Thursday Evening Online Program
October 6, 2022 7:00 to 8:45 pm Eastern time
Dear Still Water Friends,
I’ve been thinking about self-love a lot lately. Ok, I’ll be honest, I’ve been practicing it quite a bit, too. I feel a little sheepish saying that. Like it’s something we’re supposed to aspire to, but not really admit to practicing.
Still Water’s senior teacher, Mitchell, unwittingly planted in me a seed for an increased practice of self-love when, at a retreat, he asked participants to set an intention. Something like “I intend to really show up for myself” immediately came to mind. I would remember to check-in with myself every so often and offer myself kind or encouraging words.
I noticed that as I consciously thought about or addressed myself more, I started to take a shine to this person that is me. It has been a very subtle shift, but one that feels significant. The more I am willing to be with myself, even when I feel flawed or incomplete, the more I am willing to be present. I am less likely to long to be with others, or in my future, better, self. Importantly, it seems like the more I express love and kindness towards myself, the more freely I express them towards others as well. And when I feel full of self-acceptance and self-compassion, I am less preoccupied with myself.
I’ll admit that as I started to purposefully focus on self-love, at times it felt awkward and self-indulgent. It still does. It has been helpful for me to remind myself of Thich Nhất Hanh’s frequent encouragement to cultivate love and understanding for yourself. In How to Love, he explains that our ability to be a resource for ourselves an essential aspect of being a resource for others:
Once you know how to come home to yourself, then you can open your home to other people, because you have something to offer. The other person has to do exactly the same thing if they are to have something to offer you. Otherwise, they will have nothing to share but their loneliness, sickness, and suffering. This can’t help heal you at all.
In her book All About Love, bell hooks succinctly expresses the idea that the more at ease we are with ourselves, the more we can show up for others:
Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.
This Thursday evening, after our meditation, we will share our experiences with self-love:
- Does practicing self love help you come home to yourself?
- What gets in the way of loving yourself?
- What mindfulness practices or other life experiences nourish your capacity to be kind and loving towards yourself?
A related reading on self-love by Thich Nhat Hanh is below.
by Thich Nhat Hanh from Fidelity: How to Create a Loving Relationship That Lasts
Maitri, loving kindness, is the first element of love. The word maitri comes from the Sanskrit word mitra, which means friend. So love is friendship, and that friendship should bring about happiness. Otherwise, what’s the use of friendship? To be a friend means to offer happiness. If love doesn’t offer happiness, if it makes the other person cry all the time, then it’s not love; it’s not maitri; it’s the opposite.
Maitri is translated into English as “loving kindness,” the ability to offer happiness. True love requires this element. Love does not just mean love for another person. Self-love is the foundation for loving another person. If you don’t know how to love and offer happiness to yourself, how can you love and offer happiness to another person? If you don’t know anything about happiness, how can you offer it? Live in a way that brings you joy and happiness, and then you’ll be able to offer it to another person.
We know that happiness has something to do with suffering. If we don’t understand suffering, we can’t know what happiness is. Understanding suffering is the very foundation of happiness. If you don’t know how to handle a painful feeling in you, how can you help another person to do so? So self-love is crucial for loving another person. A successful relationship depends on us recognizing our own painful feelings and emotions inside, not fighting them, but accepting, embracing, and transforming them to get relief.