It was an ordinary morning, many years ago. My daughter, Lilli, and I were in the bathroom brushing teeth, fixing hair, getting dressed, just as we had always done. With a sudden jump of awe, Lilli caught my gaze in the mirror that was reflecting our details. Her voice, breaking rank with our normal round-about chatter, rose to the pitch of excited insistence.
“Momma!”, she paused to turn her little body from the mirror to face me directly. It was clear she had something important to say, so I set down the brush and got low, as she put her tiny hands on my cheeks. “Momma”, she said much softer, now that she had my full attention, “you are so beautiful. When I grow up, I want to be just like you.” She threw her arms around me. I was stunned, undone, and crying. Clearly, I did not see what she saw. But, at that moment, I knew deep in my bones that I needed to try.
The shortsighted perspective of self-loathing is a lens through which a lot of us take in the world. It often shows up as a self and worldview of “not enough”. Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not wealthy enough, not fit enough, not successful enough, not wise enough, not talented enough, not spiritual enough. Not enough time or resource, not the right place or experience, simply a self and a life that is not good enough.
It’s not a surprise that this perspective has infected modern humanity. We have an entire world economy based on our believing in and doubling down on the lie of lack. Everywhere we turn, there is highly refined messaging specifically designed to hijack our attention, exploit our brains’ primal urges, and direct the power of our unconscious reactivity. Consistently, from every angle, we are being told, in no uncertain terms, to do more, be more, spend more – then we will be enough.
This sense of lack colors the way we see the world, making it seem stressful, daunting, lonely, ferocious, scary, unfair, dull, or dark. A kind of world for which we are ill-equipped to cope, much less appreciate, love, grow, embrace, and create. So, we spend our precious time, energy, and money – fixing, fighting, hiding. In a sincere effort to fill a void that doesn’t exist, we charge through our days ravenous for more, more, more, never enough. Until we crash.
This frenzied cycle fuels the pervasive sufferings of anxiety, depression, stress, overwhelm, addiction, aggression, aggrandizement, burnout, comparison, loneliness, and the list goes on. But we can break the cycle and claim the beauty of the skin that we’re in and this sublime life that was meant for us.
Life is beautiful. This fundamental truth is one we all long to experience, but that often confounds or eludes us. Mostly because we believe that it is circumstantial, conditional. As a modern-day, practical mystic, I have come to recognize that this truth always exists. However, what we see and experience is determined by how we look. This matters greatly because how we look and what we see determines the quality of clarity with which we choose to engage. It also informs the direction and efficacy of our actions that impact, not only ourselves and our lives, but the world in which we live.
We can shift from a perspective of lack to an experience of abundance, even in challenging times. And it is not as hard as we might think. It only takes the courage, in a moment, to truly accept ourselves as we are and the life that we have. This powerful process of acceptance is not to be confused with apathy or resignation. For when we lay our battle down with life, we free up our power to be in a clear and conscious relationship with what is and what will be. For acceptance opens the door to curiosity, which gives rise to greater understanding and appreciation, leading us to see and engage ourselves and our lives in a whole new way.
My friend Thomas, who recently died of lung cancer, taught me a lot about what it means to accept and claim the beauty of life, even when life gets hard. When cancer took up residence in Thomas’ lungs, though the process was humbling and hard, he claimed the “rightness” and “value” of his condition. On many occasions, he spoke to me about all the amazing things cancer had given him. A sense of the preciousness of life and time. The value of true presence and deep listening (he was a magnificent listener). The importance of forgiveness. The delight of a conscious breath. The brilliance of the simple things. He told me one day that though he wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone else, cancer had given him his life back. He now felt that he was living in techno color.
Though he went through extensive treatment for the 7 years he and cancer lived in his body, he told me he didn’t want to fight. In those years, he laid his battle down with the reality of his life, so that he had the strength and perspective necessary to engage with it well. From this vantage point, he could claim the beauty in all the moments that were meant for him. During that time, he rested a lot, meditated, and spent time in quiet contemplation. His vigorous hikes in the mountains slowed down to a speed where he could truly soak up the landscape and find deer antlers and other wild treasures. Sure and steady, he summited Mount Kilimanjaro. He traveled the world. He made amends with his ex-wife. He took up the art of jewelry making. He was tender with his amazing and deteriorating body. He showed up for his pain with love. He was fully present and content in the company of himself, his friends, his dog, and his cat. For him, and all those who got the opportunity to be in his simple light, life was beautiful. And though his body has gone, his brilliant perspective now inhabits my breath and my days.
The innocent reflection of myself in my daughter’s eyes so many years ago, gave me the drive to search for beauty and love everywhere. The life and death of my friend Thomas gives me trust in the possibility of their existence. My own quietly courageous moments of true acceptance give me access.
In these times of diminished vision and great suffering, may we all simply stop and allow a deep breath. May we soften our gaze to receive ourselves, and each other as we are and life as it is without argument. May our perspective expand in ways that allows us to understand how life is beautiful. In this new light, may we find our way back to each other.
This post was written by Meg McCraken, and is posted here with her permission. You can visit Meg’s website and read more of her Blog here.
Meg McCraken will be teaching the retreat Relax & Restore: Meditation and Movement Retreat with Polly Ryan, MA, MFT at Tara Mandala on April 14 – 19. For more information about this retreat, click here.
Meg McCraken, E-RYT 500. Meg is passionate about sharing the full, rich teachings of yoga and meditation in a truly experiential way that helps us to positively transform and enrich our lives. Having worked as a yoga therapist for over a decade, she is continually inspired by the vitality of the human spirit and the power of yoga to help us tap into a source of deep inner-peace and well-being. She has been sharing the yoga life with all kinds of seekers for over 18 years and … Read more »