One morning not long ago, I indulged myself and instead of cinnamon raisin oatmeal and herbal tea I had a strong hot cup of coffee with sugar and cream and a slice of pecan pie for breakfast.
Yes, you read that right. I had PECAN PIE for BREAKFAST.
I had just returned from an amazing yoga retreats for women of color in the Appalachian Mountains. Twenty women of color — including one who came all the way from London England — spent the weekend practicing yoga and reconnecting with ancestral memories by sharing personal stories from our past. Some memories were joyful, others painful — but with every recollection each one of us released emotional blocks that were interfering with desire, purpose, and creativity.
I’m pretty certain it was that experience that made the call of pecan pie one that I couldn’t ignore. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy cinnamon raisin oatmeal and herbal tea for breakfast too, but what nourished my soul and spirit that day was a slice of sweet, gooey, sticky, pecan pie. This was about more than my taste buds. Eating it felt like a direct connection to my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother. Pie for breakfast in our house was a rare treat that spoke directly to my heart. I felt loved. There is nothing more nourishing to the heart and soul than connecting to your roots with real live comfort food like pecan pie. So that day I just said Yes!
Which brings me to the point of this blog post. I practiced Anusara Yoga for about 10 years, which has been referred to as the “Yoga of Yes.” It got me to wondering; when I say yes, what I am saying yes to, my body, my mind, my heart, my soul, my resistance, or my fear? How do I know if what I’m saying yes to is in my best interest?
I remember when I was a little girl my parents used to tease me and call me the “Gimmee Girl” because when I saw something I wanted, I’d ask for it – didn’t usually get it- but always asked. Over time I became self-conscious about asking because there was always a hint of criticism in the nickname they gave me. I was never sure what was wrong with asking, but I learned to be less spontaneous and more hesitant about giving voice to my desires.
As I matured and observed how life works, I came to realize that desire is normal and natural, but when we ask for what is not being offered, or when we ask for too much, we are misaligned. When we ask for a boon that cannot be granted, we create pain and suffering for ourselves and for the person we are asking it from. Don’t you hate it when someone asks you for what you can’t give? I learned this lesson from my parents and nature, too: Nature gives us what it can offer, not what we want. When there is a misalignment it is between what you want and what is being offered. I began to understand what my mother meant when she cautioned, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
But desire is not a bad thing. The Divine resides within our desire. Our desire is actually where our power exists. It is what drives us. We succeed when we follow our nature to our deepest desire. When we take our passion and make it a vehicle of our growth, we succeed. When a person deeply desires something, all the world conspires to help that person realize her dream.
Resistance to desire feeds on fear of the consequences of following your heart. But if you give in to your fear, you won’t be able to talk to your heart, which is where desire lives. I have noticed that what makes it impossible to say yes to your deepest heart’s desire is not, as you might suspect, your fear of failure; rather, it is your fear of success…fear that you actually have the ability to access the talents and gifts you secretly know that you possess, the gifts that make you uniquely you. Claiming our uniqueness scares us because in doing so, we become someone other than the person we have been socialized to be. Instead, we wear the mask of conformity in an attempt to live up to others’ expectations. We worry that if we remove the mask we will lose friends and family, who might no longer recognize us.
These fears are not totally unfounded. I’m thinking of the people I know who have walked away from what appeared to be great relationships, lucrative careers, and prestigious educational opportunities to pursue what their hearts asked of them. Some lost money, others lost status, and some lost the approval of significant others. What they reclaimed was their souls.
Here are three practices that will help you find clarity about the question of whether what you are saying yes to is in your best interest.
The first is the discipline of nourishing your body. I remember once asking my yoga teacher if she thought people lose energy as they get older. She paused for a moment before answering. Then she said, “I think if you feel as though you are losing energy you should ask yourself, ‘How much sleep am I getting? What kinds of food am I eating? When do I eat my meals? How much caffeine and/or alcohol am I consuming? What kinds of physical activity do I engage in?’ Then make the necessary adjustments that will support a healthy more energetic body.”
The second is the discipline of nourishing your soul. Psychology actually means the study of the soul even though it has never actually been that. Nourishing the soul requires self-reflection and a willingness to align with a whole lot of love, understanding, compassion, a little James Brown, and every now and then a slice of pecan pie for breakfast when it’s called for.
The third is the willingness to pursue your deepest desire for it’s own sake, not for fame, fortune, or standing ovations. In other words, do the best you can in pursuing and manifesting your desires and surrender the rest to God, remembering that no effort goes unrewarded.
A final piece of advice: When you make friends with your soul it will not betray you and you will not betray it. Make friends with your soul and you stand a pretty good chance of realizing your deepest heart’s desires. Knowing that may help you feel more confident about just saying yes.