Stephanie Crocetti, TCCS 128
The day I swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer I was handed a bookmark with a quote that read, “You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.” Initially, it seemed like a strange thought, as we were about to enter into an experience that highlights putting others before yourself. I quickly learned otherwise. My first few months at site shook me off balance and the overwhelming adversity I faced manifested into large amounts of shame and a complete lack of self-worth. Due to the fact I had little love for myself in this moment, there was none left over for me to share with others.
In The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz compares love to pizza. If we had one slice of pizza and were burdened with hunger, we would not want to share our slice with those that knocked at our door. However, if we had a magic oven that made an infinite supply of sizzling hot, deliciously cheesy pizza then we would be more than willing to give to those in need. How was I going to source such high levels of love when I was immersed in a situation that felt seemingly impossible?
A bad day at home was always remedied with hugs from loved ones, live music, rock climbing, or going to my favorite yoga class. I’m confident you’re not shocked to be informed that early on in my service none of these coping mechanisms were available. That’s when I dove deep into my self-practice.
Over the past four years, yoga and meditation have designed my entire life. Our relationship has provided me with the tools necessary to transform my hardwired, abrasive, Bostonian-self into someone who is less reactive, more pliable, and more understanding. My first months at site were hot and hard. I was mentally depleted and maintaining patience was like trying to hold sand in between my fingers. It was the groundlessness I experienced once I arrived at site that caused me to sincerely commit to the practice. The tools that I had been fine-tuning over the past few years were finally being put to the test.
Undoubtedly, it has been the daily work of steadying my mind and sequences of connecting breath to movement that have allowed myself to reestablish internal equanimity to overcome these new and unexpected challenges. When days are hard and I feel as though I’m dragging through the mud, this practice keeps me grounded to who I truly am and brings clarity to the real purpose I serve here by always seeming to paint the bigger picture. It has allowed me to simultaneously gain control and let go.
Sometimes I sit and meditate for an hour. Sometimes it lasts five minutes. Sometimes it takes form while I’m walking. In the most special moments, it shines through a random, mid-day, deep breath when I need to stop, reflect and let the gratitude I’m feeling from this experience sweep over me. I’m beginning to notice an apparent correlation between the roles gratitude and happiness play in my life 😉
Pema Chödrön, in her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, explains meditation as “the proper foundation for self-acceptance and warmth towards others.” Whoever wrote that quote on my bookmark was right. The care I offer myself through daily yoga and meditation helps me generate self-love. It’s like my magic oven. Naturally, this has strengthened relationships I have with people in my community because I now have an abundance of joy to share with others. It has been the love and nourishment I give myself that has allowed me to deeply connect with the people I came here to serve.