Like the anhinga perched on the bank of the lake,
Wings spread wide to dry her wetness
After a dive,
I, too, spread my arms wide
To shake the shaming and blaming from myself.
And then I, too, can fly.
Maitri: the practice of being kind, compassionate, and lovingly gentle to yourself. It’s doing that first, so you can then place the oxygen mask on others. (Or an organic, silk, double-layered mask.)
I posed the question in the title: do I always practice loving-kindness with myself? And then I gave my quickly-scrolled, one-word answer: no.
Do I feel defeated when I start out for a walk, and my lower limbs decide that is their time not to cooperate? Usually (I am getting better), I remind myself that I can get on my mat and do my movement practice. Or I can work with my Steel Mace GADA and tons of resistance bands and loops. I remind myself my balance is not always off.
It helps to stop and give gratitude for what I can do—to stop and have compassion for those who are bedridden or wheelchair-bound. I smile when I see the elderly man in the building near me, a recent recipient of a prosthesis on his left leg. We chat when we see each other outside; he smiles and tells me he is finally getting exercise. Before, he would stay inside and watch me take my daily walks.
I never knew.
He says now he walks with his pal, the walker, or leaves the prosthesis off and gets upper body strength training by pushing himself in his manually operated wheelchair. He tells me folks offer help with getting to the store or carting his bags from his car, a dark grey Dodge—a sporty one with jazz music blasting from the radio, cigarette dangling from his mouth.
This makes me smile, and I feel compassion for him (and for me).
Last week, day two of the Elephant Academy, Waylon offered the usual mindfulness challenge. I love this; it is my fourth time. I am glad he is adding to the list so I can join the one I really need to do. This time, I took the plastic one. I figured it would probably be way too easy. However, I knew I was not (and probably will never be) 100 percent plastic-free. That stuff is ubiquitous.
I failed the next day.
I opened my fridge to remove the organic, vegan, gluten-free bread to make avocado toast—with added mango jam from the local couple at the Saturday market—and some broccoli microgreens I had harvested that morning.
Um, the bag is plastic.
I felt a tad shameful. I had stopped buying it last November and did not buy it for several months.
Toss the bread? No, that would be worse—food waste. No.
So, I made my avocado, mango jam, broccoli microgreens toast, and enjoyed every bite with my organic, fair-trade coffee with added Chaga, Lion’s mane, and Cordyceps (dual-extracted mushroom elixirs). And I gave thanks to Elephant Journal since I heard about the microgreen seed quilts on one of the ads on their page.
Plastic fail number two (yes, number two).
I had successfully stopped buying prepared meals, those Amy’s 70 percent organic, dairy-free, gluten-free meals, and have been delighted to prepare my own. Thursday is “What’s on Sale” day at the large chain grocery store. Yep, you guessed it: Amy’s organic, 70 percent, dairy, and gluten-free burritos were 5 for 10 dollars. I saved $2.50. Actually, my entire shopping trip was a 17-dollar saving. Coffee was on a huge sale!
I did not think about it at the time. However, guilt reddened my apple-cheeks this morning when I realized that my writing made me 30 minutes shy of our weekly large-group meeting. I needed something quick to eat, no time to prepare a good meal. I opened the freezer, grabbed a burrito, reached in the drawer to cut open the top, and bam, #2020, it’s plastic. Darn you, #2020.
(Okay, now I am blaming the year—stop.)
I was waiting for Waylon to ask us how our challenge was going. I was secretly relieved when he never asked. However, I am coming clean here.
Age is helping me with my relationship with Maitri. I accept the cellulite. Well, I do dry brush and maybe wonder if it’s lessened. But I am a work in progress.
I do know I can take criticism from others; I can think about whether it’s something I need to process or let it go and thank them.
I hope you practice loving-kindness to yourself. I hope you process the shaming, blaming, and guilt-tripping enough to know if you really need to work on something—and then if so, do the work.
And I hope you can find the gentleness inside. Spread that to others—those close to you, those a little further out of the circle, those farther outside the widening circle, and those you do not care for (yes, them too). Spread it to all sentient beings, even the mean ones.
Do it for you. And remember to be of benefit to all.