Not so alone

No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent A part of the main.   John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent
A part of the main.

John Donne

The last few times I was on the Tube, I was kindly offered a seat. You see, I am pregnant. Even though I’ve been trying to hide it until now, as I wanted to get through the 20 week scan before I shared my news with everyone, I clearly wasn’t doing a very good job, despite the baggy tops!
I was touched by the kindness of those strangers who offered me their seats on stifling crowded trains during the peak of last week’s heatwave. But there was also a voice in my head going  ‘I don’t need a seat, I’m strong. Taking it would be a sign of weakness.’ How crazy is that? Maybe this need to be self-sufficient and to prove a point to oneself is something you can relate to, too? On reflection, I realised I do this a fair amount, and that it’s not necessarily a good thing. After all, what on earth is wrong with being kind to yourself? Even though, over the years, I’ve learnt to take really good care of myself on many levels – with, for example, the food I eat or a yoga practice that truly does nourish me – there are definitely areas where I can refine my self-care. Such as learning that it’s ok to accept help.
But really it’s not about being ‘strong’ or ‘weak’. I think these are pretty meaningless labels through which we judge our actions. It’s actually about tuning into what is truly needed in this moment. I’m always saying this in my yoga classes and while I’m pretty good at in my own practice, I’m not always so successful off the mat.
And rather than always feeling we always have to hold down our own forts, isn’t it also far more enriching to build connection with others? After all, as the yoga tradition teaches us, ultimately we are all connected. An image of this that I love, which comes from the early yogis, is that of Indra’s net, whereby the whole world is seen as a vast net, interwoven in time and space. At the intersection of each strand is a jewel. This jewel represents an individual human soul.
I certainly get huge pleasure from supporting others and knowing I’ve helped bring a little more ease to their lives. It’s important for me to remember this when others reach out to me, as I can all too easily default to thinking ‘I’m just fine without your support,’ or ‘I don’t want to burden you.’ I suspect  many of us feel the same, about both the satisfaction of giving and yet the reluctance to receive. But both are a beautiful gift. And these acts help enrich our lives, even in the tiny exchanges that still thankfully take place in this city countless times each day, such as holding a door open for a stranger, or helping someone carry a heavy suitcase or buggy down the Tube steps. In a world that feels increasingly fragmented and individualistic, especially as we spend less and less in face to face contact and more time behind screens, I think this is badly needed.