I just recently heard again a story I’d heard awhile back about the Dalai Lama who, when he came to this country for the first time, he was teaching the Loving-kindness Meditation – which of course begins with expressing LK to yourself first: “May I Be Happy, May I Be at Peace”…etc. he was dumbfounded when people would tell him they had trouble with that part of it. That it was easier to hold other people in their hearts, but they couldn’t do it for themselves…they had a hard time loving and being compassionate to themselves. He was completely taken aback. It was apparently unheard of in his country!
What is it about this culture that makes it difficult to love and be compassionate to ourselves? Are we taught that this is selfish and vain? Is it a holdover from our Christian "work & self-sacrifice at all times" ethic?
Or is it because we have such a hero-worshipping culture? We glorify beautiful young stars who can sing perfectly and dance amazingly, or excel at sports or succeed phenomenally in business. And when we compare ourselves to this standard we always come up short. Is it not enough to be our personal best...we need to be impossibly stellar?
Maybe it's a combination of these two things. Whatever it is, we can begin to turn this around with practice.
1. Take notice of all the times you berate yourself for little things throughout the day, like forgetting something or not completing a task you wanted to complete, or not communicating something to someone like you wanted to, or giving into temptation and eating the entire box of Valentine's chocolates :-). Just notice how many times a day you are judging yourself. And now, take note of how many times you praise yourself for the times you are loving and patient, and you do communicate something well, and you do finish a task and you do remember something!
2. Take a page from my friend Rhonda Britten's playbook: At the end of the day, write down 5 things you can acknowledge yourself for. They could be as simple as you made someone smile, or that you made time to meditate that day. Then look over the list and allow yourself to feel how good it feels to nurture loving and accepting yourself.
3. Listen to the guided meditation I've posted here on this website that helps nurture your "inner hero" (which I guided congregants through on Sunday.)
4. Now that you’re on our way to nurturing love and compassion for yourself –the next logical thing is to realize that we are all connected. Like one big gorgeous diamond with millions of facets…we are all facets of the same one gem. So it becomes natural then to want to extend our love when we first nurture it within ourselves. We find that being kind comes naturally…therefore we let someone in on the highway, or we have a genuine smile for the cashier, or we find ourselves raising our hand to volunteer to help out. It’s who we are as expressions of love to extend that love into the world that we are so much a part of.
5. Take your love and acceptance of yourself and your love and acceptance of others into action in the world. Meditate and/or pray about how you can best use your time and talents to share your love with the world....to be of genuine service. And then, get moving in that direction.
Remember what Ram Dass said in his book, How Can I Help?:
"When our models of who we are fall away, we are free simply to meet and be together. And when this sense of being encompasses all -- one another, the park, the rain, everything -- separateness dissolves and we are united in compassion. Helpful Being then is the goal. What we have to offer others will come from our sense of unity. So we look for and cherish those experiences in which we feel ourselves connected to all things and to the universe....There's more to the deed than the doer and what's been done. You yourself feel transformed and connected to a deeper sense of identity."