Dwelling in the Beauty
Dear Friends, Happy New Year! I hope that all of you had a very happy holiday season. At the Mahon household, we have been having a wonderful few weeks filled with teenagers returning from Peru, New York, and Florida, and departing for France, extended family visits in person and by phone, presents, and a few relaxing baths.
During the days before and after New Years Day, I like to spend some time looking at areas in my life where I want to make some changes. I like to read self-help, organizational, and psychology books, and find places where I can improve for the new year. This year I even asked for a special gift from my closest family members - a list of what they saw as my three greatest strengths and my three greatest weaknesses. This may have been my favorite gift, because it gave me insights into my behaviors that I couldn't have seen by myself.
This year, though, I have been drawn to reflect more on my strengths than my weaknesses. Perhaps I have just maxed out on how much I can focus on what is wrong with me, but it feels more like I am starting to view the world, and myself, in a more balanced way. For as long as I can remember, I have had a very difficult time accepting any kind of compliment -- it literally went in one ear and out the other. The irony is that it's only when I realize that "I" have very little to do with the compliment, that I can accept the compliment for what it really is -- someone's need was met by something I did. As a Buddhist teacher once said, when someone says that they don't like our face, why should we take that personally? It's simply part of our nature. And it's the same with our strengths and weaknesses, they aren't personal, just a result of our nature and our conditioning.
So why shouldn't we focus more on our strengths, encouraging ourselves on to greatness on the foundation of our innate gifts? Instead of making New Years resolutions about what we want to change in ourselves, what if we created New Years resolutions based on living fully into our strengths? It doesn't mean we ignore the places where we aren't as strong, just that our attention doesn't get stuck on what is wrong with us. Say we tend to have an easier time doing forward bends than back bends. Focusing on our weaknesses might lead us to make a New Years resolution to practice only back bending. All of our attention would then be on what we don't do naturally, and we may become discouraged. If we focus on our strengths, our New Years resolution could be to include forward bends in every practice and to celebrate and be present to how good they feel to us. With our attention on what we do well, we will have more confidence to start to play with back bending at a pace which is more effortless and more likely to be fruitful.
Robert Gonazles, a long-time Nonviolent Communication (NVC) teacher, has a similar practice that he calls "dwelling in the beauty of needs." Instead of always looking at what isn't working, we put our attention on what is working, or what has worked, and we sit with that and fully experience it. So for this new year, I have made a list of my strengths, based on my own assessment and the input I got from my loved ones. I then sit with each of these, and really notice what it feels like when I inhabit one of my strengths. I stay with these sensations for several minutes. What does it feel like when I am empathetic to others? What does it feel like when I have the courage to try something new? By dwelling in my strengths, I create the ability to be more present for my challenges when they arise.
It's a different way of looking at New Years resolutions. I would really enjoy hearing how you practice with your strengths and weaknesses. If you try dwelling in your strengths, let me know how it goes.
I look forward to seeing you at the studio very soon.
with much gratitude for another year of mindfulness, yoga, and love, annie.