When was the last time that you took a moment to celebrate yourself – not because you did or didn’t do something – but simply to celebrate yourself, your life, your body, your challenges, your struggles, your wins? Can you remember a time?
For most of us, celebration is reserved for the days of the calendar where we’re relieved of our work responsibilities – Hello Memorial Day! Or, it’s synonymous with religious holidays, birthdays and important milestones. When we think of celebration, we think of the singular, pinnacle moments of life where we’ve met a goal or accomplished some great feat. We celebrate what’s good, what we appreciate and what we love. Rarely, if ever, do we celebrate our struggles, challenges, failures or discomfort. We don’t want to talk about what we’re going through, much less celebrate it.
For so many years, my answer to every struggle was two words: I’m fine. When I was battling an eating disorder in my 20’s, I’m fine. When I struggled with deep bouts of depression, I’m fine. When I was coming to terms with my sexuality and in the process of coming out four years ago, I’m fine.
I didn’t want to talk about my struggles and I sure as hell didn’t want to celebrate it. It was easier, in my mind, to say I’m fine and push all my shit down.
Until I realized I wasn’t.
When I started to come to my mat and practice yoga, I realized I wasn’t fine and as much as I tried to tuck all my junk underneath the corners of the mat, my practice brought it right back up to the surface.
The first few months of practicing yoga was intense and emotional and I often found myself crying in class, something I never allowed myself to do in front of family and friends, much less in public. But, on my mat I found that I couldn’t simply put on the mask of I’m fine and get on with it – with each breath, I was being called to tune into every sensation, from the physical to the emotional. And I started to realize how my mat was an invitation to exist in every moment, to celebrate the beauty and mess of it all. It was an invitation I didn’t always accept, but the invitation was always there and whatever I didn’t accept from the week prior, was still there waiting for me the next time I found myself on my mat. It was like having an emotional “Inbox” and the only way to “clear it out” was to actively allow myself to feel what I needed to heal on my mat.
As time when on, I found that there existed a “mat” outside the studio doors. My teachers had often talked about taking your yoga with you and especially after an intense class I’d be like, No homie, we cool. I’m gonna leave this shit right here. But here’s the thing: the real-life logs don’t just wait for you until you come back to your mat. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still find them during your practice, but the real-life logs and the opportunity to exist in them happen on the proverbial mat outside the studio doors. I began to realize that I couldn’t gloss over my struggles with I’m fine anymore. I couldn’t simply hold in the intense emotions I was feeling or wait until my next yoga class to dump it all out. Every moment of my life was an invitation to revel, to celebrate where I was, no matter how I was feeling. And each moment I accepted the challenge, the more free I allowed myself to feel.
In life, we all have a mat – we all have an invitation to be fully present with what is. More than this, this invitation, like any type of invitation you’d receive, is an opportunity to celebrate the full spectrum of how you feel.
It’s an opportunity to celebrate the beauty and the mess.
It’s the opportunity to celebrate your depression and the fact that you made it onto your mat for class.
It’s the opportunity to celebrate your body struggles and the greater levels of self-acceptance and love you have because of them.
It’s the opportunity to celebrate the broken relationships and your mending heart.
It’s an invitation to stop “shoulding” all over yourself.
It’s an invitation to stop saying you’re “fine”, ‘cause trust me, you aren’t. Fine is the most disrespectful 4 letter F-word that we can use to describe our lives.
Celebration is a practice – and a tough one at that. It’s a practice of radical self-acceptance and love and one that only comes from inviting our “stuff” onto our “mats”.
The reality is we build our life in every moment, but it’s the struggles and challenges that show us how capable we are, and it’s the celebration of those difficult moments that truly allow us to access our power.