“Until I came to terms with myself internally, I could travel to the ends of the earth and not feel at peace.” – Gay hendricks
If I am the longest relationship of my life
Isn’t it time to nurture intimacy
With the person
I lie in bed with each night
– Rupi Kaur
If loving ourselves was simple, wouldn’t we simply do it? Depending on our life experience, our social surroundings, and even the political environment we live amongst, the practice of loving ourselves may not naturally occur as a top priority.
Self-care can be an expression of self-love, but it does not necessarily begin or stop there. While self-care and self-love have become popular hashtags and Facebook Meme phenomena, there is still much to uncover beyond the fad. Our psyche contains many layers to learn how to tolerate, and eventually love.
Love is not only a feeling, it is also an action. Self-love is a practice, meaning you cannot perfect it and you may not catch on immediately. It is often a shift in perception, as opposed to a “quick-fix” or checklist you can master in the next half hour. This is not a “how-to” manual on loving yourself, nor is it designed to shame you into changing your ways. You are on a unique path and your process is trusted here.
This section on Self-Love will give you ideas on how to bring the life-long meditation of loving yourself into your everyday reality. We will give you ample exercises to practice along the way, too. The section will be full of resources such as lectures, poetry, literary extracts, and audio snippets. We’ve collected all resources onto one page for your convenience. This section also explores the challenges and potential barriers of loving yourself. If you are in the process of walking the uphill battle of oppression, navigating trauma, integrating a heartbreak or death of a loved one, any other form of grief, these exquisitely rocky roads to self-love are honored here.
We hope to spark inspiration within you to keep on turning toward yourself with love, especially when it feels hard.
You can click around through the pages, using the red graphic above, which will be at the bottom of each page. Or, for the full experience, you can read through each page in order, following the “Next Up” buttons at the bottom of each page.
As a way of beginning, imagine entering into an old abandoned building. You’re not so happy to be there; it’s dark, it’s cold, and you are alone. However, there is something about it that intrigued you enough to go in. Suddenly you find a flashlight. Initially, you’re relieved to have better vision, but there are disturbing visuals and feelings that arise with seeing this dilapidated building more clearly. It is obvious it has not been explored, tended to, or cared for.
Take this as a metaphor for what it may feel like to start down (or continue on) the path of loving yourself. To have your psyche, your heart, your memories, your body, your mind, your feelings, your dreams, your relationships revealed through the practice of loving yourself may feel like going into untended inner real estate.
In his book Learning to Love Yourself, Gay Hendricks explains that as we practice loving ourselves we open up new levels of awareness. We see more of what needs to be loved within ourselves, within our relationships, and within our world. Love brings with it a refinement of how we see, and therefore informs our everyday vision. We embark on a journey of learning to love the unloved parts. With this expanded sense of awareness and reunion with the abandoned bits comes new challenges as well as joys. It shows what we want to clean up in that old house. This process of refinement can stretch us to the limit. This cleaning can feel like a chore, or an opportunity. Some days, it may feel more like one or the other. Some days it may feel like both.
In her book All About Love, Bell Hooks offers:
“False notions of love teach us that it is the place where we will feel no pain, where we will be in a state of constant bliss. We have to expose the falseness of these beliefs to see and accept the reality that suffering and pain do not end when we begin to love. In some cases when we are making the slow journey back from lovelessness to love, our suffering may become more intense. Acceptance of pain is part of loving practice. It enables us to distinguish constructive suffering from self-indulgent hurt. When love’s promise has never been fulfilled in our lives it is perhaps the most difficult practice of love to trust that the passage through the painful abyss leads to paradise.”
“The ‘night sea journey’ is the journey into the parts of ourselves that are split off, disavowed, unknown, unwanted, cast out, and exiled to the various subterranean worlds of consciousness… The goal of this journey is to reunite us with ourselves. Such a homecoming can be surprisingly painful, even brutal. In order to undertake it, we must first agree to exile nothing. – Stephen Cope
Start the Journey
As you choose to go down this road of loving yourself, know that pain may likely be a part of it. Illuminating the parts of yourself that need more care, more attention, and more love takes courage. And it takes patience. Know that this path is not a straight shot. You will forget and remember, get lost and feel found, a million times. To embark on the road of loving yourself can lead to more love for all of your relations. Spacing with Self- Love, there are three categories of the self we will consider: The Mind, The Body, and The Spirit.
Let’s begin with our potential friend or enemy, THE MIND.