Can I Love Myself Even Though…

My new favorite mantra is, “can I love myself even though…” I fill in the blank with whatever I’m struggling with or judging myself for at the time. It has been a huge shift in perspective for me. It gives me that perspective which allows me to refocus and consider what the goal of this life truly is. Even though it’s extremely hard for me, my main goal in life is to love myself and others and be a positive force in the world. Love is the greatest gift that we have been given, and there is no greater way to express our gratitude for this miraculous capacity for love than to let that love light shine bright enough to encompass our whole being and those around us. It’s more fun to imagine life as a game than a test. It’s not a game of aggression and struggle against forces trying to destroy us either. It’s a casual game like the ones I enjoy most of all. It’s simply about exploring, being curious, and having fun, seeing what wonderous things we can create along the way.

It’s easy to become distracted by all the negatives we’ve been conditioned, and to a certain extent, designed to focus our attention on. We are constantly trying to find happiness and self-acceptance by changing external circumstances. If only I was skinnier. If only I was smarter. If only I was less anxious. If only, if only, if only. Now when I notice myself getting upset about these rather trivial imperfections, I’ll say to myself, “can I love myself even though I’m imperfect?” Then I listen to that opening feeling in my heart answering back with a resounding, emphatic, “YES!” If my initial reaction is a stubborn “no”, (as it sometimes is) then I’ll ask myself to give it a try anyway. I’ll look at it as a challenge to work with and overcome. It doesn’t have to be so serious. It’s all a part of the game. Looking at it this way keeps me from judging myself for judging myself, which is obviously counterproductive. Instead I become curious and excited to tackle this new challenge.

We are all born full of love and acceptance. I see the truth of this in the faces of the children I work with every day. It’s only as we grow older that we begin to close our hearts to the world and to ourselves out of fear. And when you stop and think about it, this fear or anxiety we feel is an instinctual act of self love. We have these feelings so that we are able to recognize danger and protect ourselves. You aren’t broken. You mind and body are just doing their best to keep you safe. It’s up to us to use our higher consciousness to teach our minds and bodies that it’s okay to relax. The more we practice opening again, the easier it becomes. Sometimes when I’m having a particularly difficult time, I’ll remind myself of that. Even though it seems impossible to practice self love and self care right now, I know that it will only get easier and easier if I keep trying anyway, if I forgive myself for all the hiccups and hard days along the way.

This mantra doesn’t always have to be directed at self-criticism either. For example, sometimes I get overwhelmed with how much I want to do around my house. In that scenario, I’ll ask myself, “can I love myself even though my house is a bit messy or not exactly the way I’d like it to be?” Then rather than ruminating on all I’ve got to do, I’ll instead focus my energy on the fact that I can love myself anyway. It really takes a lot of the pressure off and reminds me of what’s truly important.

As you go through your day today, I encourage you to try this mantra out for yourself. Notice how different our “problems” feel after reaffirming our love for ourselves. When we give ourselves the love we seek, everything else starts to feel a little less important, less scary, less urgent. There is nothing for us to fear, no suffering that can touch us, when we truly practice self love and self compassion each and every day, when we love ourselves even though…

Self Love with ADHD: The Big Heart Approach

With Love

My intention for today (and hopefully for many days to come) is to move and act from a place of love. There is so much joy to be had in each moment if we can just manage to stay centered in our hearts. I’ve noticed that a lot of my anxiety comes from being too focused on myself. I am so worried about how I’ll look, what I should say, what other people will think of me, etc. Sometimes the best way to get past those fears is for me to shift my focus to others.

At times I’ve felt guilty about how often I am thinking about myself as compared to others. I’ve even wondered if I could be a narcissist. However, once I considered that I may actually be autistic, this self absorption made a little more sense. Even though it is quite difficult for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes or make their thoughts and feelings the priority, it still helps when I try.

For work today I was accompanying a client’s mother to testify for grand jury. She was very nervous about it and wanted someone there to support her. I am the victim advocate, so naturally that is my job. Yet I always feel hesitant about it. How on earth could I be a comfort to someone? I feel terribly inadequate to be honest. I’ve never been very good at comforting people. Especially people I don’t know well. It is also hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that anyone would want someone like me to be there. The things that seem to bring others a sense of security and comfort are the exact same things that make me anxious.

As I was driving to the courthouse this morning, I was very nervous. What should I say to her? Will I remember what she looks like? How long will we have to wait together? What if she cries? I was mainly worrying about myself. I didn’t want to look or feel awkward. I didn’t want to seem incompetent. But then I remembered that none of this was about me. It was about this poor mother. She was feeling scared and I had been entrusted to help her. This morning was about doing everything that I could to make her more comfortable and to be there for her.

I stopped thinking about myself. I stopped worrying if I would make a fool out of myself. Instead I began to imagine how this mother must be feeling this morning. I imagined her as a close friend. I felt such tender, protective, loving emotions well up inside of me. This allowed me to walk into the courthouse with confidence. I had a mission and it wasn’t to save face. It was to be a friendly face for this woman.

Moving from a place of love, compassion, and consideration for others evaporates fear, anger, even sadness. For some people this comes more naturally than others. And it seems to me that for the people that do this instinctively, they seem to be much happier people in general. It is those of us that become fixated on ourselves that suffer unnecessarily.

So from now on I am going to try my best to learn from the example of those generous, open-hearted people around me. No matter what I am doing, I am going to try to do it with love in my heart. With love as my guide and my inspiration.

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Love Without Fear

A book I recently finished had a chapter near the end that touched on the idea of unconditional love. It tied this love that we are all capable of and that most of us have experienced at some time or another to the idea of inner divinity. We have often heard from spiritual or religious texts that we all contain a godly essence, a spark of the divine. This book suggests that we are experiencing a direct connection with that higher self when we feel such deep love. That in fact, this god or higher consciousness or whatever it might be, is this love.

While I don’t particularly believe in any religion or in a deity of any kind, I thought this was a beautiful and profound sentiment. There is certainly something transcendent about those moments when we lose ourselves in that feeling of unconditional love. It’s as if nothing else in the world matters. There is a sense of peace and clarity in our hearts and minds. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to always be able to feel that way? To always love with our entire being in every moment? To look at everyone you meet with the tenderness and compassion that you would look at your own child? It is an intoxicating idea. How different life would be!

Many teachers and texts have suggested that it is indeed possible to reach that state. Perhaps we’ve even walked among those who have. This made me wonder what it is that keeps me from feeling that love all the time. What is holding me back? Eventually the answer I came to rest upon was fear. It is scary to love. To love that deeply, one must allow themselves to be vulnerable. And being vulnerable can be quite difficult. To be vulnerable is to accept the possibility, perhaps even the inevitability, that you will get hurt.

Logically my mind agrees that this is a worthwhile risk. After all, love is what matters most in this life. The benefits of giving love freely far outweigh the risks in my opinion. However, my heart is still fearful. It shrinks away from the pain of loss, of rejection. I always beat myself up when I feel I have squandered my love on someone who doesn’t appreciate it. I tell myself that I was a fool, that my love has no value, that it has been wasted, that I should have expected such an outcome from the beginning.

In reality, the negative self-talk that follows is more hurtful than any loss or rejection could ever be on its own. I’d like to work on changing my internal dialogue so that I am able to strengthen my connection to that divine love within. There is nothing to fear. There is no shame in unrequited love. It doesn’t have to hurt. It is the ego that recoils in pain. It says what is wrong with me? Am I not good enough? Does my love not matter? Am I not worth loving in return? But none of these things really matter. I can work on shifting my focus from those questions to the experience of love itself. It feels so good to love. That feeling is enough. I don’t need to be loved in return in order to experience the pleasure of giving love.

Each moment of life seems as though it would be sheer ecstasy with a heart that open. I don’t want to keep myself from that any longer. Especially because of fear. I have been given this beautiful gift of life, and to show my gratitude for that fact, I want to give love endlessly. It is this grateful heart that can carry me through anything if I just let it.

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A Life with No Resistance

I have been thinking a lot lately about how I create my own suffering. I have been so fortunate in this life. I really have not ever experienced any true suffering. I have always had food, water, shelter, family, and friends to support me. I got a free education all the way through college. I have been healthy and so have my loved ones for the most part. I have basically wanted for nothing in my life. And I am truly grateful for that.

I so often lose sight of all of that though. Somehow I still manage to find reasons to suffer. The mind seems to always be looking for problems, for ways to fix things. Even when changing the situation is useless or even impossible. Internally we rise up against so many little aspects of our day. We wrestle with our own discomfort and rejection of reality. In the end nothing is as bad as our resistance makes it seem.

I read a metaphor that sums this idea up perfectly. Imagine a leaf landing on the still mirror-like surface of a pond. It is going to create ripples. Maybe we don’t like these ripples. Maybe we were staring at the reflections in the water. So we try to remove the disturbance, resist it. But in the process of trying to get rid of the leaf’s ripples, we end up creating even more disturbance in the water. Now it will take even longer to return to stillness.

There will be things that come along in life that are truly unpleasant, but even those problems are best accepted and allowed to pass through you. The brain seems to think the best way of preparing for the future is to “protect” ourselves from anything we dislike and lock ourselves away, closing off our heart. But in reality all of these small, daily, disturbances are gifts. They are opportunities to practice releasing, allowing, letting go. I want to use these minor moments as training to learn to live each moment with more ease and less resistance.

I try to think of this practice as a game. After all, I have always taken life too seriously. But this game is more challenging than I thought. I find myself getting easily frustrated with myself. After years of building up a strong tendency to resist every moment, it is incredibly difficult to learn to release and let things pass through you instead.

My mind is quite crafty and persuasive when it wants to be. It throws out endless reasons why we must resist. It jumps from one thought to the next, stirring up my fears and anxieties, encouraging me to close my heart, to seal myself off, to “protect” myself. But what I’m really trying to protect myself from is my own internal dialogue. What happens if I decide not to defend against it? It cannot hurt me. All it can do is talk and rustle around inside my head. I don’t have to let it touch me or let my heart close because of what it says.

So far, I don’t think I’ve been very successful at this game of releasing and allowing. But I am not going to give up. I am going to keep trying until my heart is perpetually open. Even though I am already impatient to achieve peace within myself, I know that this is the work of a life time. I’ll have to be patient and gentle with myself as I continue along on this new journey.

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Blocking Your Own Energy

Premium Vector | Buddha meditating in the single lotus position. hexagram  representing anahata chakra in yoga on a background.

Yes, I am still going on about energy and chakras. I was thinking as I drove to work this morning about my normal pattern of energy. I wake up, I generally feel pretty good, calm. But from the moment my alarm goes off, I can feel my body recoiling at the smallest things. I have already begun the processes of closing myself off from the world. I’ve begun the process of impeding my own flow of energy.

My mind immediately begins running through all the things I’ve got to do. Let the dog out, feed my pets, make coffee, take my vitamins, brush my teeth. My chest tightens, my breath gets shallow. I don’t want to workout, I don’t want to shower, I don’t want to drive to work. Tighten, close. I resist the idea of all my responsibilities. The day has hardly started and I’m worried about the evening, the next day. Tighten, close. I think about everything that went wrong the day before. I doubt myself. I am filled with fear. I agonize over what has already happened and everything that will or could happen. Tighten, close.

No wonder I am so exhausted by the end of the day! Whether you believe in the idea of chakras or not, all of this resistance, all of this worry and dread and regret and fear, no doubt has an effect on the body and mind. Whether you imagine it as cutting off or blocking an internal source of limitless energy or just using up the finite amount we have to draw from each day, it’s easy to see why there is such a huge difference from the way we feel in the morning to the way we feel by the evening.

The reason this idea of closing off the chakras, namely the heart chakra strikes me so much, is because it helps me understand why I usually feel like a totally different person in the morning and at night. Being tired just didn’t seem to fully satisfy as an explanation. It’s not just that I’m tired. I am also more stressed. I often even feel hopeless, uninspired, like no amount of beauty or passion can reach me, like those things never existed for me at all. When I view this phenomenon from the lens of the chakras, this drastic shift in perspective makes more sense to me.

When I first wake up in the morning, I have just returned from a wonderful period of total rest and relaxation. All the tightness and blockages I’ve stored up from the following day have released in the night. My heart is open. And as a result, for the first few hours of the day, I feel open. I am happy, excited, passionate, inspired. I can feel the energy from my heart space rippling out from my body, driving me onward into my day. But as I move through my routines, I start to block off that energy source little by little. Until nothing is left. My heart is closed. I am tired. I feel desolate inside.

Viewing things this way also helps me because it allows me to have hope. If I had expended all of my daily allotment of energy, what more could I do beside accept that I will always revert to this awful state of mind by the end of each day? Yet if it is simply a matter of unblocking the limitless source of my energy, I actually have a chance, regardless of what transpired earlier or how much stress I experienced. I always have the choice to open myself back up. To breathe and release. To let that energy flow through me once again.

I realize this all sounds like hippy-dippy nonsense to a lot of people. In fact, just a few years ago I would have been one of the people scoffing and rolling their eyes. But even at my most cynical and skeptical, I understood that there is a huge power in just truly believing something. We’ve all heard about the placebo effect. So even if none of this is true, it’s all about what works for you and what you find to believe in. I don’t really care if this can or can’t be proven for once in my life. I can visualize my heart opening. I can use this imagery to release tension in my chest, in my neck, my shoulders. I feel better. I can breathe more deeply. I am discovering ways in which I am able to live with more ease. And that’s all that really matters. I hope that sharing this new perspective is able to help at least a few other people live with ease too.

Opening

Well I didn’t think it was possible, but I’ve fallen even more in love with The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. It’s almost meditative just to read. The last few chapters have turned to discussing energy. Namely internal energy, chakras, energy centers, whatever you would like to call them. Once again, somehow this book presents me with things I’ve already known about and believed in, yet does so in a way that completely changes my understanding of these topics.

I’ve written about chakras before. I think we have all had the experience of feeling at least our heart chakra’s energy. It even stands out in our language with common phrases such as “heartbroken” or “my heart sank.” Even the throat chakra seems to be referenced with comments such as “choked up” or having a “lump in your throat.” The Untethered Soul brought another interesting aspect of this internal energy to my attention.

I feel silly for never thinking of it before, but our emotions and internal feelings have a huge effect on our energy level. Even though this seems obvious now, beforehand I only really considered things like rest, diet, and physical exertion to have an effect on our level of energy in the body. But these clearly aren’t the only things that have an effect.

The easiest example of this that is mentioned in the book is the feeling of either finding love or losing that love. When we first fall in love with someone or even rekindle a romance, it feels like we are capable of anything. We have so much more energy! Everything is exciting, interesting, meaningful. It’s a breeze to get out of bed each morning. We even look forward to it. You can almost feel the energy bubbling in your chest. On the contrary, when your loved one leaves you, that same energy vanishes. You feel empty, exhausted, despondent. We have to drag ourselves out of bed. Yet the amount of food we have eaten or sleep we’ve gotten doesn’t have to change at all for us to experience these drastic shifts in energy. Isn’t that fascinating?

I guess I always thought that was all just “in my head.” But how can it just be in my head if I am truly experiencing it in my body as well? In this book, Singer explains that what we are feeling is the opening and closing of the energy centers (chakras) in the body. When our heart chakra is open there is an enormous flow of energy traveling through us. This is what we are feeling when we are in love. Our hearts are open. But when we lose that love, or close our hearts, we are closing off that source of energy as well. We are blocking the natural flow.

The truly exciting thing is that we can teach ourselves to unblock these energy centers, allowing ourselves to experience an abundance of energy. So much energy in fact, that it can even benefit those around us. We all have access to this limitless source of energy inside. We just have to learn to let it flow naturally instead of resisting or clinging to different parts of life.

Singer suggests we play a little game with ourselves. Just start to pay attention to your heart space as you go about your day. You will feel it opening and closing over and over. Notice when someone says something you don’t like or that hurts your feelings. Notice how it feels in your body. Does your chest feel tighter? Does your breath become more shallow? That is what it feels like to close. Also begin to notice what it feels like to get a compliment or have a meaningful conversation with someone. Do you feel an expansion in your ribcage? Do you feel a flush of energy, excitement? That is what it feels like to open.

Once we can identify these sensations in the body, we can learn to stop closing our hearts all together. We might feel as though we are protecting ourselves by closing our hearts, but this is not the case. All we are doing is limiting our energy, shutting it away, blocking it up inside. But with practice we can eventually get to a point where we always have access to our boundless inner energy. Wouldn’t it feel wonderful to always be in love and to share that energy with everyone we meet?

I am so eager to begin this journey of opening. As someone who always seems to feel tired, it’s lovely to realize I have more then enough energy. It just so happens to be locked up inside. I am ready to learn how to release and let go. I am ready to allow that energy to flow through me again. It isn’t going to be easy work, but I know it will be worth it. I am ready to begin again. I am ready to open.

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A Chat About Chakras

I don’t know why, but today I felt like discussing chakras. Before my yoga teacher training, I kind of scoffed at the idea of them. However, after learning more about them, I wholeheartedly believe there is something to this theory of energy centers in the body. So many of the ancient yogic ideas have turned out to be backed up by science. I am in awe whenever I contemplate how on earth they were able to discover this profound knowledge so long ago.

I would love to do some in depth research into any scientific studies that have been done regarding this topic. However, thus far I have been too lazy to do so. Despite that, I cannot deny the truth of these energy centers told to me by my own body.

I find it fascinating that many of these places in the body that supposedly correlate to different emotional and spiritual energies can be physically felt. Haven’t we all experienced that painful, sinking feeling in our heart space upon suffering a loss? Heartbreak is a universal, timeless experience. And it does indeed feel like a physical injury at times. I’m sure we have all also felt the swelling, the opening sensation of the heart when overcome with tenderness and love.

I’ve always acknowledged the peculiar connection with feeling strong emotion in the heart and the idea of a heart chakra, yet I didn’t think much of it. However, since learning more about the other chakras, I’ve begun to notice other sensations that seem to support the notion of these energy centers.

The solar plexus is generally associated with passion and energy. It’s location between the chest and naval is also where we tend to feel the butterflies of excitement as well as the burn of anger. Anger is supposedly one of the symptoms of this chakra being out of balance.

The throat chakra seems to also be commonly felt physically in the body. The expression “choked up” is one we all know to mean too upset or afraid to speak. This blockage can actually be felt. Almost as if one were actually choking on something.

When it comes to the other chakras, I have a harder time noticing sensation. Perhaps this is due to their distance from the center of the body or even a sign that I am not as connected to these ones personally. Whatever the case, I hope to learn more and more and utilize this bodily wisdom to help me in this life. I hope that what I’ve written today has piqued your interest and that you will keep an open mind and look into this interesting topic for yourself. Let me know if you find anything interesting!