When it comes to diet, stress management, dealing with any health and lifestyle issues or deepening your own personal spiritual life there is one common key factor. If you have high levels of stress, churn over repeated discussions in your head about certain things, procrastinating about certain compulsive or ingrained habitual behaviours you want to change or have a persistent ongoing concern, then the following is especially relevant.
The backbone to all of these areas is self-love, because it impacts our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Before you assume that is just rewarding and nurturing yourself, which is great, the self love I am referring to goes deeper than that.
We really cannot receive or convey love fully unless we are open and accepting within ourselves to fully experience our own love, independent of our personal and unique expression of it.
The body and mind are only fully healthy when there is an accepting and loving foundation to our state of being. Cell function, hormonal balance, brain function, immunity, digestion, the microbiome in our bodies as well as cardio vascular and nervous system health are all impacted by our emotional and mental tone and what messages we are giving ourselves each and every day. It is a feedback loop between mind and body so balance or imbalance can be self-reinforcing. Self-love is a tonic for stress, anxiety, physical imbalances and the key ingredient to personal wellbeing.
To explore our own potential in having a personal and experiential spiritual aspect to life, requires a sensitivity to frequencies of love, compassion and good-will. Our sense and expression of these can only be authentic or deep if we draw on these qualities of consciousness regularly within and towards ourselves as well as others. Our relationships or sense of connection is also empowered, as people recognise and are drawn to someone who emanates comfort and self acceptance with love in themselves.
So what is self-love at its foundation? If we contemplate love aside from specific associations with romance, love of family or friends, love of a pet or a life passion, then we must look to what all these contexts (and any others) have in common in terms of what we recognise and know as love. If love is inclusive of these different relationships and feelings, it is also deeper and more universal than what distinguishes each of them.
In line with many spiritual teachers and traditions, I relate to the essence of love as being the recognition and spontaneous sense of oneness. When we recognise a living aspect of ourselves in another living being or in nature or life around us generally, then there is a sense of connection and unity that underlies all form and differences which are temporary and changing.
We can feel a sense of oneness when on our own and it is possible in any situation with others. It may be conscious or only semi-conscious at times but we respond positively nonetheless when this feeling arises from within, and especially when it is a mutual experience with others. There is a pure beauty, happiness and goodness that comes with a deep sense of unity as our being-ness includes our own world and others.
This is where meditation or coming back to simple mindfulness can be of great assistance. The mental narratives of our conditioned mind are often negative in tone. This is a primary cause of stress or disturbance and can be tied in with chronic illnesses. Even if they are positive, identifying with our commentaries and conceptualisations is losing ourselves in a mental construct rather than being in an alert state of presence in the here and now and experiencing it as it is. Absorption in mental constructs creates a sense of disconnection from ourselves and others. It is a tension of misalignment which may have become subtle in its normality and is a root cause of underlying discontent and unhappiness.
Our mental narratives and conceptualising are generally conditioned by the past and projected onto the present or into the future. This puts us out of sync with feeling love and oneness in the here and now because true love and presence is a living and spontaneously arising feeling from the nature of our consciousness which is timeless rather than a projected concept or time-bound thought.
Being aware of our thinking and narratives then shifting gears when they are not useful or positive is a great practice of self-awareness and beginning to adjust old thinking patterns. In most cases, they are actually not that positive or useful, unless part of a creative or problem solving process. The greatest practice we can do in our busy lives, is to take opportunities every day to not think at all and just ‘Be’.
This does not mean putting pressure on ourselves to have no thoughts which is a practice of frustration and inner conflict. It means that we take time to just be and observe. If that observing includes an open hearted acceptance and mindful awareness of each thought as it arises, as well as our breath, body and immediate surroundings, then the mind will settle down and we can begin to feel a deeper peace and be restfully energised.
This is a practice of self love in and of itself. Unity and connection within ourselves wherever we are at the time arises from the conscious space in which you are reading this now. Even if there are things about ourselves or a situation we would like to change or improve in time, in any single given moment we can practice letting go of our attachment to an outcome or future-based projection we have constructed, and simply accept be here and now. Trusting issues can be resolved out of this presence is a totally different way of going about life for someone who is constantly pre-occupied.
Positive thinking can be a great means to an end, as it can make thinking more constructive and absent of self-sabotaging and limited conditioning. The thinking mind tends to focus on what distinguishes things from each other and whether they are favourable to us or not. This is the dimension of separateness where fear and concern, attachment and aversion become more activated. It is also how we get drawn in and become reactive to life.
However, settling into the essence of our living being and consciousness through mindful presence can be an end in itself. Its value is in the moment as well as being cumulatively and progressively beneficial.
Free of our narratives and concerns about past or future allows the unchanging and continual primacy of being become the foundation of our doing. Allowing time to practice and experience this regularly leads to recognition of a wonderful quality and sense of being. This spectrum of feeling is pervaded with love and compassion for it is a unified field of awareness. It does not need to be willed or manufactured, as many practitioners confirm generation after generation, because it arises spontaneously when we give it mind and heart space.
Even if you know this conceptually, it is not the same as actually allowing yourself to ‘be that space’ here and now. Applying it daily develops the art of being and doing without getting lost in the doing. When we are in conscious being, we experience the primary essence of ourselves and others as the same universal essence.
In a state of conscious being, what we may like and dislike about ourselves or others becomes transitory, relative and superficial. It doesn’t define us in any moment. When an issue arises that actually matters, it can be approached without reactivity because it no longer matters completely. The primacy of conscious being keeps things in perspective.
There is an inherent perfection in formlessness that helps us accept and work with the relativity of form. The way we face and perceive life situations may reflect aspects of our character but are not absolute truths or who we really are.
In presence we don’t become anaesthetised, but rather more perceptive, accepting and capable of acting creatively without reaction. We can more deeply love with a penetrating awareness.
Ultimately, conscious awakening is a deepening understanding through personal experience that unlimited conscious love is what we are at the core of our own living essence. Complete love is always here and now – self love is about opening up to it here and now from within, then letting it fully infuse our awareness and ‘doing’ with each breath.