My theme this year is acceptance + surrender. As a part of this theme, I wanted to really dive into what this meant in my whole life. One of the areas I saw a huge need for acceptance was the acceptance of myself. I am sure many can relate to this — I am my own worst critic. I have this inner voice that is constantly pointing out my flaws, screaming out in insecurity, + reminding me that I will never be enough no matter how hard I try. It finally dawned on me recently that the only way to hush this inner voice is to find a way to accept it. I need to learn to view this voice through the eyes of the teacher of love.
I believe that in order to accept myself [+ this inner critic], I have to learn to really love myself… + after reading, listening to podcasts, + talking to friends about it — I realized that almost everyone is struggling to completely love themselves. So, last week, when I saw a workshop on self-love being offered by a Buddhist Monk at my yoga studio… I knew it was the Universe’s sign for me to be there.
The workshop was led by a wise, joyful Monk [he literally radiated light + kindness] named Bhante Sujatha [read more about him + his temple in Woodstock, IL here!]. He started off the workshop with sharing something that made me decide to take the idea of self-love // loving kindness a lot more seriously than I originally had —
If you aren’t practicing kindness towards yourself, how can you genuinely be practicing it towards those around you?
I believe that kindness + love are core parts of me — however, this mic-drop moment really caused me to question myself. How would I know the depths of my kindness towards others if I had never really experienced it towards myself?
Bhante’s answer was through meditation.
SIDE NOTE: My journey with meditation is for a different post ; ) — but if you are struggling with where to start with your practice, I recommend downloading the free app Insight Timer + starting with the book: Turning Your Mind Into an Ally.
That’s the beautiful thing about meditation — it’s a practice. It’s not a class you go to + then BAM you’re healed — it’s a daily commitment to yourself. Bhante went on to explain the 7 different principles of loving-kindness that you achieve through your commitment to a meditation practice.
#1] Self Love. When you are loving towards yourself, your love for others will pour out automatically. This reminds me of a principle that I’ve lived by for years — you can’t fill anyone’s cup if your cup isn’t full. Or, as the flight attendants say before takeoff, put your own oxygen mask on before helping anyone else with theirs!
When you practice meditation + spend time with yourself — with your own mind + thoughts, you are filling up your own cup. You are tapping into that deeper source within that allows you to live from your truth + follow your inner guidance system.
Having trouble with finding self-love during your meditation practice? Take a second + step back. Watch your breath… it moves in + out without you forcing anything — it just flows for you. Feel your heartbeat… it has been working for you for the past X years [in my case — 26!!!]. Your heart beats 115,200 times per day. Find parts of your body to be grateful for + allow yourself to focus on those during your practice. Let the love for your body come from the appreciation of what it can do + all that it does for you day in + day out.
#2] Compassion. I’ve always thought of myself as a compassionate person. However, I realized how much self-compassion I lacked. I had always known the compassion of feeling + listening to another person’s pain ++ responding with love + sympathy, but I never did that for myself.
Bhante explained compassion as a way to give something away + letting go of it completely, without expectation. For example, when you spend time compassionately listening to a friend — you are giving away your time with no expectation to get it back. How often do we do this to ourselves? How often do I spend time with myself expecting nothing in return?
My answer was — very rarely. My big a-ha moment came when I realized, self-compassion is letting go of the negative thought patterns in my mind. Self-compassion is letting go of what does not serve me. Letting go of negative energy, letting go of those sources of energy in my life, in order to practice self-compassion I had to learn to let go without any expectation.
A thought that really resonated with me during my a-ha moment… “I can let go of the same thing 1000 times ++ that’s okay.” Just because you let something go once, doesn’t mean that it might not bubble up in another form — give yourself the grace to let something go many times over. Meditation has shown me how to let thoughts pass, similar to sitting on the side of a busy highway — you can watch the cars pass, see the characters in the car, the stories waiting to unravel, but you do not have to get into that car. You can stay as the observer on the side of the highway — practicing self-compassion by staying at peace with yourself + letting those thoughts go on without you.
#3] Rejoice Together. “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Amen to that. I have began to look at others + rather than seeing our differences, I see our similarities. Humans share 99.9% of their DNA with each other — we really have many more things in common than different. While our differences can make us beautiful or unique or special, it’s within our similarities that we really experience love.
When you can look at someone’s work — whether that’s a piece of art they’ve created or a story they’ve written or an event they planned ++ you can see yourself as a part of it, you can truly rejoice with them. When you know that we all come from the same source — including our work — you can be as proud of someone’s work as the person who created it + want to celebrate it with them rather than feeling envious that it doesn’t have your name on top of it.
Meditate on the interconnectedness of all –you will begin to feel included in everything. FOMO is the biggest lie your ego has ever led you to believe! You are right where you are needed in this moment. You begin to feel the responsibility that is yours to take for the wellbeing of your environment [both your inside world + outer world] ++ you find the joy in celebrating others success as if it was your own.
Want to hear the last 4 principles that Bhante shared? Stay tuned for next week when I continue on my road to self love.