The best gift we can offer our beloved is our true presence, our true listening. We can ask our beloved one, “Darling, do you think I understand you enough? Please tell me how you are really doing. Please open your heart and help me to understand your joys and difficulties, so I can understand you and truly love you.”
This is how it starts: We’re doing well. We’re taking care of our bodies with good food, healing physical practices like yoga or Tai Chi. We’re evolving our psyches and souls with therapists, spiritual advisors, and intuitives. We study books from visionaries like Ken Wilber, Ram Dass, Pema Chödrön, Carl Jung, Sri Ramana Maharshi. We do our utmost to embody loving kindness at home, at work, in the grocery store.
And yet, once in a while we face a crisis that threatens to undo all that Good Work.
It may be an unexpected illness or death in our circle of loved ones. It may be the loss of a job or lover. It may be the terrors of the world finally seeping into our psyches and twisting their barbs into our loving practice.
The golden chariot we’ve been steering through our lives now seems to continually ram itself against an impenetrable wall. We back up, remind ourselves that everything happens for a reason. Move forward. Ram.
We back up again, assuring ourselves that all is well; everything in life is interconnected. Move bravely forward. Ram.
Dizzy, we retreat, pick up our beloved and ragged copy of The Soul of Rumi and snuffle up as many ecstatic, deep image nuggets as we can, waiting impatiently for them to release their salve on our souls. Plow ahead…you get the idea.
So what now?
When someone we care for is having a hard time, what do we do?
We hold space for him, let him speak openly and without judgment. If asked, we may offer some insight. Sometimes we just listen.
Can we not do the same for ourselves? The next time you face inner turmoil—whether it’s a broken heart or a complete existential meltdown—talk. To your self. Stop everything you are doing, get still, and invite the Friend who lives in you to speak with you. (Yes, out loud.)
The dialogue might go like this:
You: [moaning, pacing, solar plexus chakra throbbing]
Friend Self: What is it, my friend? What’s troubling you?
You: I’ve done nothing with my life. Everyone I know has a real career.
Friend Self: Really? You’ve done nothing?
You: Nothing significant. I’m practically middle aged and I’m still a struggling artist (healer/teacher/musician/fill-in-the-blank-with-individuated-life-choice). I’ve taken this really exciting path, but maybe it’s self-indulgent and shit.
Friend Self: How so?
You: What do I have to show for my time here? A bunch of failed attempts at greatness. Doors slam in my face everywhere. Meanwhile, children are dying in wars…
Friend Self: Wow. That was a leap.
Friend Self: From your beloved life path to dying children.
You: [sarcastically] We’re all connected, right?
Friend Self: Mm-hmm.
Friend Self: So! What do you want to do about it? Do you want to keep feeling like poop?
You: Maybe. For a minute. [pause] Okay. I don’t like that anymore.
Friend Self: Then what can we do for you right now that will make you feel better? You don’t have to change the world. Just this moment. Name anything.
You: Right now? Honestly? I want a glass of wine and a hot bath.
Friend Self: Done!
Now, I don’t mean to imply that all of life’s difficulties can be answered with fermented grape juice and 103-degree tap water. (Although they often help. Peppermint tea is nice, too.) The point here is to stop the downward spiral of negativity by allowing your self—the one intimately connected to Source and your highest good—to be kind to you.
It comes down to just that: Affording yourself the same loving kindness you would give to someone you care for. Doesn’t it feel good when you can give that gift to another human being?
Just a few exchanges of non-judgmental listening and words of support will awaken the nurturing center within you, allowing you to experience its calming benefits. The benefits are twofold, of course, because you are also being cared for by someone who loves you very much.
What a good friend you are to others! Do you have a good reason not to be one to yourself? And if you do, what does it say about the support you offer the dear ones in your life?
Here’s the big secret: It is okay to love ourselves openly and unabashedly. It is a blessing to be our own advocate and champion. In fact, it is absolutely necessary for our psycho-spiritual evolution. The more we practice loving self-talk with ourselves, the purer our Good Work becomes—for others and for our deepest selves.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Nishanth Jois at Flickr