The Courage to Love Ourselves

This is the second post of the year-long series of monthly meditation talks and practices. For more information and to participate in the live event, go to Walking the Path of Heartfulness in 2023.

I have been contemplating the experience of self-love through meditation practice and learning from many wise teachers-thinkers-healers. I have come to an embodied understanding that love is more than a sentiment, a fantasy, an object, a word; it is a current, an energy, always present and permeable. It shows up in various forms in the body, heart and mind, and in relationship to others and the world. Love is essential to our survival. And when we live from our natural capacity to love, especially ourselves, we flourish and thrive, and so does the world.

This is not a rose-tinted view of “one love.” This is radical compassion, both tender and fierce, a turning toward ourselves rather than away, purposely healing the internal patterns that keep us stuck and unconscious. Accepting ourselves unconditionally rather than comparing and judging until we have completely abandoned ourselves is an intentional and radical rejection of  marketplace culture, of the power structure status quo. Deeply accepting ourselves, is not simply an intellectual pursuit. It is an embodiment that frees oneself from the limitations of social hierarchies and systems that dictate who and what is worthy. We learn to live in the world without becoming it. Consequently, as we move from abandonment to love, we cannot stay silent. Our inner healing turns outward. Our voice and behaviors advocate for collective healing, for justice and belonging for, and worthiness of all beings and the natural world. 

Many of us have experienced at one time in our lives a sense of not belonging or feeling lovable. What have been the consequences of these experiences, especially during our formative years? Some of us, including me, have shape-shifted to fit in, rejected, ignored or silenced parts of ourselves to belong or to feel loved. Hello, toxic caregiving! Social media intensifies and capitalizes on this experience of unlovability. The underlying message is: are you worthy? Looking at a snapshot or even an updated LinkedIn profile can trigger a sense of not measuring up, of not being enough. Enough of what? For whom? All of this is the antithesis of self-love. Love is NOT conditional.

"Love is an act of bravery. It is a verb not a noun." ~Sharon Salzberg

I invite us to contemplate how this perception of love and lovability is presented and experienced as static, fixed, noun-like. And reconsider what our experiences would be like if we viewed lovability as an inherent quality and love as a fluid state nourishing our being in infinite ways.

This takes courage!

Why courage? Because it takes a fearless heart to care for ourselves and others in a world that reminds us daily that we are not enough and therefore must earn love. For many, to love themselves just as they are right now is incredibly challenging or scary. To do what writer-healer Alex Elle suggests takes courage: “Self-love feels like looking yourself in the eye, taking a deep breath, and saying: I see you.”

3 Benefits of Loving Ourselves

Meditation practice is an act of love. It is an intention to meet ourselves in the present moment without judgment, expectations, or conditions. We cultivate loving awareness. Within this space of awareness, insight and wisdom naturally arise. To get to this space of loving awareness, we first recognize how the mind has been trained to relate to our inner experience with conditions, evaluation, and judgment. We then give ourselves permission to let these go, again and again. This is a form of self-love. Meditation is a radical act of self-love. In the inspiring words of Yung Pueblo, “courage + letting go + self-love = a growing freedom.”

One benefit of loving ourselves is possibility. As we tap into our inherent capacity to love, we free ourselves from the habitual, unskillful ways we respond and relate to life.

Second benefit of loving ourselves is contentment. We begin to know what contentment feels like because we are able to access joy even in the midst of challenge.

Third benefit of loving ourselves is freedom. We free or release ourselves from the recurring state of loneliness, depression, despair, hopeless, etc. When these states visit us, we give them the love that they seek. Thus, our capacity to hold our pain and suffering grows. This is where our inner healing turns outward.

With the intention of undoing the myth that love is conditional and practicing loving all parts of ourselves, here is the guided meditation (21 minutes) from February 1st. The meditation invites you to visualize 5 versions or parts of yourself: ordinary, lovable, wise, unknown, hurting. You will send wishes of well-being to each part or version. It ends with the poem Within the Body You Are Wearing by Robert Hall.

May you (I) be happy and peaceful
May you (I) be healthy and safe
May you (I) be guided by love
May you (I) live with ease

Supportive Practice

To take this intention off the cushion and into daily life, here is a supportive practice – Remembering Love: An Embodiment Practice.

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