Big Self Small Self

Pose: Mountain Pose

This week I went on a transformational journey in which I discovered some of the ways I’ve been operating out of my smaller self. I’ve been dealing with an injury that has been getting progressively more painful and upsetting. Robbing me, in some ways of doing the thing I love to do best: teach yoga, enjoy my friends, and feel vibrant and free…or so says my smaller self.

During the journey I went on this past week, I opened myself to experience some of the true sadness and loss I’ve been feeling due to my injury. The tears flowed, and I grieved and accepted. It was through this truthful experience, that I was set free from some of the torment surrounding this injury. I noticed the mental cage that has been slowly building up around the experience of pain and limitation. I opened my eyes to the self-pity stories that had accompanied this thing that I have to deal with. And then during my journey of self-discovery, I realized that I had other choices of how to respond to my situation. I realized that the pain and limitation did not have to go hand in hand with frustration and angst. I discovered another way—living in my bigger self.

In the most revealing moments of my journey, the release of sadness through tears, gave me an opportunity to give myself love around this pent-up resistance to the truth of my situation. And in the release of the resistance, I gained acceptance and forgiveness. I forgive my body for having this issue. I forgive myself for the actions and inactions that led to it becoming so intense, and I choose to move forward with courage and all the strength I have in face of it all.  While in lower moments the living in my bigger self seems harder, I was reminded by many teachers this week that there is always help around the corner. I may have pain, but I do not have to suffer from it.

A big part of the self-discovery process through yoga is finding out you’ve got two versions to the same story of your life. There’s the big self who takes the higher road, doesn’t blame others for your problems, and feels empowered in all aspects. Then there’s the smaller self who feels like a victim, is constantly tired frustrated, and annoyed, and sees many of your decisions as mistakes.

The big self is the part of you that is guided by intuition. The You who knows exactly what you want and who you are. It’s the Self that is connected to a higher source, which we could call God, the Universe, the Flow, Wisdom, or Enlightenment. The big self is where we are pulsing at the end of a great yoga practice. Suddenly all our pain lifts, a bigger more loving perspective comes in, and we feel simultaneously empowered, yet willing to be open, vulnerable, and loving. You can recognize your bigger self, because thoughts of caring for others dominate, rather than thoughts of how you are not getting your needs met. You feel like you are overflowing with gifts to give.

The small self is where we get dragged down to when we are not in our power. This self-keeps score. This person doesn’t do that enough for you, that person doesn’t reciprocate your actions or feelings, the universe is tilted at an axis that is away from your best outcomes. When in the small self, you have to fight, and push for your goals, instead of them flowing in like a river as when you are in your larger self.

This month, all we have to do is one thing only: Recognize the moments and the thoughts as one or the other: Big self, small self. Identify a feeling as either a small self-feeling or a big self-feeling. Notice the internal stories and explanations of your world around you as through the lens of either one or the other. It’s in this “noticing” that we gain the power to choose the bigger self more often, even when we feel low or in pain.  Don’t resist the opportunity to give yourself love and compassion, and from there step willingly back into the space of your bigger self. For in that vulnerable open gesture, you release the interpretation that you are weak and grow stronger through love.

Ella Luckett