It was another New Year’s Eve and my husband and I were excited to get into bed before 9:00. We actually feel proud of this feat, but I have to admit, we were for the third or fourth year in a row ill. It seems our bodies are not suited for winter international travel and the rigors of long flights. The good news, we made it through Christmas before we felt our throats and lungs betray us.
In the Pacific Northwest the rains are constant and the darkness extreme. I rejoiced in knowing I didn’t have to go anywhere. I tried to be a good sport about being sick. I was a good patient and slept 11 hours at night and ate healthy foods and took health food remedies. Even with the dark days and a warm home, it still takes kindness and patience to be nice to myself (and to my husband) throughout the process of waiting to be well. It is easy to hate my failing immune system and blame myself for being sick. These thoughts are so sneaky and all that goodness and kindness to myself flies out the window with self loathing and fear. “I am going to feel like this forever! Hurry up old body, get well!”
Lo and behold, a morning came when I was well enough to leave the exile of home and go to yoga. I unrolled my mat in the 95-degree studio and put my head down and waited in child’s pose with gratitude to be back. As I basked in the warmth with my eyes closed and smelled the peppermint and tea tree aromatherapy on my mat these thoughts came: “Was I going to be able to make it to the end of class? Maybe I should not have come. I know I won’t be able to do the balance poses well. This is going to be too hard.”
Our teacher greeted us with joy and kindness and we sat quietly breathing as she began explaining the concept of “ahimsa.” It basically is a term that means “to not harm.” No harm to others or one’s self. Oh my, I realized in an instant that my beginning thoughts on the mat were harmful to myself. I was doubting and fearful and judgmental. A subtle shift in those thoughts to, “Oh, if I am tired I can always rest in child’s pose” would have changed everything. I see people around me do that often, I think nothing but kindness towards them. I need to be kinder to myself and not my own enemy. Really? Are we here again? This is not news to me, but yet, there I was being a task master and harmful to myself again. Even in becoming aware of a failure I am apt to create more judgmental failure.
I confess that even though one of my favorite verses in the bible is Philippians 4:8, I miss the mark often. The verse is, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.
So, here I am at a new year, a new beginning, a new identity, a new promise, basically having a choice to “be new.” Ahisma is simply the other side of a commitment to shalom. A commitment to not harm is indeed a desire to see shalom grow in every sphere in which we are privileged to exist. The way for me to live out ahisma and shalom for myself means to be far kinder to everyone, including myself.
I think it is about time. Of course I will fail. My identity must become more one of childlike trust in our heavenly Father. He delights in me. Sings over me. Never forsakes me. Calls me His beloved. He has plans to prosper me. He tells me to trust Him that He will always be with me. Nothing can separate Him from me. Nothing.
I see this trust in my grandchildren. They trust their parents. They expect good things, good food, utter goodness from their parents. And when they are hurt, they go to their parents and receive hugs and kindness. Simple. Today I need to keep my path forward simple.
The next verse Paul writes in Philippians (v. 9) is “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” My prayer this year is that I will be intimately close to our God of shalom and I will be kind to myself and others.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 36 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!