My teacher cradled my face in her palms with such tenderness, such strength, locking her eyes onto mine, leaving me no possibility of turning away, distracting myself, or disassociating. "Just give yourself love - that's all I'll ever ask of you, all you ever have to do," she said. "But what about . . . ," I started to say . . . but she silenced me with a flash from her eyes. "It's so easy, honey, so effortless, and its all there is to do," she whispered. We sat there in the silence, resonating with the vibration left by her words ...
My internal dialogue fell apart in the face of this silence, and my apprenticeship to my own heart began. For a long time I argued that I didn't know how to give myself love, but I began to realize that this was a lie: I had devoted my life to giving others love, in order to hook their attention and get their love in return. I was an expert in loving! At least, the best kind of love I knew how to give.
With that small realization, I began to give myself love the way I would give it to a lover: little gifts, healthy food, massaging my feet, taking myself on dates with myself, hiking in the mountains, treating myself to the company of loving people. Self-loving began with the little things. I stopped seeking outside myself, and drank from the well of my own heart, the real source of love in my life.
As I grew wiser in the art of loving myself, I discovered that it took much more than pampering myself in order to make myself "feel loved." So often, I did something loving for myself, and then felt disappointed when I didn't immediately feel better. "Something must be wrong," I told myself. "I must not be doing it right." Then I saw it - I hadn't been loving myself at all - I'd been trying to change myself, trying to make myself into a happier person. I also realized how unrealistic it was to expect anyone to trust my love, including me, with the inconsistent track record I'd shown in loving up till then! So I began to be patient with myself, not requiring results from my acts of loving. I began to show consistency in my loving. I took care of my important needs, even when I'd rather be doing something else. I listen to my own feelings. I start giving myself the deeper gift of simply being with myself, listening attentively with as little judgment as possible, giving myself my own time and my loving attention. I began to make space for myself to breathe, to feel and think and do everything that I am already doing. I began to make the same space for the rest of the world to feel and think and do everything exactly as it does, loosening the death-grip of my desperate attempt to control the universe, and giving all the energy I saved back to myself.
I discovered that patient listening, consistency, and letting go are the language of self-love. I discovered each day how little I knew of loving, and how little I need to know. Sometimes the voice of knowledge arose, telling me that "good, spiritual, healthy people" don't feel pain, or that my pain means I've done something wrong, or am broken. I took myself into my own arms, as my great grandmother used to. "Oh, honey," I told myself. "That isn't true. Pain is just pain - it doesn't need a story. You are perfect the way you are, and I love you so much, just this way." I rub my own head, smile, and relax. Sometimes I still find myself waiting for "the right moment" to speak, "the right song" to dance, "the right situation" to act, looking for "the right answer," or waiting for "the right person" to love. Now, I chuckle, breathe, and choose the moment I'm in, the song that is playing right now, and the situation I find myself in. I let go of the question, or chose the first answer that makes me feel good inside. I choose the person I am and the world I'm in right now, to love.
You may be somewhere in the process I describe above, learning how to love yourself -- and wherever you are on the path, it is miraculous that you are even walking it. You don't need to change anything, speed it up or slow it down, "fix" yourself, or learn a skill that you don't already have. In my own experience, it does help to have mirrors, though -- people who love you just as you are, with no expectations. People who give you a clear reflection of where you are, and what you are doing, with no judgment. The difficulty can be that we usually attract others to us who are just as confused as we are. Perhaps for you, as for me, the journey to self love requires the company of someone who feels just a little different from the other people in our life, someone outside of our usual circle . . . a mentor, coach, or ally. Someone who has walked the road of love a few steps ahead of us, who can point out some of the tools and resources along the way.
If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of creating such a powerful alliance, please contact me!