Looking back in the last year, my greatest efforts were made in learning how to love myself unconditionally.
In other words, not on the condition that I was "perfect" or accomplished all 152.9 tasks running through my head. Not because I had traveled or made new friends or finally got into a handstand. But for all those achievements, and for my mistakes and fallings. For all the lessons I had learned, and for the amazing experiences I have had. For everything that is me, from every cell, beaming from the tips of my toes to the crown of my head.
Yes, this sounds incredibly hippy and on the edge of self-righteous.
However, I can attest to being personally self-judgemental and full of negative criticism daily, which slowly digs a deep, dark well within me. I was surprised at how deeply low my self-esteem and self-worth sunk, and how it was so difficult to feel inner happiness.
Yes, I go around with a smile on my face. Yes, I greet my dear friends, colleagues, and patients in the morning with a warm heart and full attention. I am empathetic and sympathetic.
But what do I think about myself?
"I am not enough."
It took many years to get to the moment when I could actually feel this thing called self-love. Not just inner peace and happiness, but love.
I could list many wonderful qualities about myself to be proud of. But I had to get out of the head, and into my heart, my core, deep within my soul.
Practicing self-love not only helps me foster my own well-being, but also improves my relationships with others, whether it be with friends, clients, or co-workers. The care we deliver and attention we give to one another is reflective of our own individual capacity for compassion. We are only able to give from the depths of our individual wells.
How do I foster self-love?
Several dear friends from my yoga and meditation groups gave me these guides. I can attest to their success. I recommend picking at least one at sticking it with it. It can take many months to develop a habit. Like learning to brush your teeth - it took a while in childhood to learn this but now you cannot wake up in the morning without doing so, right? So keep at it, be patient, and see the effects unfold:
1. Repeat one of these mantras as many times as you can, and with conviction, even if you don't yet believe or feel it!
"I love myself 100%, completely and unconditionally."
"I am pure, perfect and complete."
When I first started doing the first mantra, I immediately told my friend that I only love myself 50%. She advised me to keep saying it over and over, even if I did not believe it to be true, and eventually I would feel 100% in love with every part of myself.
And she was right.
There are days when I go back to 10% and struggle. Then I remind myself it is all about each effort, and life goes through high tides and low tides. There is no race to getting to the finish line. Be patient with yourself and know that every moment of effort will take you tremendous leaps forward beyond what you recognize currently.
I can personally attest to using the second one for the last 8 years, and only in the last few months did I actually feel convinced of being in alignment with this statement. Sometimes words are little seeds, lying dormant in our beings until the conditions are right to start germinating and then bloom fully. And how much better to say positive words than negative ones.
2. Self love mudra:
There are many hand mudras, and I recommend you find the one that calls to you. I have been using this one, making my hands in the shape of a heart:
You can silently repeat to yourself as your hands are in the mudra position: “I receive each moment of life as a gift and blessing." Remember what your are grateful for in this moment. You can also use one of the mantras above, or use the mudra during your regular meditation practice.
3. Your Inner Child:
Visualize yourself as a child. See this image inside of you - anywhere it may be in your body, maybe in your heart, or in your lower belly. Tell this child that you love her no matter what, 100%, unconditionally, no matter what she does. You may even want to embrace this child. Soothing our past in this way is highly effective.
4. White Light Visualization:
Lie down, and visualize a white light entering you from the crown of your head, and radiating down to your toes.
Repeat these statements 3 times each:
"I am created by divine light.
I am sustained and nourished by divine light.
I am protected by divine light.
I am surrounded and supported by divine light.
I am ever going into divine light."
You may wish to inhale white light while saying the affirmation, and then exhale out another color representing a release of the past or negativity.
While massaging an herbal cream or essential oil onto you, tell your body parts that you love them. For example, if you're massaging lotion onto your hands, say, "I love you hands, you are beautiful and incredible and I love you." Say these words with conviction even if you don't yet feel them to be true. Maybe take a moment to be grateful for the work your hands have done during the day, such as helping you eat delicious food or hold a loved one.
6. Love it ALL:
As for the parts of you that you don't like, those are the parts that need even more love. In a child, you would love those parts even more, and so you need to for yourself as well.
Say to yourself:
"I love myself including..." or
"I love myself unconditionally including when I..." or
"I want to work to improve this about myself but I still love it 100% because it's part of me currently and I love me."
Visualize sending waves of love, coming from your heart, to the parts of you that you don't like.
Remember there is no such thing as "perfect." I have spent much of my life trying to fit into a prescribed box of right and wrong, or following a rule book that if I do "x,y and z" and follow a prescribed path, then only will I be happy and successful. The truth is that our lives are nonlinear and we can create new amorphous packages of what is essential, unique, and amazingly happy. My favorite prayer reminds me of this:
Om Purnamadah Purnamidam Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnamevavasheshyate
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
That is perfect, this is perfect, perfect comes from perfect
Take perfect from perfect, the remainder is perfect
May peace and peace and peace be everywhere
*Special Thank You in this writing to Laura Espinoza-Wulach from Camellia-Infused Healing
And to teachings from The School of Practical Philosophy
See Wellness Within
For more wellness information straight to your inbox, sign up for the newsletter!