March 16, 2016

One Monk, Two Stories & a Lesson in Loving Ourselves.

Wade M/Flickr

If we just love ourselves, everything will be fine.

It sounds simple. But it is so hard. We worry about others opinions of us. We want someone to care for us. We want acceptance. We want love.

As I listened to the Buddhist Monk that night, it all made sense. If we just love ourselves, everything will be okay. He shared an anecdote. “When we board an airplane, the flight attendant tells us, in case of emergency, to put our oxygen mask on first. We cannot help others if we do not have oxygen to breathe first.”

“You see,” he laughed, “Buddha was on the airplane.”

I thought more about what the monk said after I left class. I too was not loving myself first. I was having a hard time asking for what I wanted. And it was leaving me drained.

I speak to one friend every morning. It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking to her, I love her, but some mornings I want to write, draw or just have time to myself. When I listen to her on those mornings that I really want to be elsewhere, I feel angry and frustrated. Then I feel guilty for having those feelings.

On those mornings, I wonder why I feel so drained when I put down the phone. The answer is simple: I have not listened to what I want. I have not loved myself. So, how can I give her love that I have yet to give to myself?

When I do not honor my own needs, I am like the person on an airplane who tries to help another before putting on an oxygen mask. I am coming from a place of depletion and I am expecting her to fill that void with validation and love. But it is hard to feel it when I have not addressed my own needs.

By not honoring my own needs, I am not freely giving love. In fact, I am withholding it. As a result, I exude resentment and frustration for giving up time I really want to give to myself.

We value altruism, selflessness and charity. But none of these are given when we do not truly open our hearts. When we place the expectation that we must give them we become frustrated and feel more depleted when we are not showered with love in return for the gifts we have given.

That night, the monk shared a second story. A woman once got angry with him when he did not say thank you for a gift she had given him. He told her she was a selfish woman. She retorted that he was a mean monk.

She was selfish because when she had the expectation that he would say thank you, she did not give the gift freely. A gift is only given when we truly want to give it, regardless of the outcome. In fact, the best gift the monk received was a 20 dollar bill a man threw at him while walking down the street. The man did not even stop to look back. “Now that,” the monk said, “was a true gift.”

When we listen to our needs, attend to them and answer them with love, it does not matter what anyone else does, because we are love. In that state, another person’s bad mood, demands or opinion cannot make us feel less loved because we have given ourselves love first, and that is all we need.


Author: Jane CoCo Cowles

Apprentice Editor: Kari Miller; Editor: Emily Bartran

Image: Wade M/Flickr


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