Love Yourself First

by | Oct 22, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Love yourself first. In my dream those three little words were scrawled on a scrunched up scrap of paper cupped in my hand. I love pondering  dreams but this one was a cypher. I didn’t get it. I mean, I saw the words and understood in a vague way, about loving yourself and it’s important because people say it’s important. But I didn’t have a felt sense of what it would mean to actually feel it.

I had no idea that loving yourself meant gently holding your own heart through all the pain that you feel. All the anger and sadness and fear. That loving yourself isn’t something that you can get from the outside, like a new car or relationship. It has more to do with the ability to pause and breathe and offer yourself compassion for whatever you are going through.

At the time I had that dream I didn’t know what loving myself would look like. Would I be emotional healthy, stable, able to do the things I saw other people doing? I kept trying to get love from the outside, like from love relationships but I was having a very hard time of it. Men would be put off by my clinging behavior or they would take advantage of me. Either way I was going down a slippery slope to god knows what.

I did hit bottom in the shape of a man who was loving at times and dangerously violent at others. I had never been in such a relationship , there had been shadows of it in the past but this was a full on, in your face, could we get more obvious harmful, dangerous relationship.

I decided to  leave the beautiful island home I loved and drove 3,000 miles with two honeybee colonies in the back of my car (this and more in another post After Martha’s Vineyard). I listened to Tom Kenyon spiritual vocalist for the whole drive and determined that when I got to San Francisco I would take care of myself and my Dad with healthy food and go to the Ashram every day and practice yoga.

At the Ashram my teachers Mahendra Briksha, Marcelo and others taught me about the power of breath and mantra to stay in the present. I experienced the benefit of Agni hotra fire ceremony practiced within community.

I loved myself through choosing to “be a nun” as my father observed, noting that I was “always at that spiritual place”. I embraced plant based food and practiced yoga asana as much as I could.

Loving myself also meant offering myself the unconditional love of my father and his calm steady presence. For two years my Dad drove me to work at Nourish Cafe and then at Donut Farm at the ferry building SF. I enjoyed the busy random interactions of the dance of life in the city. I sold vegan donuts.

Within the pranayama and meditation practice a bodily awareness grew of what it might mean to feel deserving. I wondered if my previous manifesting intentions had lacked prayerfulness. I wondered how what I attracted might change if I felt deserving. I managed to hold my peace inside long enough to send a prayer to the universe from the place inside that felt worthy.

If you want to change on the outside you have to change on the inside. My prayerful intention did manifest and my life changed again. I moved to beautiful Sonoma County and was introduced to a wonderful healing technique called Focusing or Inner Relationship Focusing. The Inner Relationship Focusing *IRF did teach me step by step how to love myself. Basically the theme is to listen to every part of yourself until all of those parts feel heard, respected and empathized with. And only then can things significantly change on the outside.  I felt like a beautiful jewel like the Arkenstone in Lord Of The Rings had been centered back in my chest, I felt relieved.

Centered in love.

Learning to listen to myself and others within the Focusing practice began a gentle yet rapid momentum of change. I made friends, started a community gathering of people in my village and began a professional career in Focusing. I learned about shame (more about shame in another post) and how the breaking of the interpersonal connection in childhood (or anytime) might cause a person to feel like something is grossly wrong with them, that they are unlovable. Healing shame with these various techniques has become my passion, for myself and others. Learning to love ourselves is, I believe, the most powerful life affirming path we can take and becomes much easier if we are given the tools to navigate our own inner relationship.

I now know that “love yourself first” was a message I sent myself in my dream and that dreams really can come true. I’ve learned that all our parts need to be listened to and cared for as gently as we can. We can increase our tolerance for positive emotion and live the life we’ve always wanted. We can lovingly companion ourselves through all life ups and downs. Our lives will still include grief, fear, anger and shame yet with IRF we will have more tools to navigate that terrain.