We are always told to let our voices be heard. Idioms and quotes surround us, telling us to express ourselves and be whoever we want to be. However, many times it is necessary to learn the opposite.
My memory of me growing up is of a loud, obnoxious girl. I was a rebel at heart, not afraid to yell out what I felt, regardless of who it was in front of. It did not help that I grew up in an ethnic home where discipline was key. I fought through it all, constantly putting myself in situations where I spoke before I gave myself the chance to think. I remember endless verbal battles with family and friends that were filled with anger and emotional pain. As I hit teenage, the rebellion became worse, but people had learnt to blame that on a “genetic” anger issue. Along with the anger, there was envy; I had no appreciation for my surroundings and always imagined myself in a better life.
I grew up, moved out, went to school, and became a working woman. I became the person that coworkers associated with strength and confidence, but because of the anger I was told I possessed, I mistook the compliments as synonyms to my obnoxious personality. I continued to put myself in situations where I let my words slip out before thinking about the consequences. The envy followed me here too, as a sought new ways to torture myself with stories of other people’s success.
Two years ago I started seeking methods to fix my health, and was introduced to yoga. The physical changes were instantaneous. I lost weight, got clearer skin, and gained strength I did not even know I could have. What I did not expect was the mental and emotional change that came with it. These came gradually, exhibiting their effects in situations where I least expected them. I started to become quieter, which allowed me to listen to the people around me. The listening alone changed my perspective and helped me to formulate a clear response. I believed my coworkers when they called me confident, and used it as a way to better myself. I gained respect for my knowledge and that of others, and began to appreciate what people around me had to offer.
Soon my friends and family began to notice, my mother was the first to recognize the change and asked me where my anger had gone. I laughed, as if to say it was never there. When my father jokingly said we would argue on his next visit to see me, I was unscathed because I was comfortable knowing I am not that person anymore. When my sister surpassed me in her education and discussed her achievements, I gave her selfless support that I did not think I was capable of. My relationship grew stronger, as I not only learnt to love and respect, but also learnt to accept the love given to me in return.
I have not lost my confidence, no. Nor have I lost my ability to speak and express myself. I have lost my sense of envy, however, and the anger that came with it. By quietening my mind, I can listen to my thoughts clearly and speak with words that do not cause damage. I understand how reacting without thinking can have dire consequences, so I give myself room to absorb. I pick and chose my battles, and let many bygones be bygones, knowing that some fights just are not worth fighting.
Most importantly, I breathe. Yoga allowed me to access a part of my brain that now understands how valuable the breath really is. With each movement and asana I am being taught to accept. As I gain fluidity between poses, I sense fluidity in my thoughts. Whether I am sitting in meditation, or standing in Warrior II, I can feel my inhales and exhales slowing me down, reminding me that I can let my mind be still.
I have not stopped learning, I doubt I ever will. Instead, with every passing day I try to improve. A teacher recently explained that there are two arrows that are thrown at us in life; one is the inevitable, the hurdle in life’s path that you must jump over, and the other is the one we throw at ourselves when we react. By controlling that reaction, I have found my inside voice. It acts as a positive support that lets me listen and comprehend. Finally, it lets me portray a new accurate image of myself, one that is clean, peaceful, patient, and accepting of my surroundings.