Thursday, June 07, 2007

Suffering and the Self

Yesterday, someone made a disparaging comment about my appearance. It really hurt my feelings. In fact, I am still thinking about it today - one little offhand comment has caused over a day of suffering for me.

Why? Well, in yoga terms, probably because I am afflicted with asmita, I-ness or ego, one of the obstacles to clear sight that the Yoga Sutra refers to as klesas. I am very concerned about how people see me, whether people approve of me, my physical appearance. It is the source of a great deal of my mental suffering. Things have, of course, improved with the advent of a yoga practice, but that is not to say my problems have disappeared. It's just that these days, when I have a 'fat day', I know that I really feel tired, or down, or drained. I still can't find anything to wear on those days, though. So I am a bit more aware; baby step number one?

The real problem is that I am not at all certain who 'I' am: my self-identity is wrapped up in feedback from others, in my job, in my mind, in all those outside things, and the sense of true clear Self comes through only occasionally and not always that comfortably. It is far more comfortable to stay in the established habits and patterns, even if, like worrying about my appearance, they mostly cause pain.

It's gonna be a long journey. I'll send postcards!


Total Health Yoga - Kris said...

Dear Nadine,
Interesting. If you're not looking great, then who are the photos of on your blog?? Because, that's one beautiful woman!
Having struggled with my weight as well and being everything from 94 to over 140 (stopped getting on the scale after that) in my 5'1" body, I woke up one day and decided to just be healthy. When that became my new goal, I ended up around 120. I feel better at 110, but love food enough that I've made a conscious choice to love myself knowing that I never feel starved, but still try not to overeat (still working on that....).
Last year, an old friend was so sure that I was pregnant that she actually agrued with me about it! No kidding!! She asked if I was, I said 'no' and she actually put her hand on my belly and said, "Then what's this?" This went on for almost 5 minutes!
In the end, I came to realize that I love my body and all that it does for me. As long as my partner, Mike, is happy with it and I'm happy with it. That's all that really matters.
One more quick note, the way I learned to love my body was standing naked in front of a full-length mirror and smiling while saying "I am beautiful". VERY hard to do, but after months, it got easier and one day I began to belief it.
Love, Kris
Ps Looking forward to the postcards ;-)

Karen said...

For what it's worth, whoever made that comment about your appearance must have left their glasses at home ;)
I guess at the end of the day, it's a long journey before being able to feel absolutely certain about yourself without being influenced by outside factors that women in this era are struggling with a lot more. It's also difficult to tell which comes first: is it that if you feel great then you look great or the other way round?
I have just come to terms that I will never look like some supermodels on TV and magazine, and that I can only compare me to myself. So I also go through times when I have fat days (particularly from winter going into summer!), but I have simply learnt to not care, because there’s not one person who can say “I’m a more perfect Karen than you”, just as there is not one of the same Nadine out there who is more perfect than you :)

filambulle said...

How did you find my blog? I am curious, you see! ;-)
I like yours very much too. I love yoga, but my practice will slow a lot, since my friend/teacher just stopped to give the weekly course I was taking since My first child is born.
If this matters, I find you beautiful.
A funny note: my three year old keep asking me why my belly is so round, and if I am going to have another baby. hhhem now way!
(I explained him that after three babies, and with no specific attention on this part of my body (like abdominos) well, I have a round belly. But he keep asking... I was never flat though.)

Cupcakes & Yoga said...

Whoever said that is a rotten person but I must say if someone said something negative about my appearance, I would dwell upon it just as much and be upset for days about it. I can tell you that you're beautiful until I'm blue in the face and mean it but it still won't be enough. I know your struggles very well. Hopefully one day we can get together, have some cupcakes, and laugh at how silly it was to be so hard on ourselves.

Nadine Fawell said...

Thanks for the moral support, you guys!
I think I may have sounded whiny...I didn't mean to, I was just trying to make a point that I (and most of us) am way too involved in the ephemeral and not enough in the spiritual, basically. Ego vs clear sight. Clear sight would not have dwelt on something so trivial!

ombites (mary) said...

You are GORGEOUS Nadine and negative comments often say more about the person saying them than you. Is it really necessary to tell someone you don't like something about their appearance? It's all subjective anyway.

I think deep down we all know who we are, we just have to come to accept that today this is who we are and embrace it. Nothing more, nothing less. Don't compare, don't judge, just be :-)

Carl said...

We all have egos and always will. So while you're working at wiping off your clear sight goggles, maybe in the meantime your ego will be satisfied in that you are pretty. I think you are.

isha said...

i totally empathize with you. sometimes i think of what my relatives and friends would think of my teaching yoga. coming from a chinese family, it's especially difficult, because they expect you to study hard, graduate and climb the corporate ladder. it's so ironic. i came across your post right after i posted something similar:

Petite Yogini said...

I've often look at your pictures while reading your blog thinking that you are a beautiful woman. But i understand what you are going through, I think it happens to us all. I still remember comments made about my appearance from highschool (and I'm sure the commentors forgot what they said the next day). We just got to learn to love ourselves. I agree with (and do) what Kris does, to look at yourself in a mirror telling yourself you are beautiful. I also try to catch my negative personal thoughtd and counteract them with positive thoughts instead. It's hard, continous work!

Linda (Sama) said...

nadine, you should check out the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?". I love it at the end where Marlee Matlin looks in the mirror and tells herself how she's ugly, fat, a loser, etc. Then she remembers the exhibit she saw about how our thoughts affect us (the "messages in water" sequence." She then has an ephiphany and begins drawing hearts all over herself. Love it!

You're preaching to the choir, honey. I had/have what some people call "body image distortion" complex. I used to weigh about 200 lbs back in the '70s. I look in the mirror and sometimes still see that woman, she never leaves me.

we're only human.

Karen Beth said...

Oh dear... how sad that someone would say something unkind like that to you! It was completely uncalled for and THEY are the one with the problem! I know it will stick with you for awhile and there is little that I can say to help it not stick with you but know that you do a world of good in your own life and for others. Just be you and you will be fine. The journey of life is ongoing and no one escapes that. Some just travel more gracefully than others and you are one of those.

Be who you are.


Karen Beth :)

Asana Bear said...

Nadine. Great blog and wonderful writing. We've all got egos to deal with; society teaches us to care whether we live up to the consumerist esthetic of the moment. Hard to get off that dharma wheel. Look forward to more posts!


eva said...

Ask yourself who you want to be and then just BE this person. There is no transaction or change, you can jump! Because your ego is nothing that you are telling yourself every second. Change the story and you are someone else.
If appearance really is so important then put it to your values list as no.1. and work with it. If not, then just take it as it is. We have to remind ourselves, that we are not material beings, although we look like ones. We are souls who take our bodies for our journey on this planet. We don`t remember, why we choose exactly this body. But maybe we can recognize some plus points why exactly this body is the best for us? Maybe if you would be super-duper body, would you enjoy yoga as much? Would you have good health? Would you be tempted to work somewhere else as yoga-teacher?
You are as beautiful as you believe, so why believe less than you deserve?
Good luck exploring yourself, I think it`s the most rewarding quest, human can ever take.
Love, Eva