Words are mantras. They form our self images and from there our ideas of the world. In the west we say, and often even with a sense of inverted pride, things like “I am shit, so shit, at maths. I can´t do sums to save my life.”
Which in my case is true.
We smile foolishly, charmingly and proudly declare our ineptitudes. It´s fine to hear “I´m not very good at cooking”, or “I´m hopeless at dancing” and as the words tipple from their lips, we smile a supportive-it-doesn´t-matter smile which makes us feel ever so benevolent. Priests help us with the “Oh! Bless me lord for I am not worthy” chant, and guilt has stayed in fashion since the Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans were in power.
Meanwhile in the East monks chant mantras such as “I cherish the divinity within me” “I worship the light that I emanate” “I am god, god is me.”
We could play spot the differences…
“I am shit” – and – “I am divine”
Quite a sea of separation between them really. Not to understate the issue at hand.
Words create us and destroy us. They define us and create our individual separate beings, our images of ourselves, our beliefs about ourselves. They make us separate to be able to create the necessary distance from the whole to see the whole, so we are not blind to the forest because of the tree in our eye sort of thing. But at the same time they destroy our entelechy, our relationship to the whole.
So as words create enough distance, enough separation, to be able to see ourselves, our lives and our worlds, at the same time they reduce our sense of “cosmic” connectedness, or to put in another way, our connection to our (Jungian) “self”. Words, like layers of an onion, cover and protect our inner being, and at the same time those same words are what individually create us.
So lets chose them carefully god damn it.
I once read in Rob Brezsny´s “Pronoia” to write a love poem to myself. I did. It opened up my eyes. I´m not a bad sort after all. It was a sensation in which I realised that I did indeed have the capacity to love myself. Not arrogantly, but in a cherishing, supporting, encouraging way. It was such a soft and comforting feeling. Ohh this is all a bit embarrassing, but I felt as if I were floating in a cocoon of the light of my own love, and I realised that all was well with the world. I needed nothing as long as I had this connection with myself. It´s impossible to really explain, and I can hear sort of embarrassed, ironic, smirks, (I wonder even if it is my own?) but I explain because it was something that happened for about 10 minutes 3 years ago and still affects me, comforts me, in a timeless sort of manner.
“Authentic Happiness” by Seligman and “Love, Inspiration, Hope” by Karena Kast, “Pronoia” by Rob Brezny and most Jungian Psychoanalysis, all say similar things: “Try and love yourself”. I just say that so that you don´t think that I´m an absolute freak. Let me tell you again, I´m shit at maths.
Loving ourselves can sound arrogant and dinner party chat it is not. It could all get rather embarrassing. “I love NY” is fine to wear across our chest; “I love myself” could be somewhat misconstrued. But loving self is an important human task – it is where all our habits-thoughts-actions-reactions stem from. It could even be our main goal.
Loving ourselvses is not arrogance or conceitedness. Arrogance (prp. of arrogare "to claim for oneself, assume,") separates ourselves from others, we place ourselves as higher beings which is just silly really. Even when we think we are "special" it is the ego tricking us into distancing ourselves further from the whole. We are ALL "unique"...all of us.
Loving ourselvses is not conceitedness (from conceive based on analogy of deceit and receipt. Sense evolved from "something formed in the mind," to "fanciful or witty notion"). Conceit is when we are creating our own images of ourselves that are simply not true. When we think we are super duper (at something or other) but somehow we have to force ourselves to maintain that image, creating quite a stress to our psyches. We try to be something we are not, blocking our intrinsic natures.
Love is keeping our heart open to the here and now, to ourselves as we are. Love allows the ability to see as it is, not how we would like it to be. And to accept it. To see yourself as you really are, and accept both the good and the bad. No one is perfect and yet we all manage eventually to love others. So why not ourselves?
Now I don´t want to go Jesus Christ on you all, but when he said “Love your neighbour as yourself” being one of the main messages of the Christian religion, it infers that beforehand you have managed to love yourself. It´s self evident isn´t it? Because if we love others as we do ourselves, and we continue using negative words about ourselves, we would have to shout “you are shit at driving” every time our neighbour got into his car. In the same way a Christ consciousness doesn´t beat up on others, it doesn´t beat up on itself. The idea can´t be to make ourselves feel lousy, putting ourselves out trying to help others in ways that harm us while we chant “I´m shit at this” and “You are so much better” and “You are worth more”. No, no, no.
Love, I believe is something that puts each other in a better position to be able to be who each naturally is. I do not think that Love is helping someone else to do that and putting yourself in a worse situation, nor putting yourself in a better situation at someone else´s expense. If we are creative we’ll see that there are plenty of combinations to do, to be, something that gives us the same benefits, and choosing one of those that is compatible with our neighbour, with our partners, with our friends, with our family, is simply an act of love to ourselves and to them. In so doing we live in greater harmony.
A friend of mine, edging into her sixties, recently discovered how to love. Beforehand she had felt an impostor of love….loving with the head only. Who are we who say we love? Who are those who we love, and it is real? It was one of those situations…until she let herself comprehend that she is not a pain in the ass, that she is not bad company, until she turned it around and began to believe that she had something to offer: herself. And that it was valuable. She realised, relaxing into her relationships with friends, that she listens really well, and that recently the things that she says (that I think are deep and wonderful) are not just silly little stupidities, but are in fact so very useful to others, they are so deep and wonderful. She helps people to see themselves in a new light. And as she realises, she enjoys her relationships so much more, and gives so much more, and enjoys, in a sort of ever increasing cycle of loving herself and loving others with her listening and her new found confidence in her loving words.
If we love ourselves, Vipassana says, it sort of runs over the brim, and we can´t help but see the world for what it is, for the better or worse, and still love it and those in it.
So go ahead, take off those glasses, see who you are. It´s like hearing your own voice, your own words, on a tape recorder. Gulp. Stand amazed and embarrassed and somewhat disgusted and happy and genuinely surprised. Accept it.
Those around you already do.
And Love yourself. Go on, you know you want to.