For a healthy mind, body and soul, all the experts recommend that we love ourselves. When I first started in therapy, I heard this over and over, yet I didn t have the foggiest idea of how to do that.
My upbringing as a young girl in the 50 s taught me to want or take nothing for myself, and to give all I could to others no matter how I felt about it. I was trained to be the classic martyr; a self-sacrificial woman. My mother lived this idea as a high art form and yet it was clear a lot of resentment went with it. On top of that, so many of the reflections from authority figures, schools, government, church laud and stress selfless self sacrifice and service. I bought into all of the above, and have been working diligently extricate myself out of that programming for longer than I was in it.
In investigating the validity of these teachings, my first question was, are these values appropriate in any way? We all love to be of service. It certainly does feel good to ease the journey of another for both parties. However, I have discovered that if I do not make sure that I have taken care of myself, I am depleting my store of available energy. If I am bankrupt in this area, then the quality of my gift is affected. I am sure that you can recall how you have responded to another when you haven t had enough to eat or enough sleep. At best, I have found that my patience is less, quality of sensitivity and the quality of my sharing is less and at worst, I am terse, angry and resentful.
In addition, when I have been loving to myself making sure all of my basic needs are met and that my desires are reasonably fulfilled I find that I have lots more energy and more to give. My heart is then abundant and overflowing with plenty for those I love, and I can give without resentment, or sacrifice or restraint, and with gladness, quality and compassion.
So now, how exactly do I love myself? For me, it has been a decades-long, multi-layered and multi-dimensional journey of discovery that never ends.I began with the platitudes that the women s magazines offered .take a restful, romantic bath once a week with candles and music take a walk .read work out do one thing especially for YOU once a day. This is a good beginning. I was often so rushed and so full of meeting everyone else s needs that I forgot to take even a moment to refresh and renew myself. This first step can make a major difference in making that U turn to finding the connection with self once again.
In Western culture, we have been trained to focus outward, rather than inward. We have been taught that to focus on and connect with the self is a selfish act. And selfish, up until recently, has been a very dirty word. But I have found that like most things in our dualistic world, there are two sides to selfishness. The concept of selfish that I grew up with is best illustrated by Webster s Dictionary: caring only or chiefly for self regarding one s own self interest, proceeding from love of the self: influenced in actions solely by a view to private advantage with little or no regard for the rights of others.
However, although the dictionary doesn t seem to know about it yet, there is a lighter side to selfishness. I call it, self-fullness. It is about loving the self enough to create a life of deep enjoyment. We can do this by consciously intending and choosing actions and activities that bring the greatest pleasure and nurturance to the soul through loving consideration of the self and the others we love.
The way I have found to integrate this more fully in my day to day experience, with the greatest depth and impact, is to resolve to be my own best lover in every sense of the word. My intent is to treat myself as I would treat the most beloved person in my life. I use God, my lover and my child as my yardsticks for the kinds of treatment I would give myself. This has taken me to depths of loving connection with myself that I never dreamed I could experience physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually and spiritually. If you think about it, this is an interesting challenge. If Jesus, the Buddha, or the Dalai Llama were before you right now, how would you treat Him? If your lover or beloved child needed your attention, how would you give that? NOW then, do so for yourself!
Physically, that means taking care of your body:
being conscious and careful in your movements, so as not to damage it unnecessarily;
warming up beforehand and working out on a regular basis to ensure cardio-vascular health, muscle tone, good circulation and endurance;
feeding yourself healthy, quality foods and making sure that your nutrient intake is all that your body needs,
developing a relationship with your body consciousness so that you can more clearly hear its needs and respond accordingly;
* caring for the inside and out with plenty of water;
* good grooming,
* cleansing inside and out; and
* care for the skin and hair and teeth and nails.
Most Important: Keep noticing what you really love about your body, more than what you don t.
Emotionally that means:
* Being conscious of your emotions and what thoughts may be triggering them so that you can make better choices in greater alignment with your desires for your self expression
* Listening to your feelings and honoring them rather than stuffing them or denying them
* Watching your rhythms and moods and taking space for nurturing yourself as needed. (This is especially important for menstruating and lactating women.)
* Giving your emotions the time and the safe space to fully express so that you can hear what you are wanting and needing to address in your experience.
* Digging deep to be as compassionately honest with the self and others as possible to find truth as you can best know it.
* Knowing that no matter how we feel, no matter what our emotions are based on, that this is the best way to inform ourselves of what is going on in our lives.
* Most Important: Notice more what you are doing well and acknowledge yourself out loud! Then stop and breathe it in and claim it as part of what you know and admire about yourself.
Mentally that means:
Becoming conscious of our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs and exploring them to see if they are aligned with what we want to create in our lives.
Making sure to take some mental time-outs to clear out the clutter of the mind on a regular basis forms of meditation, hypnosis, or artful expression like dance, music, & poetry. These are ways to get to the zone where the mind can quiet and step aside allowing for clarity and inspiration to pour forth.
Stimulating the intellect to explore new thoughts, attitudes and ideas. Getting out of the box of tradition to discover new possibilities, cultures, and experiences.
Most Important: Take the time to notice your mental gifts and acuity and acknowledge yourself out loud. Then stop and breathe it in and claim it as part of what you know and admire about yourself.Sexually that means:
* Self pleasure regularly to connect with truly loving yourself.
* Take the time to touch yourself slowly and lovingly, with the hands of a lover – as you would touch your lover feeling deeply for your response, both from the point of view of the giver and the receiver.
* Explore new ways of touching yourself and breathing deeply for greater enjoyment. Oxygen feeds not only the body but the psyche and the soul
* Notice what you love about yourself as a sexual being and acknowledge yourself out loud. Then stop and breathe it in and claim it as part of what you know and admire about yourself.
* Take the time to educate yourself to improve technique and intimacy.
* Most Important: Notice and acknowledge what a wonderful gift your body is as you learn more about experiencing pleasure through it and take the time to really enjoy yourself!
Spiritually that means:
Decide to take charge of your life. You are creating it moment by moment with your thoughts, attitudes and beliefs. Get conscious! Take the time to listen to yourself to see what you are putting out there.
What is your relationship with your self and the world around you? Get in alignment with your desires.
Find practices and or spiritual pathways that have meaning for you and take the time to explore them deeply.
Find a community of like minded friends to support you in your journey.
Most Important: Notice what you are doing right and what works and focus your attention on building from that. Acknowledge yourself out loud. Then stop and breathe it in and claim it as part of what you know and admire about yourself.This is a lot to chew on here, I know. It is a moment-by-moment process of choosing new behaviors choosing to love yourself again and again. With all of the habits from past programming running interference, you get the opportunity to differentiate who you truly are inside – from the programming you have received up until now.It is important to have a full and healthy relationship with the self to have a full and healthy life. The more you are full of love for yourself, the more juicy and alive the whole world becomes for you just like you are when falling in love with another the colors are brighter, the smells are sweeter, life is more exciting and thrilling. You feel more emotionally and sensually and that is the key to a more passionate and fulfilling life.
Copyright 2002, Shama, Shamanesque Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.