February 14, 2011

Love Your Self. (First.)

Lately, I’ve been spending a ton of time in airplanes: to California for school, to Nebraska for Inner Power Yoga Teacher Training, to Africa for Yoga World Reach. Admittedly, I have become one of those passengers who (at the risk of seeming rude or reckless) barely lifts an eye toward the safety instructions at the onset of each flight.

There is, however, one bit of the pre-flight demonstration that catches my attention every time. I guess you could call it my favorite part: “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above your head. Please be sure to secure your own mask, before assisting others.”

This phrase strikes an unexpected chord on my heart strings as a sweet gesture of LOVE. Love can be found in the smallest gestures. Love is an action word, after all, a way of BEing. But it is also, so much more. I submit, that Love is our True Nature. We allow ourselves to be and experience this Love through our choices and actions. And yet, it is also there, waiting in the stillness, when we quiet our minds and take a breath.

This airline safety instruction reminds me: if I cannot Love my Self first (in that quiet place within), my Love for others has no ground for stability or sustainability. And even the grandest gestures of Love lose their potency. It is easy to get caught up in it—the soaring heights of Loving others and gaining their Love in return. It feels exhilirating. I delight in the AMAZING lift from affirmations on how I spread the Love everyday; as a Sevite Yogini, a daughter, a lover, a friend.

But what about when the cabin pressure drops? How can I truly Love my Self; you know: unconditionally, when I don’t even really like myself at times?

Yoga philosophy teaches that there are two aspects, or selves to each being. We are familiar with the “ego” self, the limited sense of self which includes everything about us that can be described in words. There is also an infinite radiant Self who is One with the Source of Love, and (according to the Upanishads) dwells in the cave of the heart.

The ego self serves as a movie screen for our consciousness, in Sanskrit, citta. Citta includes thoughts, feelings, and desires both beautiful and also sometimes kind-of ridiculous. Yet, it is pure Love that illuminates the entire film reel, pulsing from the Inner Self and onto the play of citta. None of the action: the thrills, spills, and drama could be seen without this Love light. When I focus on that illumination, even the most ridiculous mistakes look vibrant. Every color, shape, and gesture becomes rich with the exquisite stuff of Loveliness. And like the best cinema, it is so fun to watch frame by frame.

I guess I’ll take it, the entire play: the zombies, the car-chases, the romance. I’ll take the good with the bad of myself and Love it all with the light that shines from within.

Because, after all, pure light without the images, would just be a blank screen. A blank screen with nothing to watch. And on a 36 hour trip from Liberia, a few silly movies make the whole flying experience much, much more fun.

As I reflect on the Love that was shared in Africa, I can sit back, relax and know for certain: there is more where that came from.

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R.R. Shakti  |  Contribution: 1,700