Can you trust yourself?

This phrase has been ringing in my head for the last few weeks. Every now and again, I read something that resonates with me at the exact moment I need it. When I was in my 20’s I read Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and the way he articulated ‘integrity’. Prior to that, I always valued my honesty, but how honest can you really be if you’re not following through on the things you say you’re going to do? That’s just a lie in sheep’s clothing.

At the end of my 20’s, I was working a job that I hated with a boss who berated all of his employees for the fun of it. Then I read Einstein’s quote, ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ It made me appreciate the things I did have to offer, and also to stop listening to my boss.

And a few weeks ago I was reading Deborah Adele’s The Yamas & Niyamas and in her chapter on satya (truth), she describes how we tell ourselves lies all the time. We lie to ourselves about how much time we have, what our capacity for helping can be, what we are going to do for ourselves (go to yoga, meditate, eat better, etc.), and then she asks, ‘Can you trust yourself?’

Well, shit. If she were an evangelist passing the plate, in that moment she would have had all my money.

I started thinking about all the ways I lie to myself and let me tell you, the list had some heft to it. Much like weight, small indulgences compound to bigger issues over time and leave the person feeling as though goals are frivolous. Some of the items were small, like not leaving dirty dishes in the sink. While other goals were things I have been struggling with for some time, like running.

And so, I started to look at myself to see what small changes I could make.

First, I began to take notice of the little things that were out of place. Instead of leaving them there, I would make more of an effort to put things back after I used them and remember to, for example, grab the magazine and throw it in the recycling bin when I was going into the kitchen. Now, my house is by no means the pillar of cleanliness, but more often, I am coming into places that have not been tarnished by my last visit.

Second, I started emptying the clean dishwasher regularly. We never really had a problem putting dishes in it when it was empty, but putting the dishes away was always a much avoided chore. Now, my kitchen stays tidier.

Third, I bought a robotic vacuum. I have a dog, who I love, but he sheds and quickly after vacuuming do the tumbleweeds-o-fur creep out. Its very challenging to work from home and feel as though you need to be sweeping all the time. I figure, with the time saved between distraction and effort, the little robot guy will pay for himself in no time (even if my dog hates the thing).

Finally, I started swimming. I have been trying to create a cardio routine for years. Being a yoga instructor, I get a lot of strength and stretch, but very little cardio. I’ve tried different activities like Zumba or cycling, but they’re not my bag either.  I have never really taken to running, even if I admire those who do it. It always seems like something I would enjoy, but I physically feel terrible after running. I love to walk, but the type of walking I would like to do, still takes a lot of time and planning. I needed something that would truly let me checkout. And it dawned on me, I love to swim, always have. Its relaxing, rewarding and doesn’t make my body hurt in all sorts of ways. I found a suit I could do laps in and began getting up early to go to the local pool. I love it. And after a few days, I figured out there were other things taking me away from running, walking and cycling…I don’t like all the distractions. The tvs, loud music, the people milling around. I like the quiet of the water and how the only technology in the room is the clock. I can just move through the water focusing on my form and my breath and get lost in the quiet.

So am I really telling you by doing the dishes, you can strengthen your yoga practice? Yes! The yoga lifestyle is meant to be lead outside of the studio. When you practice activities that require presence and then you begin actively reminding yourself to notice when the action is missed-that is precisely what your teacher keeps trying to get you to do every time they ask you to ‘check-in’. Practicing the theory isn’t limiting you to your asana practice, but by how you take your practice out into the world and also how you treat yourself.

So now Im going to ask you:

  • Can you trust yourself?
  • What kind of lies are you telling yourself each day? Big or small, begin to make a list of what you’re working to avoid.
  • Next, ask yourself to pick the smallest and most task oriented lie. Something you can take action on quickly. Just like with compound weight gain or money accumulation, its best to start with the most tangible. Every day, make the effort. Give yourself a week to commit to this goal. You just have to do the one thing each day.
  • After your week (maybe two), with the success of the first task, you may have already been thinking about what you could easily add to this. Go with what’s easy. Allow the energy to build in these small steps.
  • Keep asking if you can trust yourself. Observe whats keeping you from saying yes. Respond, without negative commentary. Allow the answers to provide new insight on what is getting in the way of your yes.

The reward is your success and consistency. Eventually, you will begin to crave the reward of completion.