“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Buddha
Drop away any notions of this being new-agey or woo-woo, close your eyes and just say it. Then notice how you feel in your body as you say it. Is it true? Or does it feel like a lie?
Loving yourself is hard. Whether you beat yourself up about your body’s flaws, your malicious thoughts about others or that imprudent thing you said at dinner last night, it all piles up until we stop liking who we are. As children, we come into the world with a deep sense of serenity. We know at birth that we are loved.
This wonderful sense of peace and self-acceptance dissipates over time.
However, before attempting to recover the love within, it is important to distinguish between the two types of love: ego-filled love and universal love. Ego-filled love is based on perceptions and ideas in our heads. Feeling like perkier breasts or six pack abs will change your life, measuring your self-worth on how successful you are at your job and buying into consumerist mentalities that make you feel less-than when you aren’t wearing $100 yoga pants. These are facades we drum up to make ourselves feel better about who we are. The more beautiful, talented, wealthy and sexy our ego perceives our self to be, the more we seemingly fill a hole inside.
Universal love is found beyond the reaches of our body and our thoughts. It’s found in the meditative space that exists outside consciousness. When we get quiet in our mind and tranquil our body, we can tap into universal love. Universal love fills you with pure warmth, oneness and non-judgmental acceptance. Universal love will feel safe because it is not dependent on anything that can change.
But there’s a catch. Universal self-love will not happen on its own. You have to cultivate it.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
>> Accept yourself fully, flaws and all. Being human means we come pre-packaged with a host of neuroses, personality quirks and thought processes that aren’t always likeable. Instead of fighting against everything you don’t like about yourself, welcome whole-hearted forgiveness.
>> Relish your ability to choose. Choose to feel compassion for yourself when you mess up. Choose to stir-up more joy in your life. Choose to silence the running diatribe of snarky and unkind things you tell yourself.
>> Tap into what you are feeling. Feelings can serve as guideposts to difficulties in our life that might be blocking your path to self-love. So next time you feel that red flag of anger or sadness waving at you from inside, see where you feel it in your body. Fear likes to hide in our hips. When we are pissed-off, most of us clench our jaw. Sadness tightens the belly and makes the shoulders sag. Using these physical cues, allow yourself to process everything you feel.
>> Remember, we are not human beings having a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings having a human journey. And as humans, we are all entitled to love.
As a yoga teacher, I see a lot of folks who are really hard on themselves. Whether frustrated they can’t lift into a perfect crow or hold their balance in tree, I can practically hear their inner critic shouting. When my yoga students are in savasana at the end of class, I send a silent prayer of love to each of them. Often, we are not giving our self the love we need.
I created the following mediation as a way to tap into what it feels like to love yourself:
Imagine a large group of content, happy people surrounding you. They don’t need to have faces or names, just imagine your fellow humans from all walks of life, all ages, from everywhere in the world. They are peaceful and radiant. They are focusing on you in a circle of love. They say to you: let us love you until you love yourself. Pay attention to how you feel after hearing this. Now sit with that feeling and let it wash over you, knowing what it feels like to be loved completely just as you are.
Cori Lassahn has been teaching yoga for 11 years in, on and around Santa Barbara, California. To cope with a stressful corporate job in San Francisco she began a living-room asana practice with VHS tapes. Her home practice quickly blossomed into a passionate exploration of all things yoga. She coupled her love of yoga with meditation training at the San Francisco Zen Center. In 2001, Cori became certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga which draws on a host of yogic traditions. Raising two little boys, heading an event planning company and teaching yoga comprise most of her days. But you can find her paddle boarding on the Pacific Ocean, practicing beach yoga and whipping up large batches of green soup in her free time. Find her on Facebook or at [email protected].
Assistant Ed. Caroline Scherer