Learning to Love Oneself
A key aspect of learning to love oneself, is giving a break to the old habit of self-criticism, judgement and doubt. Criticism only keeps us stuck, and blind - it does not help us learn, grow or see clearly the true nature of our situation.
The first step in this practice, is simply to become more aware - pay a bit more attention to your thoughts, and try to notice when you are being critical with yourself.
And when you notice it, surely I hope you don't go and criticize yourself again, for being critical with yourself...! Just gently, and kindly, take a step back from the momentum of these thoughts, and observe the energy and the flow - feel it, embrace it, with as much love and compassion as you can. Notice what is behind this momentum - maybe an emotion, such as fear, doubt, insecurity, inferiority, anger, sadness... or a non-specific vibrational sensation... or an entire memory of a past experience from long ago, perhaps.
Often we may find it possible to visualize where others may be engaging in harmful behavior, or seeming to betray themselves.
And we intuitively know - and can see - what is hurting them,
and what is going to benefit them.
We can use this sightfulness for our own sake, too.
For this we need detachment - a little distance from our own experience in the situation.
And what stops us from taking this step back, is generally the mind or ego's fear of the clarity of intuition.
The ego does not, at any cost, want to be caught red-handedly at what it is doing - it does not wish to face its own fear, illusion, and delusion.
This is where the unconditional loving and compassion for oneself comes in,
and where a supportive listener can be sometimes helpful.
Gradually we can also learn to listen to ourselves compassionately -
this is the benefit of meditation practice.
Meditation is not for sake of perfecting…
it is just a simple exercise to strengthen the mind's ability and tolerance for the discomfortable experience of groundlessness.
When we begin to surf the depth of a well of emotions we have long ignored or avoided, or the presence of energy moving in the body, or the absence of anything that the consciousness is familar with... generally the first sense that arises in the mind is fear. doubt. anxiety. Then we can come back to the physical sensation of the breath - air passing in and out of the nostrils - or the sensation of the heartbeat... as a rudder for our little boat of experience, as we explore this ocean of unfamilar feelings. We are still here and now, even when the mind is rolling in the waves...
So in this way, meditation is a training exercise. In essence nothing more or less than that... a simple tool to help us stabilize our senses.
And to truly benefit from the exercise, requires consistency,
and the willingness to be gentle, kind and loving with oneself - all aspects of ego included.
For example - mostly we feel loving to God only when we feel happy,
or when life is going the way we tend to like it.
But the true love of God, is purely love for the sake of loving.. because…
this pure love is the essence of the soul - each and every soul.
And the soul is the essence of divinity.
So don't get discouraged, if your practice doesn't feel good -
it is all part of the process for you of learning how to handle the ups and downs of your own genetic and circumstantial make-up.