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Have you ever felt like you were drowning in the middle of the sea, and even though beautiful little creatures are swimming by and the water feels amazing, everything is upside down, and you can see the surface, but you know it would take everything in you to get back to the top?
That’s sometimes how I feel when it seems as though everyone and everything in my life is looking to me for help, for an answer, constantly asking something of me or my energy.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love helping people. It makes me extremely happy to be there for others and be able to make someone else happy. Occasionally, though, it’s hard for me to put myself first. It’s hard for me to say “no.” It’s almost as if the word is completely foreign to me at times.
I have trouble saying “no” even to things I know don’t make me happy. I still end up doing these things, and I’m not quite sure why—maybe it’s people pleasing or some other psychological issue within me that I need to work through and heal. Maybe, I just feel sorry for others because I know we are all suffering, and I know what suffering feels like because I’m human too.
But this saying “yes” when I really mean “no” doesn’t stop there. It goes even further, like with my daily habits. Why am I doing things each day that make me unhappy? Why am I doing things that aren’t in alignment with my soul or the path I want to be on?
The answer for me came at a time when I most desperately needed to learn it. That answer is maitri.
Maitri is a Buddhist term meaning loving-kindness. It’s making friends with ourselves and loving ourselves and extending that same love and friendliness toward others close to us and throughout the world.
The problem for me, though, can feel chaotic because it seems I have it backwards at times. Through practicing maitri, I learn how to make sure I am where I need (and want) to be before I can give so much of myself and my energy to others without feeling like a horrible person.
Basically, I need to learn how to say “no” without being a total b*tch.
I think being fully in love with ourselves is an enigma in our present-day society. It’s almost frowned upon due to the overwhelming, consumer-based economic disaster that we must endure daily with constant reminders of our so-called imperfections and how there’s a product out there that will supposedly “fix” everything. It can be tough saying “no” to being the same as everyone walking down the street, or saying “no” to being some fantasy Disney princess or someone who’s happy all the time.
Maitri is sometimes saying “yes” to change. It’s becoming the change we wish to see in the world by breaking through habits that no longer serve us on our journey. It undoubtedly starts with making sure we are taking care of ourselves before taking care of others. Because love doesn’t begin with our family, friends, or co-workers—it starts with the light within us that has always been there, always waiting for us to notice it and help it grow and brighten up the world a bit more.
The magic of learning how to say “no” starts with maitri, with me—with each of us. It’s about finding the love within ourselves to walk a more caring path of compassion within our own body, mind, and soul, and having the courage to shine as bright as a star in the dark sky without flinching or feeling bad because we didn’t say “yes” to every single request along the way.
Maitri is giving ourselves the time to breathe and be more at peace with ourselves so we can grow as humans and then spread that love further to be of benefit to others.