Riddled With Guilt

Man with conceptual spiritual body art

Catchy title, huh? I got candid with my yoga class last night about how guilt had run a long course in my life. Up until a year or two ago, guilt was a feeling that I experienced often, about any and everything. Not just about the big screw-ups in my life, but also the small things: not smiling back at someone, having a negative thought about someone, not doing one more savasana adjustment on someone. If someone honked at me for accidentally cutting them off in traffic, you better believe that I’d be reeling about it for hours. HOURS. That honk would echo in my head and I’d imagine what awful words they may have called me and how much I had inconvenienced them. What a twisted way to live!

I have reason to believe that people who consider themselves an “empath” or “sensitive” might understand where I’m coming from. Yes, I am sensitive. I, like many people, grew up being told that I was too sensitive. For the majority of my life, I believed that I was too…too something…too much for this world. I displaced myself into some other category, separate from the majority, a category where no one understood my heightened emotional state– always feeling and sensing everyone and everything and internalizing it. If someone was in an irritated or angry mood, I would somehow think that it was my fault, I’d feel that my presence must be the reason for or had at least contributed to their suffering  I was too much for a world where I wanted more. I wanted more eye contact, more physical contact. I wanted to hear about what people were feeling, I wanted to tell them too. I wanted people to pay attention to how their words and actions were affecting me, just like I was doing for them. I wanted confirmation if what I sensing about people was true or not.

I looked at being sensitive as a curse for most of my life. I became accustomed to feeling depressed. I’d imagined many, many times what it would be like to leave the world that I was “too much” for. It was like having the wi-fi option on your phone always ON. It’s always searching for a connection and it drains your phone faster if you don’t turn it off. I couldn’t turn it off. I was tired.

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with myself and decided to forgive myself for everything that I had ever done that caused me guilt. It happened when I was teaching a yoga class about the heart chakra. The words just came right out of my mouth, “Can you practice forgiveness with yourself? Can you forgive yourself for everything that you’ve ever felt guilty about and start over? You be that compassionate with yourself?” As I asked this of my class, I asked it to myself. Immediately, I felt a sense of freedom. Years of emotional weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I finally decided that I was worth it, I was worth forgiving myself. I was the only one who could release me from that mental prison, I was and am the only one in the driver’s seat of my life.

Forgiving myself is a constant practice, I find myself doing it a dozen times a day. Being sensitive is no longer my curse, it’s my gift. It’s not something that has dulled over time, it’s only gotten stronger. It’s so strong in fact, that every day, every interaction with someone feels like magic. I find myself very consciously and with ease, observing people’s body language, voice and eye contact. I feel that I’m able to interact and respond in a way that expresses an invitation to let down walls, to trust, to be no one else, but who they are. I wouldn’t have been able to discover this gift if I hadn’t forgiven myself. Through beginning to understand my sensitivity, I’ve had the rude awakening of seeing that throughout my life, I’ve over-exaggerated the impact that I have in people’s lives. Most people are so self-obsessed, just like I was, that they’re too busy thinking about what a big impact they’re having to think about what kind of impact you’re having. I’ve found this to also be very freeing and through it, I forgave myself for being so hard on myself.

Last night as I spoke to my class about my struggles with guilt, the demon of the second sacral chakra, we explored release of resistance in the hips by just softening to ourselves, our own nature. With some gentle back bending, we discussed exposing the vulnerable heart space, through which we can find a boundless amount of love, appreciation, and of course, forgiveness. For the most part, I believe that while we make mistakes (and we will until the day that we die), we are doing the best that we can. So with that, I invite you to forgive yourself. For everything. All of the time.