Whether you get swept up in the red hearts and roses or decide to go against them, there is no denying it – February invites us to contemplate love and closeness in all its forms. While Western culture tends to celebrate the nobleness of giving and sharing romantic love, at its core love is an invitation into a spiritual practice. And a spiritual practice starts from within. Love of self or self-love is a great place to begin. When we remember that we are an equally vital element in the web of universal connections, we start to see the world in a far more balanced way.
Self-love is wise, not selfish.
By loving ourselves enough we recognize that as healthy adults, we bear responsibility for looking after our own needs. This is not selfish – it is wise. As Dr. Wayne Dyer writes in his famous book 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” What comes out of you in the form of words and actions is what’s inside of you.
What do you have inside?
Dyer wisely observes that we show up as we are feeling. If I’m frustrated with how things are going, then frustration and angst will come out whether I like it or not. And if I’m genuinely well, then many of the daily frustrations won’t cause upset because I’ll feel grounded in myself. This is why taking time out to consider how we truly are is a vital part of self-care. Our heart and mind connection retreats help you do this in a fun, relaxed and powerful way. When we take time to pause and check within, we create space to engage with our mind, heart, body and spirit and what they need from us. This creates greater harmony and resilience over times when one or more of these parts highjack us in an attempt to meet their needs at all costs.
3 practices to aid you in discovering and being who you really are
Having supported clients for years in creating healthy and productive lives at the core of which are relationships, here’s what I’ve observed. Our relationships with others mirror our own growth. We can work to improve and attract better relationships into our lives by working on the relationships we already have and/or by working on ourselves. Below you will find three practices that will aid you in respecting and loving yourself more.
1. Become friends with your true feelings
Whatever you feel, stop long enough to notice it and cradle it enough so it can properly inform you about what your deepest feeling, longing, need, or wish may be. If you have people around you, share your feelings with them. When we give expression to feelings, we transform them. You can also write it out, dance it or create from it. I often encourage my clients to write a letter about what is true for them, even if they tear it to pieces once they finish it. Emotion is a powerful energy that must be allowed to take form. Trying to distract or distance yourself from what you feel will only alienate you from yourself. This creates an internal split between the part of you that holds the feeling and the part that attempts to deny it. Instead, take action in accordance with your true needs and stay integrated. This will support self-love.
2. Face your fear(s)
If you feel fear, stay with it to get to the bottom of the key lesson it has for you. This too is self-love. In one of my meditations a few years ago, I got to face one of my fears with the help of my spiritual teacher. My fear took the form of a voracious and incredibly vicious wolf. As I faced him in the distance, I could see his eyes squint in anger, his body ready to attack and tear at my flesh. I was deeply scarred. My spiritual guide asked me to convey what I saw and gently encouraged me to stay with it at first and then to move towards this beast, trusting it would be ok.
I remember tasting salt from the tears that rolled down my cheeks as I imagined getting closer to this intimidating creature. My body began to shake but my teacher kept reminding me to “trust and keep going”. “It is only a fear”, he kept repeating patiently with deep empathy and love for my normal reaction. By the time I got within an arms reach of the beast, I burst out crying. The visualization was so intense I had no idea how I managed to keep my eyes closed were it not for the calm authority of the voice guiding me. I trusted that voice and kept advancing forward to embrace the black wolf. And as I reached out in horror towards it fearing the worst, the vicious animal turned into a white, calm and incredibly gentle dog. Embracing him gave me strength and a strong sense of relief. With the help of my guide, I found the inner courage to face my deepest fear.
3. Give yourself space to reintegrate when you feel overwhelmed
If you feel overwhelmed by something, give yourself space and time to retreat from the issue so you can recover your inner strengths. This is a vital self-love practice. When the mind comes across something that overwhelms us, it often uncouples from highly resourceful brain areas in the prefrontal lobes. This can happen at different levels: emotional, physical, spiritual or mental. If you ever felt frozen for a moment, unsure what to say, or very angry or tearful, chances are your healthy and balanced responses were maxed out. In the moment of overwhelming our available resources are insufficient to respond to the demand. Staying strong in such moments and acting from our integrated center becomes impossible. Time and space to recover and integrate our skills, wisdom, and resources however allows us to come back and face what needs to be faced with power and grace.
Tips for cultivating love in relationship with other people.
- Treat each person in your life with absolute reverence. Each human being in your life actively chooses to give you time, energy, and a piece of themselves. They don’t have to do this. The more mindfulness, genuine connection, trust, support, and reverence you will bring into your relationships, the stronger they will become. Don’t stoop low or play games with people. Do not treat others as mare conveniences. Leave that for those who need to grow up. A great way to improve each relationship you have is by asking the other person the following question:
How can I be a better lover/friend/partner/colleague to you?
- Consider how you can improve how you relate with those you cherish most. The people we treat most poorly are often those we love the most. This happens because we expect they will forgive us. Next time you catch yourself in this situation stop and affirm the people you love. Find a calm way to ask for what you need or put across how you feel. Many people spend way too much time in their heads. They build stories and fight off made-up worries and assumptions in their mind instead of relating to and with other people. If the help you need can only come from others, it will come more readily when they know how you feel and what is really going on.
Love is a beautiful feeling. Media and art will tell us it is flippant and never lasting. These are warped models of love. Research tells us otherwise. Feeling loved restores our nervous system into balance and health. It provides a biofeedback mechanism of deep safety in which we can flourish and be creative.
If you want to receive love – practice giving it. This starts with engaging your lover archetype. You can do this by developing a strong conviction that you are very loving. Then, bring love to others. Bring it with the way you speak, how you think and how you connect physically, emotionally and intellectually. Keep your spirit strong and choose love.
Recommended books to explore further
- 10 Secrets for Success & Inner Peace by Wayne Dyer – for anyone who wants to become free, healthy and very loving
- How to be an adult in relationships: the five keys to mindful loving by David Richo – for anyone wishing to strengthen how they love and nurture their relationships