I found this really powerful and want to explore it more, loving myself as a totality. It was healing in many ways. It can be hard to acknowledge having good qualities, and bringing a kind appreciation to this might feel hard for some, but by doing so it’s nurturing a sense of self worth. In contrast we might be all too aware of our short comings, but use this awareness to feel bad about ourselves and instead this approach allows us to turn a kind well wishing to where we struggle.
Loving Kindness is said to be unconditional – loving what is there for what it is, not because of what we get in return. How much more do we need this unconditional love towards ourselves? Samuel Becket said: “ever tried, ever failed? No matter, try again, fail again, fail better”. This is an expression of an attitude of Loving Kindness to the places where we struggle, fail or fall short – not demanding perfection in oder to be loved, but loving ourselves as we navigate our way through life, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.
When I learnt to meditate 30 years ago I would alternate between Loving Kindness and Mindfulness, sometimes doing both in one day. Now I focus on mindfulness and despite teaching self-care practices I noticed recently how I make little time for them in my own practice. I’ve started doing the 4-7-8 breathing each day to see the effect of doing this for a month and this is part of taking time to explore more of the self-care aspect of practice. I’m also committing to making this year a year focused more on Loving Kindness and self-care practice.
Let It Be
As I do this a teaching by my teacher’s teacher Ajhan Chah has taken on extra significance. In talking about meditation he said:
Do not make yourself into anything.
Do not be a meditator.
Do not become enlightened.
When you sit, let it be.
When you walk, let it be.
Grasp at nothing.
If you haven’t wept deeply,
you haven’t begun to meditate.
The Frightened Gay Child
Instead, as I sit and “let it be” what comes through can be a rawness, a fear, an overwhelming sense of panic sometimes. At other times a sense of ease and joy. As I lay in bed today about to get up and meditate, I noticed a familiar sense of fear. I brought my hand to my heart and another to my shoulder and lay holding myself – remembering the last line of this teaching, and whilst I did not weep, I lay feeling a fear that was embedded in my body, which as I breathed into it took me to being a child being told off, a child waking up feeling worried about the day ahead, a child that learnt to control his expressions of spontaneity in order to be loved, a child that knew he had a terrible secret – being gay – that had to be hidden, even from himself. And I spoke kindly to that fear in my body, held it and wished myself well. It feels as if there is so much more for my heart to open to and embrace and that will be the journey of this year.
Moustafa Abdelrahman is running some online mindfulness training courses. To see details click here