The magic of consciousness
Whether we are committed to self-realization or just ready for a life free of suffering, there comes a time when we are faced with the challenge of self-love. There are countless paths to self-realization, but every one of them passes through self-love. Intuitively I always felt the truth and significance of self-love – after all, how can we expect the world to change and others to let go of suffering if we are not committed to our own wellbeing? Allowing our natural, divine self-love is one of the best ways of serving humanity, because self-love essentially means going beyond suffering. And when we go beyond suffering, not only have we transformed our part of suffering on this Earth into love, we also show others that there is an alternative to suffering and that it's possible to choose self-love instead.
Self-love essentially means going beyond suffering.
Yet, it took me quite some time to discover what self-love actually meant. (Placing sticky notes with self-love affirmations on the bathroom mirror did not do the trick.) So what does self-love translate to in practical, tangible terms? It's a big question, and most of my work revolves around this topic.
Of course, self-love takes countless forms. Once we commit to deep self-knowing, we are faced with long-forgotten aspects of self, most of them shady if not downright scary. – It rarely is love at first sight. As I wrote in my book, even with the best of intentions we cannot jump from the depths of self-loathing to unconditional self-love overnight. Often the first voyage into self-love is a doubtful and awkward stumbling into self-kindness, at best. A feeble attempt at self-acceptance, overshadowed by bouts of self-hate. Self-love requires constant small, but courageous, steps: every choice that brings us one step closer to relief, or closer to feeling safe, is an expression of self-love.
Self-love can also take the form of curiosity: Who am I in this moment; what feels good right now? Self-love is not a straight road, and usually not a fast one either. It requires courage, patience and, oh yes, more patience. Sometimes self-love means allowing the difficult emotions to be felt – even the emotions that try to sabotage self-love; it's not about abandoning or ignoring parts of you that are self-hating. Instead, these parts of self-hate, shame and guilt can be brought into awareness and honored. In such instances, self-love (paradoxically) means allowing the self-hating parts to be what they are – in full trust that they will naturally transform when they feel safe enough to do so.
Often, self-love means being very still and present. Self-love is taking that deep and conscious breath every time the rushed mind wants to take over. Many times self-love emerges from allowing myself to relax; to just unwind and let go of the addictive self-control, self-monitoring, self-inhibiting. Self-love requires naked honesty with myself. Today self-love could mean setting a clear boundary, and tomorrow it might require me to open up and take the walls down in total trust of self.
Self-love also means creating safety in my physical environment and life, so as to allow more safety internally. Many times I don't know how to love myself, but I do know how to create more space for it in my life. The safer I feel in my body, in my relationships, in my home, and most importantly in my emotions, the more open I am to receiving the divine love from soul. Also, self-love is inherently sovereign; it does not involve me comparing my self-love to other people's self-love (and when I catch myself doing that, I do my best to gently return to a state of compassion). There is no ready formula that states what self-love is for You in this particular moment – your self-love is a unique, ever-expanding expression of your sovereign Self. However, I have found that one of the most illuminating practices is to ask myself in any moment: How can I allow more self-love in this moment? How can I receive more goodness into my life? (The key words being allow and receive.)
In addition to asking the above questions as often as possible, the two most effective and practical ways of allowing self-love (for me) are:
1) Doing things and making choices that bring relief and help me feel more safe when I'm in a dark space (or anytime when I feel tension).
2) Doing things and making choices that bring more joy into my life.
This is such a big topic that I will come back to it in many future posts. I would like to offer one daily practice though, that I've found particularly helpful in terms of receiving self-love:
Before going to sleep, write down 3 things that brought you joy today. If you're currently in a place where you're not feeling joyful about anything, you can still do this exercise and write down 3 things that brought you some relief or made you feel a bit more safe.
For example: Enjoying a homecooked meal; taking a walk in nature; listening to a touching song; daydreaming about my own house... Try to include items that are not related to other people, things that are about your experience within yourSelf.
Then, write down 3 things that helped you become aware today.
For example: Taking a few conscious breaths; taking time to be in stillness; doing some physical exercise...
When you start to allow more self-love into your life, you inevitably also allow those parts to come to the surface that are not self-loving, that have been yearning for your attention. So it's common to feel overwhelmed and become overly serious about your practice of self-love. Remember to have some fun with it!
Self-love is incredibly challenging for many reasons (a topic for another day) but the great thing about self-love is that the more you allow it, the easier it becomes and the better it gets.