I've heard it said that the most loving thing we can do for another person is to offer our full, unwavering, compassionate presence - to simply be with them, right where they are. This is what good therapy is all about.
The same principle holds true as we learn to love ourselves. To love ourselves means to fully be with ourselves.
1. BE STILL
You cannot love yourself if you are not with yourself And you are not with yourself if you're distracting yourself with busyness or doing.
As you inhale, say the word "in" silently, to yourself. Use your belly muscles to inflate your belly (try to look pregnant). As you exhale, relax your belly, and say the word "out".
Repeat this cycle at least 10 times.
Remember to say "in" and "out" to yourself. This will quiet your mind.
3. FEEL YOUR BODY
See if you can feel your feet, your backside, your torso, your belly, your heart, your arms and hands, your throat and neck, your face and head, and anything else you can feel. See if you can feel yourself in your body. (It often helps to close your eyes).
4. TELL THE TRUTH
Acknowledge to yourself any physical sensations or emotions that might arise. Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, it doesn't matter. In either case, they are what's true in the moment. Simply acknowledge their presence.
Allow whatever you notice, to simply be. You're learning to offer your full presence to yourself, the way you would a friend. Allow yourself to feel and be exactly where you are without trying to fix, change, or understand it. "Fixing it" says, "I don't accept you the way you are. You need to be different." This is NOT love.
Only real love, unconditional love, can transform non-love energy.
So ... throughout your day, take a moment to stop, breathe, check in with yourself, and listen to your body and your feelings. Listen to yourself the way you would a friend. Be with her. Be with yourself - without trying to change, fix, or do anything. Simply give yourself and your feelings your full attention, your acceptance, and your compassion.
Loving you right where you are,
I woke up this morning wanting to write, once again, about love - the love that's in me and all around me, the love that's in the little bird outside my window, that's in the wet green grass, and in the egg I ate for breakfast.
I'm starting to wonder how I ever lived, went through my days, without this love. I've come to see that I was always trying to get somewhere. If I wasn't trying to make something happen on the outside, you can bet I was trying to make something happen on the inside. I was always trying to get to something.
It seems ridiculous now that what I was looking for, what I was trying to get to, was inside me all along. There is no striving in this "inside me" love, nowhere to "get to." Amazing!
At times it's harder to find this love than at other times. It's easiest to feel it first thing in the morning, right between sleep and waking. At these times I milk it. I bask in it.
Ironically, it's harder to find when my partner is around - not because he's not lovable, not because our relationship is not loving, but because of my own, deeply ingrained habits of leaving myself, and therefore my own love, when my man is around.
It's wonderful to catch it now. I can almost feel myself stepping out of my body and going over to him to take a reading. "What's his mood? What's he feeling? Is he happy with me? What does that look mean?" I use my energy field like a sort of psychic periscope. It comes up and out of me to scan for safety, to scan for approval, to scan for love. This habit is so second nature to me that it must have started when I was really little.
Maybe, like me, you wanted to make your daddy happy. Maybe your daddy, like mine, was busy, distracted, or otherwise unavailable. So maybe, like me, you're still trying to figure out what daddy wants, still trying to figure out what you need to do and be to get love.
The man in me is a brutal tyrant. He is relentless in his running critique of how I'm doing. He doles out his approval in stingy morsels, thinking this will entice me to do better. It seems I could always "do better." In the back of my mind I'm always thinking, "Maybe next time I'll do it good enough, maybe I will be good enough." But, in truth, there never is a next time. For it seems it's his job to keep me looking, striving, working at it. It's like I'm addicted to the, "one day I'll be good enough" drug. And, he's my dealer.
I can now see the program that's been driving my disapproval of myself. It goes something like this, "If I can see what I'm doing wrong (disapprove of myself), I'll feel motivated to improve myself, and then there's hope that one day, if I work hard enough, I will be worthy of approval."
The approval I'm looking for is in me, right here, right now!
So, as I approach my 52nd year, I'm finally ready to say to the man in me, "Enough's enough. I'm tired. I'm too tired to try to please you. I've been trying so hard for so long and I don't want to do it anymore. Plus, it never works. I'm sorry if you're disappointed and I'm sorry if you're not happy. But, I'm done here. You can go now. I want to be free."
And, I think I can finally say . . . today . . . . . I am.
. . . the energy it takes to keep the truth out of awareness - Gay Hendricks.
I came across this quote many years ago in one of Gay and Kathlyn Hendrick's many books. For several years I followed their work. This quote, in particular, struck home. In some ways it launched my move away from more traditional therapy to the type of work I do now. And, it helped revolutionize my ideas about stress and what causes it.
It served as a turning point for me personally . so simple yet so profound in its impact.
When I feel stressed or tense, I've developed the habit of asking myself, "OK Shelly, what's here now? What's the truth here? What are you not acknowledging or admitting?" At these times I usually find that I'm not liking ... the way it is. I'm thinking that I'm having ... the wrong experience. If I can catch that judgement, take time to simply notice it, I can then notice that there's either a feeling of resistance to the way it is or there's resistance to a feeling that I'm having about the way it is. More often than not, I discover that it's a feeling I don't want to feel.
Recently I was working with a friend who has struggled on and off with anxiety. Anxiety was a familiar feeling for her. I was trying to help her release it (the key word here is trying, but that's another journal entry). We seemed a little stuck. With further probing she said, "I'm frustrated. I'm sick of it." She then said, "That's strange. I noticed when I said that, I felt some relief. Why is that Shelly?"
"Why is that" indeed? As soon as she connected with the truth (the less familiar feeling of frustration), underneath the more familiar feeling of anxiety, the tension released (as did some of the anxiety).
Moral of the story? If you want to feel relief, you must first find the truth. If you're wondering what's true, you must feel for it inside your body. Even if what you uncover are "bad" feelings like fear, sadness, or anger, you should still experience some relief in simply acknowledging what's true. Acknowledged or not, the feelings are in you anyway. Might as well make friends with them.
Love to you and all your friends,
The following story is taken from Swami Muktananda's book, Kundalini: The Secret of Life. I've always liked it and I want to share it with you.
Before the creation of the world, only God existed. After some time, God became bored with being all alone and wanted somebody to play with. So God created the world from Himself and Herself and formed lesser gods to help operate the Universe. But the beings in God's creation knew they were divine, and they knew how to merge back into the source from which they came. Within a short time, they lost interest in the world, and all thronged back to God in heaven. God's game was ruined. God once again became bored.
God called a council of the other gods and asked them for their help. One suggested, "Why not throw everyone out of heaven, close the gates, and hide the key? And erect the veils of forgetfulness, so that these beings do not remember easily where they came from?"
God thought this was an excellent idea. "But where should we hide the key to heaven?" God asked.
"In the deepest depths of Pacific Ocean," suggested one god.
"How about the top of the Himalayas?" said another.
"No, no. Put it on the moon. It is so far, no one will ever reach it."
God sat in meditation to see the future. God appeared to be discouraged, saying, "None of these ideas will work. Humans will explore the far reaches of the Universe. Not only will they dive to the bottom of the ocean and climb the highest mountain, but they will visit the moon, explore the planets, and attempt to discover the workings of the cosmos."
The gods became silent. Suddenly God said, "I have the answer. I know the one place humans will never look for the key to Heaven. That place is within themselves, right in the core of their being. They'll travel millions of miles into space, but they will never take two steps within themselves to find the key to heaven."
The gods all applauded God's brilliant plan. And God has delighted in watching our search for the way home ever since.
When was the last time you admitted you were scared? When was the last time you actually felt your fear, let yourself sit in it, be with it, and instead of intellectualizing it, gave it your undivided attention, love, and approval?
Well, a friend of mine has done just that. And, her comment on a recent post has inspired me to tell you more about her.
For 30 something years this woman has pushed through her fears. She has gone to work, held a management position, been appreciated and financially rewarded for her ability to be "in control" and hold it all together. But, for all these years, she's had a secret.
While her ability to take charge was, and still is, a strength, it has also been a cover for how out of control she's really felt. She's realized that a long-ignored part of her feels quite vulnerable, intimidated, and very much at the mercy of people and situations that seem out of her control.
Recently, this Take Charge Woman realized she was tired - tired of trying to hold it all together, tired of going to work with a knot in her stomach, tired of surviving, but not thriving. And so she found the courage to ask the knot in her stomach what it wanted to tell her. And it said, in the voice of a little girl, "I'm scared."
Instead of trying to reason with the little girl, instead of pushing her aside, instead of trying to shut her up with a cookie, this brave woman decided to listen to her. She learned how to be still, acknowledge her, love her, and be with her, which was all the little girl ever really wanted.
Now the Take Charge Woman and the Scared Little Girl have a relationship. They talk on the way to work. They talk on the way home. They bought a pink and turquoise bicycle, with a basket on the front. The woman says that now it feels like they've become one - no more knots in the stomach, no more dreading going to work.
Will you join me in celebrating and appreciating this woman for her courage? And, will you also join me in learning how to love the Take Charge Woman and Scared Little Girl in all of us?
With love and compassion for us all,
I had quieted my mind. I was minding my own business, feeling my body, feeling myself, feeling my feelings, being with myself, and then I heard . . . . . . .HIM? . . . a masculine, quiet, calm, solid, loving, oh so loving voice, said, ”I love you . . . I will always love you . . . I will never leave you . . . You are mine . . . You are perfect . . . You are my dream come true . . . I am always here for you . . . I want to help you, support you, help you make your dreams come true . . . I want to be with you always . . . You are my heart’s desire . . . I want to be with you . . . . . . . . forever.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am your Beloved. We are one. I will never leave you. I am with you always.”
I basked in his love, swam in it, immersed myself in it, and asked again, “Are you God, my higher Self, an angel?”
And, all I heard for sure was “We are one, the same. You are me and I am you and I love you. ”
David Deida writes that before a woman can truly have a fulfilling relationship with a man, she must first fall in love with the man inside herself. Was this the man in me? Had I finally made up with him, resolved my love/hate relationship with him? Or, was this God coming to me in a form I really needed? Was this Jesus? Was this Muhammad? Was this my twin soul?
The answers seemed to be, ”Yes, yes, yes, and more yes.”
And really, what difference did it make? Love is love. And, the more I sat with this love, this man, over the next few days I knew, “There is no substitute for this love. No earthly, human, flawed person could ever love me with such purity, such depth, such strength of devotion.”
And then I realized, to my surprise, that it didn’t matter.
For, he and I were, and are . . . . . ONE.
It had been percolating for awhile - a vague nagging sense that ”it” wasn’t working, something was missing, something had to give, something had to change.
I had thought about blaming/improving my partner, our relationship, my financial situation, my health, menopause, and my work situation. But, deep down I knew that none of these things were really the problem.
A couple of years ago I lost a lucrative contract working at a residential facility for teenage girls. The jist of my income was gone. I was scared.
I knew it was a “sign”, an opportunity to create/revive my private practice - to create work that was even more compelling and fulfilling. But, I was scared – resistant and scared.
I’ve never been short on dreams or ideas. Never been short on willpower or determination, but I was stuck, frozen, and didn’t know why.
As my emotional discomfort grew, a chronic physical condition became even more chronic, more intense, and harder to ignore.
Thanks to the results of an MRI, I found myself on doctor/chiropractor-ordered bed rest. For weeks, I laid flat on my back, most of the time alone, in the silence, with myself.
That’s when I realized, for sure and for real, in that aloneness and silence, that the thing that was missing . . . was my own love.
I’d suspected it all along. I’d felt it and had been “working on it” for months. But this time I knew. This time I was really ready to know . . .
I AM HERE TO LOVE MYSELF!
So I started forgiving myself - for being scared, for wanting to be rescued, for wanting to do it alone, for isolating myself, for feeling stuck, for not knowing how to fix it, for not knowing what I wanted, for doubting what I wanted, for getting older, for gaining weight, for being hurt and sick, for expecting my partner to fix it sometimes, for feeling financially insecure, for not having more friends, for having a dirty house, for feeling overwhelmed, for feeling vulnerable, for wanting to be married, for not wanting to be married, for being confused and acting like such a “girl” about it, for trying to escape with chocolate and Sex and the City videos, for not having enough confidence, for not having it all together (after all I’m a coach, I’m supposed to be a role model) and then, maybe, most important of all . . .
I FORGAVE MYSELF FOR NOT BEING PERFECT!
I’m not saying I’ve “cured” myself once and for all, but I think I’m on top of it now. I’m wise to it. That vague sense that something’s missing, that ”I want more” feeling from my partner, that ”I want to eat something but I’m not hungry” feeling, are wake-up calls, screams maybe, to love my feelings . . . to love myself.
Join me in learning more about how to love yourself in future posts.