In 2004, as part of my yoga teacher training, I wrote the following essay on sacrifice. As with most of my initial thoughts on any subject, much of what emerged reflected my intuition and early experience of what needed to be more fully developed.
The phrase “wherever we go, there we are,” comes to mind as I mull over the part sacrifice has played on my life stage. Regardless of whether I am holding a demanding yoga posture, writing about a new chapter in my life or entering the still, quiet emptiness of meditation, each of these avenues leads to Rome, to this core under-standing of my own experience of sacrifice. And right at this moment, I am passing through a crisis of identity where sacrifice is playing a much larger role than I fully understand.
Up to this point in my life, sacrifice has simply been about day-to-day choices. In particular, the choice between an immediate, short-term gain serving my ego’s needs versus a delayed but long-term gratification serving my spiritual needs. Do I smoke a cigarette because I want to relax or do I meditate? Do I react with anger to another’s angry attack or do I breathe deeply and stay centred in my spiritual principles? Do I jog 20 miles a week at the risk of injury because I can lose weight faster, or do I discipline myself to the daily practice of yoga knowing it may take two years to lose the 10 pounds I gained when I stopped smoking?
For my first 35 years, my ego desperately wanted it all, wanted it now and was not interested in thinking about the costs I, or others, might incur. I was all about the risk and the reward. Even amidst this high impact living, at rare and memorable moments, my soul would call me to choose more wisely. Unfortunately, I was not yet able to recognize the price I was paying for my lifestyle choices.
As I was leaving my 30’s and entering my 40’s, I began to listen to the ill ease within me and asked, “What brings me peace, love and joy? I made two lists titled Ego’s Needs and Soul’s Needs. A somewhat shocking discovery followed, none of the items on the ego’s list brought me to the path of peace, love and joy. I was off wandering aimlessly, presumably having it all but missing a sense of meaningfulness and passion. Surviving but not thriving. Thus began the journey to uncover joy, and sacrifice took on a whole new meaning.
Simply put, sacrifice is self-discipline. It is all about saying No to what no longer serves and saying Yes to what does. My rationale said, “How can that not be obvious to everyone and easy to achieve?” The emotional and sometimes quite irrational stuff of my unconscious and subconscious minds diligently resisted this logic. To this day, my inner struggle between logic and emotion emerges as nervous energy or restlessness. Fortunately, it is now a much milder form of dis-ease because I am disciplining myself to stay in the present moment and enjoy each leg of the journey instead of racing after results. In essence, I’m living the classic fable of the hare and the tortoise.
As a creature of habit, discernment and self-discipline aid me in sacrificing the immediate hunger for the farther-away feast. Self-discipline in the form of practice is the vehicle I use to experience the joy of the moment-to-moment journey. The daily practices of yoga, meditation and awareness writing enable me to access my inner experience and beliefs so I can consciously choose what is true and good rather than be controlled by neediness. For example, do I muscle my body into an arm balance because others in the room can even though the pain in my wrist and shoulder is telling me I am not ready? Or, do I wait for G.R.A.C.E. (grounded, relaxed, aware, centred expression) where my whole being comes easily into the posture? In spite of my urge to surge toward an end result, yoga postures show me where energy flows easily in my body
When I pondered what would involve great sacrifice for me, one scenario arose — raising a child. Two children would be mind-numbing, three insanity. I love children but I resisted parenting because I feared I would lose my privacy and myself, give too much of me away. Although I recognize the universe gave me more than one opportunity to “step up to the challenge,” it wasn’t until recently that I understood the fuller implications of what we resist, persists.
I never liked the word sacrifice because of its inherent sense of loss, and like Helen Gurley Brown I intend to “have it all.” However, saying No to need and greed and Yes to wholeness and integration has redefined sacrifice into self-discipline; the road we must all travel to come to know ourselves in our fullest and finest expression. It is everything we must learn and then let go of as we evolve to the next stage in the process of life.
04 November 2004
Today, literally nine years later, I am recycling my experience of sacrifice as self-discipline. Fortunately, life gives us multiple opportunities to digest and release the layers of suppressed experience related to each of our deeply held fear-based patterns. Over the past year, I have consciously focused on releasing the tightness in my shoulders, chest and upper back. Logically, I understand this represents a much-needed heart opening and is directly connected to those earlier fears I expressed about sacrifice — giving away too much of myself. I am reminded of the adage, “When the student is ready, the teaching will appear.” My teaching is in the form of the following affirmation, which I discipline myself to repeat throughout each day —
I know that what I give out returns to me multiplied. I now give to others all the things I want to receive.
What meaning does sacrifice hold for you?
Write an affirmation for you that redefines sacrifice into a positive outcome.