I had eloped, and because she had just learned I was married, she warned: “Remember to think: Me, Me, Me.”
Those words struck me as ironic, and revealing.
My mother dedicated herself to raising three children and taking care of her husband. Her job was to be selfless. At least that is what it looked like to me. Yet, her best advice was to remind me that as a married woman, I must always put myself first, no matter what.
I have had to ponder this often. My greatest joys come not when I am thinking of myself, or doing for myself alone, but when I am able to do for others. However, I know at my core, if I don’t take care of myself and feed my needs, wants and desires, I will have little to give .
My mother told me at a time when I had made a vow to always think of someone else, to always think of myself. Anyone who has had partner for any length of time understands the importance of supporting the partnership as a partnership as well as the individuals within it as individuals.
I find we all need to do both. We need to take care of self. As an adult, it is duty. But life calls selflessness into play in many roles, such as parent, caregiver, teacher and friend. As a virtue, I must say selflessness ranks higher than selfishness. Yet, for most in the culture I know, true selflessness is rare in deed and thought.
I acknowledge the need to give and the need to take. I have said: Need is desire’s best liar. For at the bottom of my desire to give there is something deeper, and that is love.
I believe as unique as we all are, we are not all that different. My life has taught me that most of us are selfish and all of us want, need and even crave love. But love is about the embrace of being held as well as being the one able to offer that embrace, whether to a beloved or someone else.
I told a friend that another one of my mother’s wisdom’s in high school was to tell me that most people are not trying to be hurtful. Most people are thoughtless; most think of what impacts self.
And that is not good or bad, unless we find a need to label it. Then that mirror takes us into judgment, the need to find comfort in a feeling of being right.
Most of us are selfish. Most of us need to think of our needs if we are adults. And bottom line, if I cannot find a way to take care of my needs, I definitely cannot ask anyone else to do it, not even my husband.
So I come to balance, where the scales don’t weigh my need over yours, but where I take the moment on one side and its need on the other and I seek to balance what the moment asks. If, by a chance miracle, I am fully present in body and mind and am actually in the moment, I then have the space in my heart and opening in my mind to see what the moment asks: sometimes I need to be selfish and sometimes I need to be selfless. Yet, I think I can be both at the same time if I actually am 100 percent present.
I can release my need to judge something as good or bad, or right or wrong. I can let go of comparing. I can let go of grasping or avoidance but am not indifferent. I am present. I can give the moment and those in it as much of myself as the moment demands. At times, selflessness is optimum and always laudable if pure, but there are times when selfishness is required and serves all best, not only myself.
I don’t have to think: “Me, Me, Me.” Instead, I can just be me.
I am a full time yoga teacher, trained at City Fitness in Washington, DC, and Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. I have been writing poetry since I was 9 years old. Poetry is my first love and yoga continues to feed my heart. I write because I love it. I teach because I love it. I tell my students all the time: do it because you can. That works for me. I believe in creating opportunity. I believe in helping my self and others. I think faith is the most important gift of life, because when we lose everything else we still have that in our heart. I believe the natural state of being is happiness, or bliss, or Ananda. Life is a celebration. Poetry and yoga help me celebrate. My blog and website: Edie Yoga.
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