Professional Student of Life
Adventures in personal growth
You yourself, as much as anyone in the Universe, deserve your love and affection. ~Buddha
I was never the sentimental Hallmark type, so Valentine’s Day wasn’t high on my list of holidays, even when I was happily coupled. I always felt it was better to treat one another considerately on a daily basis than to splash out one day a year. (Of course, doing both is even better.)
Now that I’m single for the first time since I was 28, I’ve spent much of this month contemplating the practice of self-love (and I’m not talking anything that requires batteries here, although there’s also a place for that). One thing I’ve realized is that, in a relationship, we often out-source a number of critical functions to our partners. We look to them to supply things that should come from ourselves: the knowledge of our own basic worth, acceptability, beauty, lovableness, etc.
How do I know I’m (fill in the blank) if no one tells me anymore? And that’s just the superficial tip of a very large iceberg. Just when we’re reluctantly considering the odds of finding a new relationship, the scaffolding we relied on to hold up our self-esteem has disappeared.
So, how do we relearn (or maybe learn for the first time) how to truly love ourselves? That’s the work of a lifetime, but here’s a good place to start. I’ve been doing this “metta” meditation practice all month, in the morning and before bed, and any time throughout the day that I’ve felt sad, scared or angry. Crossing my hands over my heart – assuming I’m not in public – I say to myself: May I be well. May I be happy. May I be free from suffering.
Traditionally this practice is then repeated, focusing on the “other” (first a loved one, then a stranger, then an enemy, and finally, all beings), but I’ve found the greatest benefit from focusing on myself. It all starts here, because if I don’t love myself I can never truly love another. And the interesting thing is that, as I say it for myself, I come to represent all beings anyway, as I sense the truth of our connection. In this process I’ve discovered an expanding compassion for my own foibles (and those of others) and learned that my heart is even stronger without the scaffolding.
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