A Willingness To Be Seen

{Photo Credit :: iheartinspiration.com}

{Photo Credit :: iheartinspiration.com}

Last Tuesday I attended an event where I saw a bunch of people I had not seen for six months or more. And during the event I received compliment after compliment about how I looked, compared to the last time they had seen me.

{I should probably disclose a few relevant things at this point: I’ve lost upwards of 40 pounds over the last year. I’ve lost weight because I have been taking care of my body, heart, and mind very differently than I had in the past, not because I have been “dieting.” Food and weight are touchy subjects for me.}

Okay, now back to Tuesday. At this event on Tuesday I noticed a distinct shift in how I felt about and responded to the compliments I was receiving — I said “thank you” and I actually meant it — yet I couldn’t quite put a finger on exactly what had changed, until I started in on my teacher training homework.

Asteya

This week in teacher training we have been studying Asteya (aka “nonstealing” — one of the five yamas/guidelines for living, provided by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra). While nonstealing certainly brings to mind the obvious interpretation of “not taking what is not ours,” there’s more to it than that. As I was reading about Asteya, some of the interpretations that especially resonated with me included:

Cultivating a sense of abundance, completeness, self-sufficiency, and letting go of cravings.

Hoarding/keeping more than you need.

Inner knowing of the truth.

Accepting things without reciprocating/giving back in some way.

Preventing others from benefiting from whatever we’re experiencing.

Attempting to fill internal needs with external things.

Using the presence of others to quench our own cravings/fill an internal void.

Building capacity to focus.

Having strong personal boundaries.

There is a lot of food for thought on that list, but I want to focus on the last one for now — personal boundaries, nonstealing, huh?

Stay away (please).

In doing this week’s homework, it struck me that for a long time the extra weight I have been carrying around has served as a boundary of sorts. It seemed to tell people:

  • Don’t look at me.
  • Don’t touch me.
  • Don’t notice me.
  • Don’t see me.

It was as if I were perpetually carrying around a giant sign that said “stay away (please)” … and I liked that.

But I was miserable. I didn’t feel good physically. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. I couldn’t walk for long periods of time without pain in my knees, back, and feet. I couldn’t hold my body up in plank pose for more than a split second. I felt disconnected, out of touch with my own body, unable to connect with other people. Like I was standing on the sidelines of life watching everyone else having fun on the dance floor.

As I started to lose weight, people started to look at me. Part of it is the initial shock — “wow, this person looks different from the last time I saw them, what’s going on here? new haircut? different clothes? oh wait, maybe she lost weight….?” But it went beyond that.

At first this new attention felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to being noticed. I had grown accustomed to a certain amount of distance. When people issued the sort of compliments I enjoyed on Tuesday, I shied away as if they had somehow violated my physical boundaries. I did not want to be studied, looked at, or seen.

A noticeable shift…

And then teacher training started: we literally spend class time looking at one another. We watch each other stand, move, and breathe. We have a rare opportunity to look at an array of other human bodies in a way we might not otherwise venture to look. I watch people, and other people watch me … I initially thought that this piece would be difficult or uncomfortable, but that has not been the case.

There have been other noticeably different moments recently as well — This past week I saw a physical therapist to discuss some pain I had been experiencing in my hip. We spent over an hour exploring my body, figuring out how it is pieced together and what was going on. Touching, moving, observing, feeling … again, this would have previously been difficult or uncomfortable, but now it was not. And yesterday I had to raise my computer monitor at work because apparently I have been sitting up straighter while working at my desk.

Healthier personal boundaries.

Overlaying the fact that I am more apt to let people in, is the fact that I have actually also been better about maintaining personal boundaries. I no longer rely on weight to send an indiscriminate message to everyone that they should stay away, but instead I’m starting to feel supported by an inner strength — the knowledge that I can choose to engage or choose not to engage, as I see fit. I feel as though I am moving from a sturdier, stronger place, which can (mostly) hold up to being seen by others. And, I’ve realized that when supported by healthy personal boundaries, it’s actually nice to be noticed.

20 comments

  1. This is an inspiring read! I’ve also struggled (and struggle) with a lot of the same issues – the boundary issues have been a big trigger for me in the past. Thanks for sharing your story… Lots for me to chew on here.

    1. Thank you Joshua! From what I have read on your blog, I think we actually have a lot in common… I look forward to seeing you tonight. :))

  2. Wow, you brought up lots to think about regarding asteya and also boundaries! I’m so glad to hear you are embracing all the growth brought about by Yoga Teacher Training! You are beautiful inside as well as out. _/\_

    1. Thank you for your sweet comment Patty! <3

  3. Beka – This is inspiring indeed.
    What a wonderful journey… funny how experiences in different parts of our lives sometimes knit together to make sense of things, or bring about a better understanding.
    This is a great post, and I wish you very well – look forward to hearing more!
    Thanks for sharing so honestly.
    Emma.

    1. Thank YOU for reading and commenting and being part of this experience. It’s daunting to think about being this honest in a public forum, but it’s comments like this one that make it a little easier to hit “publish”

      1. I’m sure it is daunting, Bekah –
        but I’m sure that your words bring strength to many others who, in reading them, will find their own situation less daunting. :-)
        Emma.

  4. You are emerging like the lovely flower that you are. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting buddy. xo

  5. This is so on target for so many people! I, too, gained 50 pounds a few years back as a result of medication and boundary issues. I welcomed the weight in the beginning because I wanted to be invisible as well. I even dyed my hair dark brown. Yoga has been instrumental in my recovery, the recovery of my inner strength. Thank you for sharing this story. I know many friends who would completely relate. Thank you, thank you!

    1. Thank you for sharing this H. I *never* would have guessed that you had this experience…

      It’s such a great reminder to me that my experiences are not nearly as unique as I sometimes think that they are – and frankly it’s so nice to be reminded about how normal/human I am. <3

  6. Do you think that in “letting go” of this weight, we actually let go of our boundaries, or do we simply open up? I think boundaries are built up for many reasons, but sometimes I think they simply serve to protect us. Personal boundaries do serve a purpose. So, how do we allow the weight to go, the walls to crumble, our hearts to crack wide open, and still protect ourselves? How do we learn to understand our boundaries and uphold them in healthy ways? I’m just interested in finding out what you think.

    1. It’s probably not nearly as simplistic as I made it out to be! :) It seems like there is probably a whole lot of interplay between – the need for boundaries / the “protective layer” the weight feels like it provides / using food to manage emotion / our culture and how people who are overweight are looked at / not knowing how to establish healthy boundaries so falling back on patterns that may sort of work in the moment, but don’t ultimately serve us / perfectly justifiable reasons why we don’t want to open up / etc.

      I think that for me it’s been a process of becoming more open and becoming more strong in myself (yoga has been the vehicle through which I’ve been able to work on those items), which seems to have made it “safer” to shed the weight… like it just wasn’t really needed anymore. It’s all still a work in progress though… definitely still feeling my way around this new territory and figuring it out as I go, so my answers might change later!

      I’m curious what you think?

  7. So proud of you! What an accomplishment!

    1. Thanks Sabah :) Hope all is well

  8. This is a great blog post Rebekah. I really relate to using weight as a substitute boundary.
    I loved your interpretations of asteya too–“attempting to fill internal needs with external things.” Very thought provoking.

  9. Hello, this was a very enlightening post! Fantastic job!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: