During my volunteer work at the 21 Day Retreat 2018 in Plum Village, one of the questions to investigate there was: “How do I love myself (and subsequently others) unconditionally?”
It arose partially because me and my sister would be in this retreat together. While we love each other a lot, we can also trigger old pains and patterns around competition in each other. A classic example of the infamous superiority, inferiority, and equality complex. In everyday life, we are not so much confronted with these patterns anymore, since we live in different countries, thus do not interfere too much with the space of the other. Now, going to Plum Village, we had the space and time to look at our relationship (patterns) more deeply.
I don’t want to go into detail, here, but I do want to honour this process and share how grateful I am we had this opportunity and also took it with both hands and open hearts. It almost feels like we learned anew how to be sisters. How to celebrate and love the other, while also celebrating and loving oneself. How to be with the differences and similarities in personality, interests, talents. How to listen deeply, share openly and yet take responsibility for our own stuff. Besides all the funky transformation work we did, it was amazing to simply live in the same community for some time. Having our own lives, while also being able to see and speak to each other without planning, phoning or travelling. I treasure these small yet immense moments when we met in the bathroom brushing our teeth, silently stared at the night sky together with tears in our eyes, held hands during walking meditation… Thank you for that!
There are a number of lessons and practices in self-love, I’d love to share.
Love first. Whether I’m fit or fat, a bore or creative, strong or weak I want to practice loving myself no matter what. Then there is no need to fix, heal or change, but all the space for it to happen anyhow.
Loving myself even when not loving myself. In other words don’t shoot that second arrow by becoming angry or judgemental of my inability to love myself. Instead cultivate compassion, these lessons are not mine alone, they’ve been passed on for generations. Take baby steps.
Listening and surrendering to myself, my body. Do I dare to give in instead of ignoring the signals, pushing further? Do I dare to withdraw, sleep or drop this tasks for now? Every time I do, it feels like small revolution, with gratitude and relief dancing through my system.
Small actions of self-love. Related to the above, there are so many small, concrete actions we can take to express selflove. A warm shower, hugging yourself, asking for help, taking a break, massage your feet, walk slowly, drop into a comfy chair…
Celebrating others, without holding back. To openly see, receive and celebrate the beauty, talents, courage… of people around me is such a gift. Grateful to those in my surroundings who are so good at this that they inspired me to practice the same.
Radical switch of perception to dive into Love and spaciousness. In the midst of some ego adventure or disaster, it helps me to remember that I am more than my thoughts and emotions, that I don’t have to cling to or fight against them.
“The wish to connect, to hug, to be seen and to see beyond the surface. […] All of that, but I feel that the first connection to make is the one with myself.”
(Sue Monk Kidd, The Dissident Daughter)