Stepping into the center is in itself a calming experience. The atmosphere is a respite form the bustle of Braddock Ave. I leave with a peaceful outlook and a healthier body.
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As my conversations wander from friends, colleagues, and clients, it seems that a lot of people I know are going through some big transitions right now. I know I sure am. I am taking a year long intensive yoga teacher training, packing for a big move this summer, going through an audit, and expecting a baby in the fall. All of this on top of life's regular chores and curve balls. Most of these things are positive transitions so when I feel stressed, I will stop and breathe and change that word "stressed" to "overwhelmed". Even that makes a huge difference; realizing that I am responsible for bringing these things into my life and they need not be things that bring hardship and struggle.
Through my yoga teacher training, I have been doing significant study and self-analysis. I have become aware of a tendency to force myself to live up to this idea of perfection that I have, completing each task and favor in a thorough and timely manner. Because of our multiple levels of responsibility in life, this perfectionistic approach most often leads us to feelings of stress, anger, and disappointment. It's just about impossible to do everything expected of you in the pristine manner in which you envision it without driving yourself crazy! After seeing this pattern play out for me a number of times (getting stressed out for not being able to do things the way I had envisioned them), I realized that I was sick of suffering to live up to my expectations of myself. (I think, in part, this is due to being pregnant. My energy is so inwardly focused that I only have so much to give because so much of my body and energy is geared toward this very important internal process.)
I have decided that taking care of myself is first and foremost. How can I contribute fully if I am not being taken care of? Interestingly enough, I have found myself running late for things but enjoying myself instead of rushing and feeling guilty. I will have a conversation with my husband or play with my son instead of checking my email or sit in the park instead of going to an event. I have been playing with the balance between working hard to achieve goals and just being present for my life, making sure all the while that I am doing what feels "right" to me and not what I feel "obligated" to do. At first, I was doing these things but still feeling concerned if I was doing the right thing.
I wrote an email to my instructor for my teacher training course because I was feeling unprepared for an upcoming presentation I needed to put together. Her response was, "Be still and know you are already complete!" And I thought, "That's right! I don't have anything to prove to anyone. I can go at my own pace, work hard, and speak my truth at this moment. There is no competition or universal "rightness" to live up to...there's just me!"
When most of us think of expectations and obligations we think of the other, of obligations to other people and expectations others have of us. Through this process of self-reflection, it has become obvious that most of these are illusions. Most of these obligations are self-imposed and we project them onto others. We "think" that so-and-so will think such-and-such if we don't do the task in a certain way so we stress about living up to fulfilling these invented standards. I have found that most people are much more compassionate and understanding than we give them credit for and really, we ourselves are the hardest critic to impress. By recognizing this, I can feel layers of stress melting away from my life.
So next time you are feeling "overwhelmed" by your situation try to find solace in the idea that "you are already complete". Take a deep breath and release self-judgment and criticism. Be satisfied when you have done your best, even if it isn't how you would have wanted the situation to turn out. Let go of your expectations because they may not be fulfilled. Let go of your rigid obligations and allow your Self to be. Give space to acknowledge who you are and who you are becoming and do not impose a model of who you think you should be...You are already complete.