Even now, after 30 years of yoga practice, as I write this article I realize the impact that a scarcity mindset and shame have had on my life. Questions swirl in my mind like… Am I good enough? Are people going to like me? Am I going to be criticized or judged for my work and what I have to say?
For a long time, I kept the shame safe and hidden… and as far out of sight of the public eye as possible. My logic was that if I hide and keep myself composed, I’ll be safer and won’t have to deal with the pain of being judged. Hiding, however, ultimately caused me more pain and suffering. Why? The short answer is that I wasn’t living authentically. I was cutting a part of myself off and therefore, wasn’t being real with myself or anyone else. How I started to feel on the inside began to reflect my outer circumstances. Less people showed up for my yoga classes. My private client work felt flat and my world starting to cave in on me. All of my old tactics of staying strong forced me to look deeper. What I saw was painful, ugly and hard to swallow but my practice gave me the courage to go inside and deal.
What shifted? I got tired of listening to the voice that didn’t align with who I was choosing to be NOW. One of the big things that has helped me come to this new place has been to know that I’m not alone. We all have an inner critic that comes up at times in our life to help us grow. I was at a talk last week with Lynn Twist, Author of “The Soul of Money”, and she spoke of the scarcity mindset that is embedded in our western culture. This belief that we are not enough is woven into the very fabric of who we are and, even though it is not true, we all have work to do around this issue.
How does this play out in our daily lives? We wake up with not enough sleep, jacking our bodies with caffeine and rushing around as if we don’t have enough time. We create stress around not having enough money to buy all the things we think we need in order to feel like we are enough. We’ve ultimately been conditioned to live from a deeply un-resourced place and to feel like there is never enough. As a result, we have created all kinds of money issues, body image issues, addiction, anxiety and depression to try and fill that place that can’t seem to get enough.
I grew up in a white, upper middle class family in Westchester, New York. One would think as a privileged white girl, I would be have a good sense of myself and yet I entered my teenage years, feeling like I wasn’t enough. I had many of the typical challenges of a young teenage girl—I didn’t feel smart enough, pretty enough or thin enough— I compared myself to others and found my value in how I looked rather than how I felt. I learned how to put up masks and walls and repress my feelings and emotions so I didn’t have to feel what was under the surface; unworthiness.
At age 21, however, I lost my mother to cancer and everything changed… just a few months later I found yoga and it was a blessing that altered my life. Practicing daily and getting in touch with my body allowed me to begin the process of feeling who I was, possibly for the first time. Over the years, being more and more present in my body and with my emotions helped me move from self-judgment and low self-worth to appreciating and understanding my humanness. It also allowed me to connect to a bigger source outside of myself giving me the understanding that I was not separate.
Another big turning point for me was when I came across the teachings of Lakshmi through Tantric teachers Douglas Brooks and Sally Kempton. Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of abundance and prosperity. Her mythic story reflects that true character comes not from external beauty but from being willing to take all parts of ourselves, including the dark, shadowy, disowned parts, and churn them through yoga and mantra using the dark stuff as medicine to heal. The first time I heard this, I was blown away. Up until then, my identity was wrapped up in my external beauty and thought that showing pain and vulnerability was associated with weakness.
These teachings allowed me to get real with myself and look at the deep shame I was carrying by hiding from my shadow. It was profound how I was able to turn my vulnerable feelings into strength and then be able to help others work through their deepest patterns and triggers.
Most of us that live in the western world participate on some level with the “not enough” mindset. If we are willing to look deeper at how we participate in that we can consciously choose to change. Change begins with each of us. When we feel into our inner worthiness we can’t help but to then offer love, kindness and generosity to the world. It literally spills out of us. What we appreciate then appreciates. What we focus on then expands. It’s the real practice of abundance—to cultivate and feel resourced from the inside out.
How do we practice feeling this?? The practices of mindfulness and yoga can give us the tools we need to help us remember our wholeness.
Slow down. Feel what’s just under the surface for you. In your busy day, take a few moments and stop what you are doing. Close your eyes and simply receive your breath. Practice the 4 part breath by inhaling and exhaling to the count of 4 with a slight pause between breaths. As you inhale, appreciate the breath filling your lungs with oxygen. As you exhale, let go of unnecessary tension. If you spend time in your car, a great time to practice is while stopped at a red light. Notice any anxiety, fear, anger or any other emotion arise. Simply give it space and then let it go with your out breath. This simple practice teaches us to be present with what is and, ultimately, that’s where we change the stuck patterns in the mind.
Practice mantra. If you notice you are comparing yourself to others, catch yourself and then practice focusing on the things you love about yourself and your life. Then try slowly chanting the mantra “Shrim” to invoke Lakshmi’s energy or simply repeat “I am enough!” as you feel your inner being fill up and radiate like the sun. Mantra helps us focus the mind so we can shift the unconscious patterns.
Spend time in nature. Nature is naturally generous and full of vital life force energy, especially in springtime. It offers an abundance of beauty and nourishment. Take a moment in your day to sit quietly in the sun or by a creek and simply appreciate the beauty and peace being offered.
As you practice these simple things on a daily basis, you will start to notice your energy shift from scarcity to appreciation and gratitude. From that place, we can be a great contribution to each other and the planet!!