So many simple phrases that mask the most complex of human experiences.
One of them that came to mind, on this our last of the 28-day challenge was: “You can’t really love anyone else until you love yourself.”
How many times have we heard this and said “that is absolutely, positively true!” before taking another breath and forgetting about it, because it’s not really stated in a way that’s practical.
Indeed, it is only human nature to turn and walk away from a cliff that is impossible to scale. Yet it is only human intelligence to ask the followup question “how?!” Just like it is only human evolutionary impulse to spend a lifetime finding the tools to actually DO it.
Today it occurred to me–after 16 years of practicing yoga asana, more than two years of a dedicated sitting practice and an increasingly intimate relationship with pranayama (thanks to guidance from an advanced teacher)–that the way to love yourself is like anything else valuable: it is hard-won and takes practice and dedicated effort.
These practices draw us into ourselves, time and again, to first meet and then develop a relationship with our inner selves. In the context of this relationship, like any other relationship, some of us yearn to understand more deeply, to get an intuitive sense of our inner world–to really marry ourselves, our existence.
How do we do this? Through a physical display–active or still. Through the body. We sit and breath and observe thoughts–train them and then observe them and then release them and then … you know? When we sit still, we gradually realize that nothing is pulling on us from the outside, and we go further and further inward, into ourselves.
For me, at first, this was very emotional. Still is oft times. Simply because I realize how much I wasn’t inside and was incapable of appreciating myself at my more fundamental level: just being, just miraculously functioning and breathing and thinking and sitting and seemingly still, yet incredibly electric and oceanic and outer spacious. In this little world (that could be big if one were an ant or a flee or a single cell or atom) inside my body.
It’s common to divorce the body and soul and spirit with language and then in concept. It’s easier that way–then you can say what’s temporary and what’s not. But in essence, we must also consider them merged and all the same because what else have we got to work with right now? What else, literally, matters?! The body is such a powerful vehicle and a living expression of the soul and spirit of a person–the lightness has a bulb and the bulb to us makes the containment and activation of that light possible. As we observe and learn about what goes on in and with that bulb, we increasingly care about it functioning and we develop a more sincere appreciation for how it works.
I digress, but not too far–we are still circling around like golden eagles, the concept of self love.
Many of us with parents and relatives who directed love at us from an early age had a good head start about love, that’s for sure. However, in some ways, this might have also been a distraction. For anyone conscious about their personal development, there comes a time when all the bets are off–you get dumped, someone who loved you madly, like a parent or grandparent, dies–and you must forge the way to loving yourself, alone.
That is what life is asking you to do. I would like to argue strongly, on this final day of our challenge, that we all keep it up. Because you have come so far to know one important thing: You can’t medicate this longing to know and love yourself–you can’t drink it, you can’t eat it, you can’t listen to it, you can’t read it, you can’t do anything from the outside to discover this love within. You have to be still. You have to go inside in order to more deeply love yourself–inside and out.