It's almost Valentine's Day, which means you may be feeling sad about your singledom, getting excited for some chocolate, rolling your eyes at how cheesy a holiday it is, or feeling ready for a hot date with your partner. Whatever your situation, and whatever you think about Valentine's Day, the winter is a special time to give yourself a little more love, and feel the warmth within.
Self-love is essential to our health and happiness. And no, I'm not talking about the molded-silicone-water-based-lube-and-plenty-o'-batteries kind of self-love. Duh: we all know that kind of self-love is all good and fun. But today I'm talking about having the courage to make a deliberate decision to make a special place for yourself in your own heart … just as you are right this second, flaws, fears and all.
I know this can be difficult especially when you've had a particularly crappy day, when you are feeling hopeless, or frustrated, or so fat that you fear you may be mistaken for a cetacean. But before you dive for the chardonnay or contemplate re-watching all four seasons of Scandal until you are bleeding from the eyes, first try offering yourself this little pre-Valentine's Day gift:
It's called a metta (or lovingkindness) meditation, and it's one of my favorite exercises for feeling the love that already exists in your life. It's a simple yet profound practice that will foster some sweet, sweet lovin', and you get to reserve all the positive vibes for yourself.
Metta meditation is an amazing way to see how you can dedicate energy to loving yourself without it looking anything like selfishness or narcissism. It's a simple ritual, always available at your disposal, to nurture compassion for yourself, but also for others. Think of it as a little sugar-free candy heart you can give yourself that says, "Hey you, you're doing great. Here's some love." By feeling OK in yourself, you will be able to loosen the grip on thinking others should be a certain way, too.
As Thich Nhat Han says, "Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person." With that in mind, you begin metta meditation practice by offering compassion to yourself first. It can feel relatively easy to offer kindness and love to the parts of ourselves that we already like, but metta's real power is revealed when we offer lovingkindness to the parts of ourselves we don't like.
Now let's give this a try!
- Place yourself in a seated, upright position, either sitting in a chair or on a mat or cushion.
- Begin by focusing on your breath, following the sensation of the air as it enters and leaves into your lungs.
- Feel your chest rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Continue this focused breathing for five to ten breaths.
- Next, gently bring into your mind one thing that you don't like about yourself. It may be your quick temper or your tendency to procrastinate or the fact that you drank too much again on Friday night. Or, if you're like me, it may how bad you feel when you see what your butt looks naked (TMI? Well, this is my post and I reserve my right to over-share).
- Now, silently offer that part of yourself this blessing: May you be safe, may you be peaceful, may you be free from suffering.
- Continue to repeat this blessing for the duration of your meditation time. Aim for 15 minutes. Set a timer so you don't feel like you've been sitting there for ages. Even five minutes will make a huge difference.
In time, you will expand your focus and offer the blessing to all aspects of yourself: the good, the bad and the wobbly. Then you can extend the blessing to all your loved ones as well, offering them peace, safety, and freedom from suffering too. Eventually, you can move on to offer lovingkindness to people that you feel neutral about, acquaintances or strangers.
Finally, when you have "mastered" all of this, you can try offering the same set of blessings to everyone in the whole world, including the people you're angry with, the people who've hurt you, and the people from whom you are estranged. I know, it sounds like a tall order but trust me, offering that blessing is as much about what it does for you as what it does for anyone else.
But first remember to start with yourself. So here is your homework:
- Everyday for the next week give yourself fifteen minutes.
- Set your timer.
- Get your big or small (but definitely lovable) butt on the cushion.
- Open your heart and make a nice comfy spot for yourself in there.
- Rock your metta meditation.
I would love to hear how this goes for you. Please send me an email or leave me a comment. Now go and love yourselves silly!
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