Learning to love oneself

Last week I spoke of noticing the ‘always’ and ‘never’ thoughts that can lie in wait to pounce on us at moments of stress. “Why do I always…” Instead with mindfulness one comes back to the present moment and notices that what’s happening right now is ‘this’. One doesn’t then need to draw from what has happened the conclusion this is all I am. Instead one can start to hold the present moment as an ever changing experience that includes times of struggle and also of joy. Its like the kaleidoscope I used to play with as a child – an ever changing pattern, growing out of what preceded it and morphing into what follows and yet also unique in itself at any one moment. Never still yet always perfect in the present moment. Each moment fresh and new yet intimately linked to past and future. I’ve often thought that a kaleidoscope is the perfect metaphor for the insight we seek through mindfulness practice. Letting go into the constant now that also embraces past and future thereby transcending time altogether. A state that just ‘is’ and that rests in perfect harmony with the flow of existence.

So what do we do when we’re not in this state but lost in the cacophony of gremlin voices of self-blame and self-bullying? I always find the Loving Kindness practice to be a great source of nourishment. On an absolute level there is no self so why wish oneself well? But on the relative level on which we all live there is very much the experience of a self to care for, nourish, sustain and love. A self who feel loneliness, the sting of indifference, the sorrow of loss and the desire to be happy. As a child I remember my mother chastising me with her favourite phrase of admonishment whenever I did anything that aroused her displeasure. She would tell me “I hadn’t go the brains I was born with”. Over time this found its way in to my way of thinking and in the background there’s always this feeling that I’m not up to much in the old intelligence department. This wasn’t helped by being undiagnosed as dyslexic so having to endure being treated as the thick boy who couldn’t spell and took longer than anyone else to copy information off the board, until I amazed my teachers by getting good exam results after the first year of secondary school!

What one can explore in the Loving Kindness practice is this background rumble of gremlin voices. Looking for a way to hold oneself with kindness despite a feeling on some level that one may not deserve it. Sitting with this and holding it with compassion can start to shift how one feels and open up a possibility for feeling a more gentle and compassionate attitude to oneself.