The heavy rains have rendered my favorite park into a swamp of sorts.
Plump irises sit in stagnant, brown water, their purple heads bobbing in the gentle wind.
It’s actually quite beautiful. The stillness reverberates in my bones, soaking me through and through.
It’s like a portal into the kind of spaces we starve for…but don’t even know it.
Depth. Quiet. Reflection. Nurturing beauty in the most unexpected places.
I half-heartedly wonder if there are any ferocious crocodiles lurking in these strange muddy waters dotted with indigo irises.
I smile at the thought of this—yet, don’t we often fear the same thing when we look within?
We worry what monsters might be there beneath our skin, snarling and gigantic, ready to devour us—to freak us out as our legs get ready to run far and fast.
As luck would have it, our inner terrain is usually not as scary as we make it out to be.
There might be something or several somethings, sure—
The frayed edges of the past. Old pain. New pain. Unrealized dreams. Hope that was misplaced, and only partially returned. Disdain with our bodies. Those 10 pounds we never lost. Sharp bits in our hearts that were once broken by a beloved, with edges that gradually get softer beneath the warmth of our gentle embrace.
There might be uncertainty. Loneliness. Grief. Anger. Doubt.
Do we look away, as we have done a million times before?
Or do we dip a toe in?
Do we dare to dive in, submerging our arms and legs and faces fully?
Because there is something so nourishing about it all—even the not-so-pretty parts that are hidden inside; tucked carefully into shadows, shoved into big, dusty boxes that are kept on the farthest outskirts of our minds.
There is lusciousness and depth. Fertile darkness. There is wisdom and knowledge.
As we lean in
And learn to hold these shaky, shivering parts of ourselves with care—
A gust of wind opens our chests and airs out the shadows inside—the orphaned parts of ourselves we thought would never be good enough or healed or whole or valuable at all.
In the sunlight, we see them anew. We see them as pearls.
Incandescent, formed through stress and friction. The result is breathtaking and sweet. Nothing less.
They are lustrous and gleaming.
So are we.
Through our courage, self-love takes on a much richer quality. It becomes—not just a cute idea—but a loving way of living, and of connecting with ourselves, the planet, our family, friends, and strangers, too. It becomes real.
This type of self-love is as wide and deep as the ocean, as gritty as the dirt on our feet. It contains not only the sparkly, nice things about us that are easy to like.
The shy, vulnerable, uncomfortable, squirmy, messy, loud, slightly broken parts are included too. Oh heck yes. Even the parts about ourselves we aren’t sure we can love or tolerate.
Tenderness weaves like honeysuckle through the air.
Our muscles relax and stop gripping for the first time in 10 years.
Our eyes soften.
It doesn’t happen in one fell swoop, but much like the rain—one steady drop at a time. One grateful, salty tear at a time.
Gradually, we grow to no longer fear the swamps or murky waters inside. We don’t run away or numb out from our multifaceted, strange, and dazzling humanness. We become braver.
We behold the beauty that blooms in the most unexpected places.
Yes, even in our wounds and mistakes.
As we practice, our hearts become gigantic. They become—forever imperfect, sure—but warm and peaceful.
We begin to see beauty everywhere.
In ourselves…even in the people we used to hate.
“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.” ~ Pema Chödrön