With Valentine’s Day coming, love is the topic of the moment. When we think about love, we generally think in terms of who loves us and whom we love, both of which refer to others. But what if Valentine’s Day were really about falling in love with ourselves, cherishing ourselves, and knowing ourselves as manifestations of the Divine.
When we think about loving ourselves, we often run up against the judgment of selfishness. To love ourselves is considered self-indulgent and more than we deserve. To love ourselves is viewed as something that will take love away from others, as if love were a zero sum entity that could shrink or run out if we used up some of it up on ourselves.
Furthermore, when we think about loving ourselves, we assume that it is in exchange for being loved by others. We don’t want to be responsible for giving ourselves love; love is something that others are supposed to give to us. And for many people, there is resentment around self-love—the fact that they have to take responsibility for loving themselves and have to do what others should do for them. Self-love is an effort that they are tired of having to expend. In any case, loving ourselves and being loved by others are seen as either/or scenarios.
But really, why are we so resistant to loving ourselves? Why do we see it as such a punishment and imposition? In part it is because we don’t know what it means to love ourselves or how to “do” it. We view self-love as another chore we have to accomplish, like taking out the trash. We imagine loving ourselves as something that takes time out of our day, like an exercise regime that will leave us less time to spend time with our kids or spouse. In truth, these are false beliefs.
Self-love is not an act of effort but rather a way of being. It means living in a way, moment to moment, that makes room for our own heart’s experience, being with ourselves with kindness and without judgment. Self-love means asking, “How am I in this moment?” and then really sticking around for the answer, with an attitude of curiosity and compassion. So too, self-love means bringing our own presence into the body and attending to the body’s life with mindful attention. Self-love means coming home inside our real experience and giving ourselves the permission to matter.
Love is not a finite entity, quite the contrary. When we spend time lovingly paying attention to ourselves, attending to the nourishment of our spirit, we generate more love and enrich ourselves to become greater vehicles of kindness. Self-love inspires love for others.
In order to open the gates of self-love, it can be helpful to see ourselves as an expression of the Divine, Buddha Nature, basic goodness, the universe, divine intelligence, or, for you, whatever represents something larger and deserving of being cherished. Knowing and loving ourselves as manifestations/incarnations of the Divine, spirit in human form, we are free to offer self-love without resistance and free to love the universe and its wisdom rather than just our personhood.
This Valentine’s week (and every week), add yourself to to your own love list. Attend to the nourishment of your own heart. Place your hand on your heart and ask, “What do I long for at this moment in my life?” “How can I take care of my heart, my body my spirit?” Give yourself the gift of your own presence and sense the exquisite life force, the sensorial profundity that is right here inside your own body. Ask, listen, and keep company with your being; make this a way of living, not just for the second week of February but for your entire love life.