Heart: Self-love and relationships

Self-love. It sounds narcissistic and selfish, right? I had to shift my perception to reject this initial reaction. It sounds a bit airy-fairy, no? Self-love isn’t selfish. It comes from a position of strength and is the opposite of being vague and whimsy. It’s essential to a compassionate understanding of ourselves and of others. Self-love fosters communication, balance and harmony.

As someone who tends to put others first and who takes pleasure from making others happy, I am learning that it’s more positive to engage with others from a centred base of self-love.

Self-love is fundamental to fulfilling engagements with others and the wider world. I believe it could be a genuine form of healing for those who allow themselves to be open to its possibilities. How? I hear you ask.

Firstly, self-love is liberating. I want to give with compassion, without needing anything in return. I want to be free from attachment. I do not seek to receive when I give. Merely to give love that is genuine, pure and comes instinctively from the heart. To give and not expect or want anything in return frees you from the binds of attachment and expectation. It’s wonderful to give and not to expect anything in return.

Secondly, you can only be comfortable doing this when you get comfortable with knowing what this type of love feels like for yourself. This means being able to love yourself like you would your best friend. Being able to treat yourself with care and understanding. It can take time to develop. It is still a work in progress for me! It means not beating yourself up when you feel you are wrong. It means being a good friend to yourself through thick and thin. It means tuning into yourself and listening deeply to what your heart, mind and body tells you. It means cherishing yourself and learning to know yourself deeply. It means accepting yourself as you are and loving all parts of yourself.

From this base, you can start to be comfortable giving love and not seeking justification or reward. In loving yourself, you can begin to free yourself from attachment to judgements and justifications. It means you do not have to criticise yourself but rather to give out energy and harmony without requiring any feedback. Your love is perpetually refuelled because you begin from a base of self-love and compassion.

This wisdom has become central to my thinking over the last few weeks and I am carrying it forward in the interactions I have.

I have been deeply inspired by the work of Jeffrey Wium and Ayala Gill. I want to share some insights that Jeffrey and Ayala passed on in their session on Self-Love at Triyoga back in October 2017. Some of these insights may resonate with you so I want to leave them here as inspiration for your own path to self-love.

1. Perception starts with yourself.

2. Your mind creates everything around you. Your perspective creates what exists. There is only you and your perspective. This means that you have responsibility for the way you perceive. It also provides you with a great opportunity. You can choose how you wish to perceive and interpret the world.

3. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

4. See the beauty in the trash. Work with this notion to find the beauty in everything. Rely on the dis-ease you feel to find your own inner peace and ease. It’s what we do in the difficult times that’s important. Explore. Find your way into the dark, difficult spaces to discover the light in it. We are conditioned to repress or resist what’s dark and uncomfortable. But this resistance leaves us tense, unbalanced and uneasy.

5. Come into relationship with yourself.

6. Focus on yourself. Consciousness is walking up to consciousness itself. Truth is within you. Everything you need already resides within you. All the love you need is already within you. It can feel comforting to realise that you have your own back and all the answers are already within you. Meditation stills your mind and allows you to become aware of your deeper selves.

7. You don’t need to blame. That’s all in your perspective.

8. No-one can hurt you. I mean, they can physically hurt you. But they cannot hurt you with words. No-one can make you sad or mad. No-one can make you love them. No-one can make you hate them. You choose how you wish to behave and respond.

9. It takes confidence to engage in what is difficult and dark.

10. Be open, push yourself. Be courageous. Allow space for something new to happen. Allow space for loving trust. If you remain guarded and closed in order to keep yourself “safe”, you won’t grow and move forward. You may just repeat your pain and mistakes.

11. Change it. Be responsible for yourself. Be open, perceptive and receptive. Take a leap. Challenge yourself. Be willing to do something that scares you. That’s the way to find love. Give love without necessarily expecting anything in return. But first, love yourself.

Sankalpa – planting the seed of intention from your heart

Sankalpa is the practice of setting an intention which is formed in the heart and the mind. In Sanskrit, “san” means “connecting with the highest truth”, and “kalpa” means “promise” or “resolve”.  It can be a vow or resolution that may be set at the beginning of each asana practice, or held in the heart as a larger intention for life going forward.

As I step on to my mat, I find it to be a beautiful way of focusing my mind and really becoming whole within myself. I ask: how does my heart speak to me today? What is the overriding feeling? What is it that I wish to honour or appreciate? Who could do with a little loving kindness or a few warm wishes today? How is my body feeling? Do I wish to focus on a particular posture, movement or way of being? What is my mind saying? Is there an overriding thought, something pressing that I want to express through my practice? Take time to settle into your body and really feel into the thoughts, feelings and sensations that it presents to you.

The beauty of sankalpa is that it will flow organically. Don’t worry if you don’t find a concrete intention emerging immediately. Sometimes, you may find that there are a few vague, nebulous sensations and thoughts but nothing that speaks clearly to you. It can be difficult to focus your mind initially. Particularly, as you start your practice and quieten yourself out of the everyday buzz of life. Breathe slowly and steadily to slow your thoughts down. Your sankalpa may shift during your practice. Allow it to flow. It takes time to cultivate sankalpa. It may take days, weeks or years for an intention that really resonates authentically with you to emerge.

Just notice the sensations, the feelings, the thoughts. Allow them to gather, settle and speak to you. Don’t judge yourself harshly if an intention isn’t appearing. Be kind to yourself. Discovering sankalpa is highly individual. Sit with the concept and allow it to grow to be real and authentic for you. The more you play with the idea and experiment, the more you may find that it assists you with your practice as a form of meditation, becoming a point to which you can return again and again throughout your practice and as you move off your mat. With habit, you may find that it focuses your attention, enhances your awareness and aids you in your day to day activities.

I am still discovering my sankalpa. I find it to be a great way of focusing my heart, mind and body, enhancing the meditative side of my practice and coming into a clearer awareness of myself.