In 2015 I want to focus my intentions on self-care: I want to surround myself with people and things that make me thrive, I want to always be coming from a place of love, I want to truly get to know myself. (insert cringe here)
According the the OED the most used word in 2013 was “selfie”. My cynical side rolled it’s eyes and sighed; “what is the world coming to…” It was official, we were as bad as I thought: self obsessed, self involved, and trivial.
But now I think maybe the selfie’s aren’t what we need to fear. Maybe it’s cynicism that’s the real culprit. Being cynical and world-weary can land you into quite selfish territory; splitting you off from others, making you apathetic and disillusioned, and ultimately lacking in motivation to actively change anything.
If we are for living beyond our egos and self-servitude at the expense of other’s wellbeing, we cannot afford to waste time on cynicism.
However, combine cynicism and selfishness, and you have the perfect recipe for cashing in on the manipulation and exploitation of our basic instincts.
Self-help. Self-care. Self-love. “Selfie”… Why do these words illicit such a cringing reaction?
When you really look at it, the market is designed to make you feel like you’re NOT worth it. So when anyone talks about self-care, or self-help, or self-love, things which are vital to making us happy and healthy (and therefore producing a happier, healthier society all round) it’s often met with (perhaps a somewhat healthy dose of) suspicion.
Maybe we’re suspicious because we’re usually being sold the same two stories at once:
The (selfish) first: “You’re Worth It” – translation: “Go on, take care of yourself – give yourself some decadence in the form of some high-sugar processed foods, or a multitude of potentially cancerous chemical products to make you feel younger/slimmer/more tanned/more white, give yourself a break with a cash advance you can’t afford to pay back.” Ultimately: take “care” of number one, at the expense of yours and other’s and the planet’s health.
And the (cynical) second: “You’re Trash” – it only takes a minute to flick through your T.V channels to see the masses of reality T.V shows mocking what ironically appear to be the most successful buyers of the “You’re Worth It” market, for entertainment. The same people who bought all those sugary foods are now 200lbs overweight pushing boulders up hills in extreme weight-loss programmes. The same people who bought all the beauty or weight-loss products are now pictured all over gossip magazines with “Exclusive Photos” of their latest surgical disaster. And the same people who took those “no-strings” loans are the subject of gossipy articles and (yes, more Reality TV) shows pointing fingers and wagging fists.
Combine these two stories on an infinite loop and you have endless products to sell.
Take self-love seriously for what it is and don’t exploit it to create spiritual materialism and you won’t have all that much to sell…
It’s win-win for the consumer market.
In one scenario our natural desire for self-care and happiness is exploited in to self-obsession, and in parallel, as the self-obsession ripens, that same market is ready to pounce and make a meal out of the very people it sold it’s first story to. And it’s my belief that cynicism is what drives it all. The consumer market breeds it, exploits it, and then lives off it. Widespread and insidious; it can feel as though it’s woven into the fabric of almost everything we’re told to think and consume.
If you’re cynical, you’ve lost your belief in human integrity. You’re disillusioned and ultimately dis-empowered because you have no desire to act for what you believe in, seeing any attempt for change as futile.
Worst of all, in cynicism, rather than honouring our ultimate oneness and togetherness despite all our faults and imperfections, we are torn apart. It’s my belief that if we fight cynicism we can protect ourselves from it’s trap.
So I turn to my cynical side and say: “Why not approach things with joy and love instead?”
Joy and Love*:
(*insert cringe here)
We all have cynical sides. It’s inevitable, and perhaps a little cynicism is actually a useful survival skill protecting us from too much naivety. But we all have another side that we mustn’t allow our cynical sides to step on.
What if my cynicism didn’t squash my capacity for love? Where would that extend to? What would I be buying? How would I be speaking? How would I be thinking?
This year, I want to cultivate my self-love. I want to protect it from being manipulated into self-obsession by the capitalist consumer market that surrounds me. I want to sustain it against the crashing waves of cynicism that threaten to turn my self-care into one big ego party.
In 2014 the word of the year may as well have been “Mindfulness” – used to such an extent it quickly invited eye-rolling, sighs and perhaps some gag-reflexes… (Don’t worry gaggers, the OED claims it was “vape” – No, not our vaporous y-generation souls, the e-cigarette vapour ;)) And though I may take a moment to inwardly sigh at the mention of Mindfulness, a bigger part of me feels love. What a beautiful thing, even if it has become cliche’d, even if some decide to exploit it, to know that “Mindfulness” is mainstream: yes, we may argue that it’s just another post-colonial appropriation of very old and nuanced practices and beliefs, but another part of us (hopefully the bigger part) will see that Mindfulness is rooted in Love – and if those are its roots (just as Yoga’s roots are in the union of body, spirit and mind), then it’s almost inevitable that it will flourish in the same vein – all we need to do is take care to nourish it in the right way.
I started off the New Year at Bridget Woods Kramer’s beautiful Anusara workshop on 1st January at Triyoga Chelsea; a blissful 2 hour retreat away from the whirling festivities outside. We worked up a sweat in triangle and goddess poses, loosened our vocal chords and our spirits in chanting, laughed with our neighbouring yogi’s as we supported each other in partnering tree’s, building our temporary forest in the middle of the studio, and ended in a chakra-balancing guided meditation.
Be spacious! Bold! Wild! Beautiful!
At one point in the class we were lying on our backs, one leg in the air with straps around our feet. Our legs swayed over to one side and our opposing arms spread to the other side. Bridget encouraged us to take up space, not to be afraid to be big – not afraid to be anything less than ourselves – not afraid of the self.
I felt myself resisting this advice – a small, snarling voice in my head saying “What have you done to deserve to be like that? What makes you so special?”… I looked at my neighbours beautifully opening up and resolved to shut off that voice for the rest of the class.
Bridget then showed us a fantastic shoulder opener – it’s beauty for me is in it’s gorgeous simplicity: standing tall, you hook your thumbs under your armpits like you’re holding trouser braces, and you rotate your shoulders up and back, pushing your shoulder blades down your back, letting go of your arms out wide to either side. It’s a wonderful, heart opening feeling – a marvellous, quick, posture-fix.
I notice that it’s my cynical side that makes me small. It’s the side that has lost hope; the somewhat jaded side. It’s what sinks my head and my chest inwards – it’s what quiets my voice, it’s what holds me back, and I’m ready to let it go.