Last week, I was fortunate enough to have a chance to listen in on Tara Brach's talk via The Mindfulness Summit (you can still sign up if you're interested and it's FREE!) and her words of wisdom were, as always, so incredibly eye-opening. They related a lot to the topic of self-love which, as you know if you're a frequent Positively Present reader, is a passion of mine. I listened to Tara's talk twice on the day it aired and tried to jot down as much as I could. I wanted to share some of this inspiration with you (as well as add my own two cents!). Below you'll find her words (paraphrased) in italics and below those words are some of my thoughts on what she said.
WE ALL FEEL FLAWED
We all have the sense of being flawed in some way and this results in our suffering. We're at war with ourselves, and many of us don't feel at home with who we are. Because we're not living true to ourselves, we have a lingering sense of feeling unworthy, which leads us to constantly feel disappointed.
We judge ourselves, feeling as if we're not good enough. This constant judgment makes us feel as if we have to be on guard all the time, which hinders intimacy with others, blocks creativity, and stops us from enjoying the present moment.
We spend so much time feeling as if we're not enough. Believing in this limited self is a veil that covers our true nature, which causes us to suffer.
We are taught that we are limited, defective, isolated. Realizing that you belong and recognizing the barriers you've put between you and love is important. Ask yourself: how do I keep myself from connecting with others?
No matter who you are, you probably feel flawed in some way. You probably have some notion that you're not completely living up to your potential, that you're not doing what you "should" be doing, or you're not meeting some sort of arbitrary standard that society has set for you. This constant judgement of yourself blocks you from being who you're really meant to be. Imagine what it would be like if you dropped all your defenses and stopped feeling as if you were flawed in some way? That would be pretty amazing, wouldn't it?
A FEELING OF SEPARATENESS
A feeling of separateness starts when we're very young. We view our inside in comparison with everything that's outside of us. With this separateness comes a need to defend and protect ourselves. And from this, fear arises.
Many cultures (particularly in the West) encourage separateness. American culture in particular is very individualistic with very emphasis on belonging. We internalize this and it compounds the innate separateness we began feeling when we were young. This makes us feel like something is wrong with us, that we're defective in some way.
To combat the suffering of separateness, we go after "false refuges," or substitutes to feel a sense of belonging, such as focusing intensely on our careers, putting all of our time and energy into how we look, overindulging in food, overthinking every little thing, judging others, or turning to drugs or alcohol.
Much of our lives is organized around a feeling of insufficiency. We need to realize and release this feeling in order to get to the true nature of ourselves.
We often cover over the purity of ourselves in order to cope with difficult situations with family, society, work, etc. And this becomes a problem when we start to identify with that cover as if it is who we really are. We start to think of ourselves as our defenses, our cravings, etc.
This concept of separateness really resonates with me. As an introvert who strives to follow her own goals and aspirations, I often feel like I'm isolating myself from others, reinforcing the notion that I'm separate or "other" in some way. American culture also seems to really amp up this notion that we all should be different and we should celebrate our uniqueness. Being unique certainly isn't a bad thing, but the heightened emphasis on it definitely takes away from feeling truly connected with others. I've definitely turned to my fair share of "false refuges" in an attempt to ease the suffering of feeling separate and it never seems to work very well. I love the notion of focusing on belonging and connectedness, something I think we could all use a lot more of in our lives.
UNCONDITIONAL SELF-LOVE + COMPASSION
We need to offer kindness to our own beings, to learn to love our present lives unconditionally. Imagine: what would it be like to love yourself unconditionally?
Unconditional self-love can change your life.
How much of your life is shaped by feeling unworthy? When you encounter self-aversion, you must face it with self-love and compassion.
Develop a compassionate mantra for yourself. [Mine is: "It's okay."]
The more self-compassion you practice, the more your sense of self with shift. That shift is freedom. But you have to practice in order to create new patterns in your brain. It's like dyeing indigo: at first, you dip the fabric, it turns a bright shade of blue, then fades back to almost white. Dip it again, it looks bright blue, then fades back to white with a hint of blue. Again, it turns bright blue and fades to a slightly deeper tint of blue. You have to keep dipping the fabric in over and over again to eventually get the bright, vibrant hue of indigo. Same goes for self-love. You have to keep practicing a compassionate mindset over and over again for it to actually become a pattern in your brain. After many, many repetitions, self-love will hold and it will dye your life a brighter hue.
The more you trust your own goodness, the more you'll see the goodness in others. You'll have a new perspective filled with compassion. Even when someone does something unpleasant, your heart will understand and it won't shut down. Self-compassion shifts how we relate to the world, and it helps the world as a whole. We learn to see past our own masks, which gives us an opportunity to seek others behind their masks.
Self-love and self-compassion are absolutely essential to living a positive, present life, but, man, if they aren't hard concepts to master! There's so much in society that tells us we're not good enough or we could be better, so much that urges us to keep striving, keep seeking more than what we are, that it sometimes feels like an endless uphill climb to embrace self-love. Self-love takes a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of practice, but the reward of loving who you are is so absolutely worth all the effort. After listening to Tara's talk, I've been using my self-compassion mantra ("It's okay.") quite often and it really helps me when I'm struggling in the self-love department.
DISCOVERING TRUE AWARENESS
You can start striving for this kind of self-love by recognizing what's happening and not judging it, practicing complete acceptance.
There are two parts of awareness: (1) identifying what's happening (both internally and externally) and (2) letting it be and sitting with it (whatever "it" might be).
Whenever you're feeling strong emotions, pause. The space between the stimulus and response is your freedom, as Viktor Frankl says. Try to become the witness and objectively view situations you find yourself in, rather than immediately reacting.
I loved this part of Tara's talk because I'm always striving to be more mindful (and always struggling at actually being successful at it!). Breaking it into a two-part process made it easier for me to actually understand what it means to be fully aware (side note: every time I go to type "aware," I accidentally type "awesome," which I feel like is the universe reminding me of how awesome it is to be fully aware -- or it's just my brain playing tricks on me!). I tend to feel a lot of strong emotions (both good and bad) and I love that Tara shared Victor Frankl's advice in her talk. We could all benefit a great deal from pausing before reacting to the stimuli in our lives. There truly is a sense of freedom that comes from trying to be objective and observant rather than reactive.
Listening to Tara's talk was so inspiring, and I highly recommend checking her out online or trying to attend one of her events. (I went to one earlier this year and it was amazing!) It can be hard to take time out of our busy lives to sit still and listen to someone else share their words of wisdom, but I've found that every time I'm able to sit quietly and just listen, I learn something new and valuable -- and I also practice my awareness/awesome skills!
Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-Love. Filled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.