In the process of becoming yourself, of shedding all false and temporary identities, you start to realize that you’ve been pretending to like certain things.
Living in the pacific northwest, I feel a tremendous pressure to be in love with camping.
It seems like every single person I know can’t wait to get out of town and go sleep in the woods. I used to feel guilty about not sharing this gear-shlepping, wood-collecting, headlamp-wearing passion.
That is, until I starting cutting through my own layers of B.S. via yoga and meditation. The closer I come into alignment with my authentic self, the more I realize:
I fucking hate camping.
I hate suffering sleepless nights in a tent. I hate being totally constipated because I can’t shit in the woods. I hate worrying that bears are going to attack me and my food supply or that I’m going to go into anaphylactic shock because I dropped my epi-pen in the river.
I don’t like car camping. I don’t even like hiking. Hiking just feels like a sweaty, irritating walk that you have to repeat to get back to the car.
Perhaps it’s because I’m from Chicago and we don’t have hills or trails or anything really, except a big lake, or perhaps it’s because my family is Jewish and we don’t like to shvitz or schlep. Perhaps it’s because an affinity to camping and hiking just wasn’t coded into my DNA.
To be honest, I wish I did like these things. But it’s just not in me and I can’t force it to be. When I accept these truths, I become myself more and more each day.
So, while everyone else is packing up their tents and dried beans, I’m making reservations for a hotel, a cabin or at least a fancy yurt.
I’m planning to take showers and sleep in a bed, cook on an actual stove and be totally guilt-free about the whole thing because this is who I am and I’m not apologizing for it.
In fact, I’m celebrating it.
Each moment, we have the choice to either move into closer alignment with our true selves or to move farther away from ourselves, assuming some made-up identity.
As a yoga teacher, I emphasize proper physical alignment, which is a way of embodying our choice to move towards ourselves. When we line up the body, things move and work more smoothly and there is less wear and tear, similar to aligning the wheels on a car. When the wheels are aligned, the car runs more smoothly and there is less wear on the tires.
Sometimes, we come so far out of alignment, that there is actually physical pain. As we line back up, the pain (usually) subsides.
Similarly, when we come out of alignment with who we are, there is a kind of emotional or spiritual “pain” (feelings of lack, longing, exhaustion, confusion, depression, conflicted feelings, etc.).
Something feels off.
We know a certain relationship or job or made-up version of ourselves isn’t working out; it isn’t who we want to be. As we move closer towards who we are, the “pain” subsides.
Alignment is a practice and a choice.
The choice to start aligning with your authentic self can be as simple as aligning with your breath.
It’s a practice of paying close attention to the cues your body is giving you to come back to yourself. It will tell you if something is off, you just have to listen.
When I started listening, I started letting go of everything that was pulling me away from myself; I started shedding relationships, work commitments, physical clutter, mental clutter and stories of who and how I should be.
I started being okay with the things I wanted and the things I didn’t want, even if those things were really popular, like camping.
Ironically, I recently started dating someone who practically lives outdoors.
How is this going to work, you ask? We’ll see.
Perhaps we’ll have to connect in deeper ways, like looking straight into each other’s hearts and encouraging each other to be the person that lives at the center of ourselves. We’ll act as a balancing force for each other, uplifting and accepting each other in the same way that we accept ourselves.
You don’t have to like something because all of your friends, family members, co-workers, students and teachers (and pretty much every person in Seattle) does; you don’t have to want something just because everyone else does.
You just have to follow Oscar Wilde’s advice:
Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman