By: Alex Sabbag
Spoiler alert: I love love.
Yes, I know you’re shocked. I recently added “yoga teacher” to my resume and my big reveal is that I love love. I will excuse you while you throw up a little. But alas, it’s true. My mother was a wedding planner and since I was four, I would play with her jewelry, imagining what my wedding would look like. It has been planned and re-planned one hundred times. I remember being at brunch on Easter Sunday a few years ago, fighting with my mother over whether it should be inside or out. Nearing a blowup, my father interjects, citing the argument of relevance…
Spoiler alert number two: there is no groom. And thus, this argument, and the many others surrounding this topic, are delusional.
There are a few flaws in this anecdote – arguing about a fantasy wedding for a 30-something single gal topping the list – but the central problem is this: for the better part of my adult life, love was defined by another person and a major life event. I think I lived the last decade searching for a husband less out of desperation and more out of societal pressures. In hindsight, my choices were centered around someone else. And the reality is, that person didn’t (and not to bury the lead here) still doesn’t exist in my life.
My prior definitions of love were largely tangible. My mother’s love language is gifting and she is the only person on this earth that actually puts “gifts please” on her birthday party invitations. Enough said.
Looking back, I grew out of my former definitions of love far before I realized it. What also became clear is that while I was chasing this picture-perfect idea of love (and seeking to check all the boxes in the process), I was selling my soul to find it. I would go from infatuation to wedding planning. I struggled to maintain my own identity and, unbeknownst to me, became depleted from giving way too much in all the wrong directions.
I heard this quote recently, “If you shoot for nothing you’ll land it every time.” You could caption a decade of boyfriends with these very words.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Well I had 50 percent of it right. My heart was far from guarded, but it was free-flowing like crazy, influencing every decision. In all the giving, what was I receiving? In all the chasing, who was chasing me? We all fall victim to shelling out so much, often too much, for other people.
When do we finally say enough and shield our hearts?
The turning point for me stemmed from a question that came during a service at Soul City Church. “How can you expect to have a relationship with someone else if you don’t know and love yourself?”
I didn’t really know myself and at the time, certainly didn’t love myself. But I am a firm believer that knowledge is power and by simply being aware of my lack of information, it was enough motivation to get moving on an exploratory journey of self-discovery. After acknowledging I was a stranger in my own body, I amped up my reading list, and opened up to a variety of different voices and perspectives.
I found things like the Love Languages and the Enneagram to be most helpful in defining who I am in the context of how I give and receive love, what makes me tick, how I respond to conflict and feel affection. These tools have been priceless to learn – not about someone else (although can be helpful there too) – but about myself. The key to unlocking what love is started with defining what it looks like for me. I stopped living for my imaginary life and started getting in touch with reality. No more feeding the stories that told me I was supposed to be married, barefoot and pregnant and starting a family and I hit Force Quit on the notion that where I am in life wasn’t the right place (this one I do frequently).
My first takeaway when I think about “What is love?”: there is no pinnacle ending with a “Ta-da! I have it all figured out!” No, it is accepting that in an instant things can change and each passing moment is not like the one before it. As a results-driven individual, this is a tough pill to swallow. But the magical quest is to not to define who you are going to be forever, it is quite simply to know who you are right now, at the center of your soul.
I was at the studio recently with Robin Samples, about to co-teach a class with her and she asked, “Did you find yourself?”
My answer was, “I certainly think so.” For context, she meant on Spotify, but when we connected the dots on the larger meaning, man did it hold significant value. I often start humming the tune to one of The Who’s greatest hits, “Who Are You?” After all, it is a journey, and while I might know myself in this moment, I have no doubt the process of discovery will repeat on and on as life goes on and on.
My second takeaway to the question “What is love?” after pondering it for so long: I think the answer is so very personal. It is an inward, soul-searching quest to learn what it means to you. When we face challenges with love we transform fear to faith and have more positive outcomes. Our own thoughts become more compassionate. But I don’t think any of this is possible until we know and love ourselves. We simply can’t identify all the love in others until we know it in ourselves. And as Valentine’s Day falls upon us, could this be the time to really turn inward?
I have the pleasure of teaching Friday morning at 8:30 am, Friday night at 7 pm and Saturday morning at 9 am. You might expect a lot of heart openers… and they will come. But first, we’ll tune in, hug in, learn what it feels like to first, above all else, build a strong foundation and protect our hearts. Of course your hearts (hips and pelvis – because hello, Valentine’s Day!) will open up, but it will be a process to get there. Not just throwing our legs up and over to achieve instant gratification… (oh the metaphors).
While I believe the journey has to start from within, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that someday I want to be the one with the big love story. I believe in true love, the fairytale ending and happily ever after. I am optimistic that I will find a person to share this loving self-discovery journey through life with. Ideally, not just Alfie, my seven-pound senior dog…
‘And they will know us by our love,’ is something I find to be so true in the yoga community, especially at Bare Feet. There is no greater feeling of love than walking through those doors and no greater gesture of self love than dedicating your practice to you. So this Valentine’s Day, I second Cara’s invitation… “Will you be mine, ME?” and invite you to experience all of the love – within this community, within the Bare Feet walls and within your own heart. Here’s to loving love, experiencing BIG LOVE and practicing self-love. See you on your mat.