If you subscribe to my e-newsletter, you recently received a post called “Your Own Mat” in which I talked a bit about my yoga instructor. (If you'd like to receive that article, please email me, and I will send it to you). I’m on a roll, because this post will be about her wisdom, as well.
Today, she was telling us about a yoga class she’s agreed to teach for amputees, and about the learning process that went into developing such a class without knowing which limbs might be missing among her students when she showed up to teach. She told the story of a woman in her sixties who has been missing her leg since age 5, and whose mother was one of those incredible creatures who never let her believe she couldn’t do it herself. To illustrate, the woman shared a story about how, soon after she had her leg amputated, she would be on the floor, and something she wanted would be nearby. The woman (then a little girl) would try to influence her siblings to do things for her through playing the pity card, so to speak. Her mom would come in and say, in a rather firm manner, “Put on your leg and get it yourself.”
How many of us wonder if we could be that kind of parent? I know I question it. I think I would be tempted to lavish all kinds of attention and do extra things for my children in that situation, but in the long run, if I continued to do that as a pattern, how would it serve them? It may seem harsh to hear, but “Put on your leg and get it yourself” served this woman incredibly in her life. She roller-skates and does many other things that one wouldn’t necessarily associate with someone who’s missing a leg. She advocates for parents whose children have just lost a limb. She’s started a company with other family members to send “ampu-teddies” (teddy bears with amputated limbs) to children all over the world who need them. I believe that by seeing her as able and loving her as she was, her mother allowed this woman to be much more than she could have been if everyone pitied her and just jumped in to do everything for her.
Another piece to this is that my instructor also shared that she was recently in a hospital nearby with a relative who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. There was a beautiful wall full of quotes in a hallway in the hospital, one of which said, “I lost my legs, so I will strengthen my mind.” Her relative saw it and said, “Well, I better strengthen my legs, then!” A bittersweet moment, true. And how many of us are that wise? It made me wonder and want to ask, what do you need to strengthen so you can move forward in your life? We all have areas of weakness, some of which we may be able to strengthen with time and help. Other weaknesses we may need to let go of and turn our focus to strengthen a different aspect of ourselves in order to live a happy and productive life. Positive psychology backs this up—focus on your strengths. Work with what you’ve got—amp it up! You'll be happier, more focussed, and more productive than if you try to change too much of who you are.
Telling a friend you’re upset with them and why, standing up for yourself, making a clear boundary with someone even though it’s uncomfortable, not having dessert or that glass of wine, going on that walk everyday, not taking the easy way out, doing the right thing, saying no to another commitment that will make us too busy for the things that are most important to us. In these small ways, we strengthen ourselves and are courageous. We rebuild parts of ourselves we have lost along the way. We reclaim the beautiful child of God whom we are, as certainly as a leg amputee learns to walk with a prosthesis. Perhaps our gate is not the same as before we lost what we are reclaiming, but there is a beauty all its own in walking again in whatever way we can.
I leave you with the following quote, which has been attributed to both Marianne Williamson and Nelson Mandela, so you can attribute it to whomever serves you to believe it the most.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of god. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make and manifest the glory of god that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Be courageous. Let your light shine. Liberate yourself and those around you. Happy Halloween!