The Autobiography of Malcolm X, A Love Story, Part II

What I think is the beginning of this manifestation, as described in the book, is Malcolm’s last stint in jail, when his brother comes to visit and artfully plants the seed of transformation in his mind as he describes in full the Nation of Islam and Its principles as he had mentioned in a letter he had sent to him earlier. From this I fully realized that:

  1. Love Begins in the Beginning

There is no exact time, place or perfect situation for you to begin to turn the wheels in your mind, to begin to think critically about yourself for the betterment of yourself. That very willingness to change for the better is the light of love piercing the fabric of your existence. The openness and hunger he displayed in his quest to get closer to God, Allah, was beautiful in its reflection of how much he wanted to care for himself more, whether that was plainly obvious or not. As the book goes on Malcolm is released from prison. It is then he truly begins on his amazing journey and growth through his religion. I was completely impressed by his lack of worry and complete faith in both others and himself. Even more so, I was in awe at his non-judgment of those not on his path. His immense compassion for people who like himself had found themselves lost and loveless on the streets, in jail, on drugs or all three and more. At this point I realized:

  1. Love is Loving Others

Malcolm’s ability to remain humble even as he awoke from the slumber of his ignorance is inspiring. Someone that can look into the eyes of a drug addict, felon, broken woman, lost child, anybody and see in their eyes the light of goodness and love is truly someone who’s self-love is beginning to overflow. As he believed in himself he was able to believe in others. Could you imagine someone who, not but five or ten year’s prior would have robbed or killed the same person he is now loving and ministering to! As I read on I became troubled that although he had found a religion that inspired and motivated his positive changes in life, he still seemed lost. I want to state this here and let people who may not be familiar with him as a civil rights activist and important leader in the minority community that he has been painted as a man of hate. I don’t believe, and neither would you after critically reading his biography, that he was ever a hateful man in any sense after finding the Nation of Islam. What he was, even after finding Islam, was still ignorant of the diversity of cultures across the world and the true transcendent qualities of the love that was growing inside of him. His final transformation occurs on his journey to mecca. As he travels the world he is introduced to people of many colors and backgrounds all rallied behind the same beliefs, loving and accepting all who chose to follow along. This was when I learned that:

  1. Love is an Expansion

Once a positive seed is planted and cultivated all it can do is GROW! Self-love and positivity flourish in one who is ready and willing to accept the love inside of them. Beautifully, his life’s journey lead him to the true love, acceptance and non-judgment (a principle indicator of true love) that transcended both race and religion. All the while he was still able to maintain his vision for a better life for those who were oppressed that he so strongly fought for until his untimely death.

This book reminds you that it is never too late to change, never too late to love. We all have the ability to work toward a better self regardless of the path you find to take you there. Malcolm found Islam, I found yoga, someone else has found Buddha, another vegetarianism and another meditation, Christianity etc. the list could go on! The paths are unlimited with many diverse travelers and the destination certainly worth the trip. So, yes, The Biography of Malcolm X is nothing short of a true love story.

 

Photo Credit: http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Reviews-Essays/Malcolm-X-A-Life-of-Reinvention/ba-p/4649

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, A Love Story Part I

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” -Malcolm X

Even through the course of this project I have endured a hardship or two and what got me through many of those tough moments was my reading of the Biography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. What I found interesting as I read was the fact that one, I had chosen to finish the book now with no intention of writing about it here. By some whim or perhaps fate I picked the book back up after having left off halfway through at the end of last summer.

The second interesting thing happened as I neared the end of the book, the final chapter entitled, El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm begins to describe his transformation into the true spiritual being he is almost never accredited for being. Wow, I thought, what a beautiful love story. You may be reading this and asking yourself, what the %^&* does Malcolm X have to do with love and how could his biography possibly be, a love story?

It became completely evident to me as I read that his life story is a testament to the power of love in general and the transformative power of self-love and determination. His entire life was changed because he was introduced to something (religion) that sparked a change in him and sent him on a path to be a better person for himself by himself. That is self-love, the manifestation of love for oneself, a true appreciation for who and what you are with a constant willingness to improve.

I still haven’t told you what I learned! Check back for Part II!

 

Photo Credit: http://www.sfsustudentcenter.com/about/heroes.php

The Mastery of Love, Part II

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If you’ve been keeping up from part I, you can guess that the two characters in Ruiz’s story fall in love. What makes the story intriguing is Ruiz’s imagery. He explains that the man tries to give the woman a star. Now this star is very important, it’s no ordinary star. The man was so happy and full of love for the woman he had met that a star came down from the sky to him and got inside of him. It is so beautiful! He is so excited to share it with his lover and to prove his love.

When he gets home she can see all its beauty. Unfortunately she also feels a moment of doubt when he hands it to her. She drops that magical star and it shatters into a million pieces. So again the man returns to not believing in love and the woman cries forever wishing for what she had lost.  Very un-fairytale-like, right? But the question Ruiz introduces at this point is, who was in the wrong? I was quick with my answer, her! She doubted love so she must have been wrong, and what pity I felt for the man. But, alas, I was wrong. It was not her but he who was wrong, explains Ruiz. “The star was his happiness, and his mistake was to put his happiness in her hands.”(Ruiz 52).

This was so profound to me! We walk through life believing others are responsible for our happiness and that another can make us happy when that is the sole responsibility of ourselves. When he makes her responsible for him being happy, that is the moment things go wrong. Taking responsibility for our own happiness is essential in the pursuit of self-love. How can we learn to love ourselves when we expect someone to do all the loving for us? We are not love receptacles just waiting to be filled up. We can’t expect others to fill us with their love and keep doing so to satisfy us. We have to produce and maintain that love for ourselves by ourselves to be able to share it with others. And I feel that that is the most important lesson in this book.

Have you read the book? Let me know what you think below!

Interested in reading the book? Click here!

 

Photo Credits: http://www.accionpoetica.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/all-you-need-is-love.jpg

The Mastery of Love, Part I

I was hesitant at first to talk about this book here, seeing as I had previously talked about a book by the same author, The Four Agreements. But I think the fact that I was so compelled to share both of his works goes to show the type of true love and energy that the author has poured into these works. In this book the Mastery if Love, Don Miguel Ruiz gives us the gift of his wisdom yet again. As a follower of the Toltec tradition, Ruiz writes that, “The mastery of love is the result of the first two masteries [awareness and transformation].” And that, “Everything is made of love. Love is life itself.” Although this all sounds very dreamy and inspirational, I’m sure someone who is not quite as open may not see it that way. Because of this I don’t want to try and sum up the entire book but focus on one chapter that I thought was especially significant and I hope that what I got from that chapter will inspire you to take a peek at the book yourself!

“The Man Who Didn’t Believe in Love”, sounds like the beginning of a great fairytale right? In this, the third chapter of the mastery of love, Ruiz introduces us to a character, a man, who sounded so much like many people I have met in life. He didn’t believe in love. A devout scholar he had explained away all of the mysteries of love with logic. He didn’t believe it existed at all. He actually he claimed that love was “made up”, an invention of the poets and the writers, just an idea used as a tool to control and manipulate. As the chapter continues Ruiz explains that the man had searched for love and never found it and likened the relationship between lovers to that of a drug dealer to the addict. Now what was particularly interesting about the story was that the man happened to find someone, a woman, who thought just like him, love did not exist.

Does love not exist just because we can’t find it? Find out in Part II of my essay on “The Mastery of Love”!

 

Photo Credits: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51K28NKVF3L.jpg[/embed

Diary of a Yogi, Relaxed Flow with Kyra Part II

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Visit Kyra’s Blog to learn more about her and yoga!

Here I continue the final installment of Diary of a Yogi. Just like her class, Kyra’s positive energy was a “relaxed flow”. I felt like I’d learned how to breathe just listening to the calmness of her speech.  Finally we will hear her take on self-love and yoga as that light filled path to it.

How can Yoga help one find or discover self-love?

Kyra – “When we practice yoga, one of the things that happens is we actually release trauma and stress that has been trapped, physically, in the muscles and in the tissue. When you practice you’re releasing that and it can be unconscious. You don’t realize that you’re letting go of something that may have happened to you as a child.  You might all of a sudden come into a pose and start crying and you’re not sure why. That’s a release. That’s a letting go. That’s a reason why I emphasize so much breathing, so much exhalation in the class because you are letting go of stagnant energy and things you don’t need.”

“As you peel away these layers and you get rid of the garbage that no longer serves you, like all the old stories or negative voices, or the, “I’m not the person I want to be”, then you can really come down to your true self and it’s not easy because you start to see things you don’t necessarily like. But the other spectrum of that is a really deep understanding and acceptance. When we really start to accept ourselves, the beautiful part of ourselves, and the not so beautiful part of ourselves, that’s when we can really feel self-love. I believe the only way to truly be able to love another human is if we cultivate self-love in ourselves and many of us haven’t, so yoga is a very powerful channel to do that.”

What is self-love?

Kyra – “A deep appreciation and acceptance of who you are. Radical acceptance of yourself.”

Am I a Yogi?

Me - A question I never really asked myself because the answer was undoubtedly no. I always felt as If a yogi could only be one who was fully dedicated to the practice, an instructor or a true student who practiced all day everyday. Kyra’s description left me wondering if the term ‘yogi’ was totally personal. I could say I am a yogi in the sense that I do actively practice yoga, although not the physical practice everyday, but in the ways I try and live my life in non-judgment and with love and respect for all living things on this earth. Many people ascribing the term to themselves aren’t the Buddhist monk types Kyra describes but I think deserve a little credit for actively practicing what they think is the yogi lifestyle and giving that credit and encouragement to do more is what yoga is all about.

Want to learn more about Kyra and yoga? Click here!

 

Photo Credits: Kyra Sudofsky, Inspiredyoga.com

Diary of a Yogi, Relaxed Flow with Kyra

The Diary of A Yogi Series ended on a relaxed note at The Yoga Garden in South Philadelphia. I was running late, of course, desperately peering out of the window of the bus that was moving snail speed down South St. I was so excited to meet the instructor, Kyra Sudofsky. We had exchanged numerous emails trying to coordinate this very interview. Not only was I excited to meet her but to take her class, “Relaxed Flow”. I have taken many yoga classes but have always shied away from slower paced, relaxation based classes. I think being fairly new to yoga I thought I had to challenge myself, so trying a slower pace was new. I walked into the dimly lit studio and was instantly relaxed. The space was nearly full so I found a small space in the front. Throughout that evening’s practice we let out our collective Ujjayi breaths out of our mouths, something fairly new to me again. This was to release our stagnant energy from the day. The sounds coming from the room were exactly as one might imagine energy releasing, a loud but steady hissing noise. By the end of the class I was more than relaxed. I was at peace. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, which was made even better after speaking with Kyra. Her positive energy was infectious!

What is Yoga to you?

Kyra – “So much, it’s my life!  I’ve been practicing for 22 years and now it’s so much more than just a physical practice. It’s a daily practice. What we are doing right now is yoga. The way that I interact with other people and how I walk throughout my day. The way I eat my food, the way that I handle difficult situations, all the things that come up in the span of the day, all of that is yoga. It’s not just coming to a yoga studio and practicing for an hour and a half. It’s a type of life, a type of lifestyle. Once you start and you get hooked, its addictive!”

What does it mean to be a Yogi?

Kyra – “The Yogis are people that are so dedicated. The ancient yogis, they deprive themselves of sleep, speech, and food. They withhold themselves in Asana’s for long periods of time; they would put themselves in all these challenges to reach higher states of consciousness. We live in this world. We might come in and take a class but we’re not yogis. As much as I’d like to call myself a yogi, maybe I’m a western yogi.”

What do you want students to take away from your class?

Kyra – “I don’t really care is someone can do Trikonasana or a handstand with one arm. Do they walk out of the class and feel transformed? Do they walk out of class and feel like they can see themselves a little more clearly? The next time they have a difficult decision to make do they take three yoga breaths before they respond? That’s what I want them to cultivate, those life lessons. They cannot just be in yoga in the studio, on the mat. As they leave the yoga studio and as they are walking down the street they can be in yoga, in that moment.”

Be sure to look out for the second part of my interview with Kyra, so we can talk about LOVE!

Want to learn more about Kyra and yoga? Click here!

 

Photo Credits: Kyra Sudofsky, Inspiredyoga.com

Some Wounds Don’t Show, Part II

In connecting with Scott, I expressed my concern over youth suffering with depression. It seems today as if there are so many incidences of violence in schools across the nation, often stemming cases of mental illness. I wondered of youth in America seemed to be suffering increasingly more as we march forward in time. I also wanted to know where self-love fit into the equation for battling depression and any mental illness. Do psychologists even consider the aspect of self-love as clinical or a part of the battle against depression? After many years of my own suffering I found my complete lack of love to be the base of my own sadness and feelings of unworthiness.  Scott gave us the clinical point of view.

Have you found, during your professional practice, an increase in depression among young adults?

Scott – “Depression is one of the most common presenting issues in university counseling centers, along with anxiety, relationship concerns, stress management, and adjustment issues. We also see very severe pathology such as schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. We have seen an overall increase in mental health concerns on campuses across the country, not just with depression, and also an increase in the need for services because of those changes. We also see a lot of students who have a previous history of psychological treatment, more so than we may have in the past.”

Is self-love a professional term? How would you define self-love?

Scott – “Self-love is not directly a clinical term, though it is often used as a replacement for the concept of self-esteem or self-confidence. It comes from the concept of “love of oneself” that was coined by a psychologist named Erich Fromm, who wrote a book called The Art of Loving in the 1950s. I think the concept of self-love involves knowing and appreciating aspects of you. This includes your strengths and weaknesses and learning to care about yourself at a deeper level.

I also believe there’s a significant difference between having strong self-esteem and being cocky or narcissistic. Someone who is narcissistic tends to ignore their complete selves; focusing only on things they consider positive or superior to others and negating any of their own weaknesses. In reality, those individuals are often more sensitive to criticism because it brings to light those aspects of themselves that they try to suppress. It’s self-love taken from a healthy adaptive view of oneself to a maladaptive one.”

How important is the concept of self-love in battling depression? Do you feel like the lack of self-love is a major contributor to depression?

Scott – “I think the concept of self-love/esteem/confidence can have a direct relationship with depression. Some of the symptoms of depression include a depreciation of ourselves, our contributions to society, and our ability to love and be loved by others. When we don’t respect ourselves it certainly can impact our mood, and in the treatment of depression a part of the process is learning an appreciation of our uniqueness and appropriately caring about who we are and how we behave in the world.”

When is the time to seek professional help?

Scott – “Some of the symptoms above happen to us on a regular basis, but it is when those symptoms last for a while or many of them seem to be occurring all at once, that may be a sign that seeking support would be helpful. We also recommend that a person who is experiencing some of these symptoms should reflect on why they may be feeling what they are feeling. It can be a recent stressor or difficult situation, and identifying the cause may help you to understand your symptoms in a new way. Another consideration is whether or not that person has felt that way before, remembering that feeling down is sometimes an appropriate (and understandable) reaction to an event but over time a person should be able to recover. If it proves too difficult to do so, that may be a sign that a person could benefit from professional counseling and support. Along with those general guidelines, perhaps the most important factor for seeking professional help is if a person is having any thoughts of suicide or harming someone else. That person may not be aware of the seriousness of their thoughts, but if a friend or family member becomes aware they should also seek out professional consultation and encourage that person to get help immediately.”

Love is the foundation of all relationships including the on you have with yourself. All the therapy and medication in the world did not completely ease my depression. I had to make a choice to love myself for exactly who and what I was. I love that Scott’s definition of self-love included “an appreciation” of both our strengths and our weaknesses. Depression can seem like a dark cloud looming over you while all the sunlight shines only on what is “wrong”. You can change that when you begin to build a foundation of love within yourself. The first brick you lay for your new love-based foundation may be seeking out a professional to help you pave a way through your sadness or indifference toward things. I took that step. The therapist I met was beyond helpful. She opened a door for me that I had locked myself, the door to love, the door to a new way of seeing and thinking. This was the first brick to my foundation; perhaps it would a great brick for yours.

 

 

Photo Credits: http://www.bubblews.com/news/992982-depression-is-not-a-choice