For the last 23 years, I've been teaching women how to ease up on the pressure, the perfectionism, the striving, and explore self-nurturing, even self-love.
When I started this work, self-nurturing meant getting your nails done or taking a night off from making dinner, and self-love translated in people's minds—I kid you not—to mean masturbation.
I’d say we’ve come a long way.
Nowadays, self-nurturing and self-love are seen as paths to resiliency, to greater creativity, as essential. We have experts galore gabbing about it. That's fantastic—and it's dangerous, for two reasons:
- Self-care and self-love can easily slip into being an oppressive should, an item on your spiritual to-do list that you are failing at. (Irony of ironies, right?)
- It becomes something you're sure everybody else is experiencing, but you are somehow cut off from. Unable to experience.
In both cases, the sweet repose and coming home to yourself that you crave gets pushed away, walled off, and you wither, not even knowing what's between you and what you most crave—and deserve.
If that sounds familiar, here's a way back to your own heart:
1. Go to the field.
When I notice I'm being mean to myself because I'm not loving myself (more irony!) I stop forcing myself to be kind to myself. Instead, I repeat to myself, There is room for it all. There is room for this, too. I remind myself I don't have to make room for how I am feeling, there is already room here for it all.
2. Try recognizing there is room for your grumpiness, your hard spots, your inner dehydration.
Imagine the field in the Rumi poem "out beyond right doing and wrong doing" and meet yourself there. It's such a big wide open field that you don't have to make room—or mow. You only need remember it's there.
3. Touch desire.
"Desire is the flow of life we yearn to swim in, the urge to be one with Spirit, and the way to stay in touch with this flow is through knowing why we want without insisting that we get it. It is staying with the feeling of desire, following it with curiosity, that leads us ever closer to what we most want. All desire, at its heart, is about a longing to be loved and to be one with All That Is."
I wrote this inThe Life Organizer and it's one of the truest things I've ever said.The opposite of forcing yourself to love yourself is to sincerely touch your desire for self-regard or your desire for less painful noise in your head and heart.
4. Follow any inkling of desire to be free, to be soft with yourself without expectation.
One of the most powerful ways I know to do that is to ask myself, What am I really wanting right now? and Is there love available even here?
5. Step away from the drama.
When I notice I'm all strung out about how unlovable I am, I say to myself, Self, you are so adorable! Thinking your thoughts are a big deal, that they are Truth with a capital T. Thoughts are like the weather. If Eve Ensler called right now and told you how fabulous you are, you'd have different thoughts. So why not put them down now, like you do Luna's dog poop once you've scooped it?
Don't tangle with your thoughts; simply dispose of them with care.
6. Love up someone else.
Go do something small, kind and anonymous for someone else. Buy coffee for the person behind you at the drive through, send a love postcard to an author or artist you admire without a return address, write a glowing review for a favorite book on Amazon.
7. Love begets love.
In the end, it's helpful for me to remember self-love isn't a place where we take up permanent residence, it's an openhearted state we cultivate, and it's a state that always welcomes home. And home is easier to find when we remember there is room for it, touch our desires, stop fondling our thoughts, and connect with the world.
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