Today is Day 16 of my 31 Days of Self-Love posts to celebrate Self-Love Month with suggestions for jump-starting your own self-love.
When I read Eat, Pray Love, I winced along with Elizabeth Gilbert as she
struggled to do her meditations when she was in India. That’s how I’ve
mainly been about meditation. But I also know how healthy it is for us, Doing it says, “I love me!” In the next post in my Law of Attraction in Action Series I will talk about how committing to using a meditation CD has been one of the most loving things I’ve ever done for me.
That’s why I’m so delighted to have Sally Kempton, an acknowledged master of meditation, subtle energy and eastern wisdom, as my guest today. She spent 20 years as a swami in one of the Saraswati orders of India. She is also the author of a wonderful new book, Meditation for the Love of It. The forward is actually written by Elizabeth Gilbert, who struggled with her own attempts to meditate. The book is a friendly guide to finding your way into a meditation practice. Here’s what Sally had to say:
By Sally Kempton
The first instruction my teacher ever gave me was “Love your Self.” I’d been hoping he’d tell me something really special, give me a heroic task or a secret mantra. So I was disappointed with what sounded like a generic bromide–psychological health 101. What else is new? Isn’t loving ourselves something we should all do? True, I wasn’t very good at it. But on the other hand, he hadn’t given me any clues about how to do it.
An hour later, I was sitting in meditation, when my normal awareness began to expand. Everything seemed to disappear into a big witnessing presence. I ‘saw’ that there is literally nothing outside awareness. And then, just as I was starting to feel a little bit lonely as this big empty Presence, love welled up. Huge love. Love that filled me up, and included everyone and everything I could imagine or touch or conceive. Afterwards I thought, “Ok, this is what he meant.” Meditation had showed me a self that was not just lovable, but love itself.
I don’t want to give you the impression that my meditation is always like that. Believe me, it isn’t. Nor am I suggesting that yours should be. But that hour did show me something about self-love that I’ve been unpacking ever since, and that I believe is the real alchemical gift of meditation practice. In meditation, you can access what is sometimes called Beingness, witnessing awareness, Essence. Some people call this your True Self.
The True Self can love you in all your gnarly weirdness and your stunning normalcy. It can hold your sweetness and your craziness, your neediness and your strength. It can meet you wherever you happen to be, and show you what you really are beyond all that. It can reveal that your real self is neither the person you wish you were nor the person you’re afraid you might be, but something far greater.
So, how do you find this True Self?
One reason I wrote my book, Meditation for the Love of It, was to give people a way to find this dimension of meditation–the dimension where meditation becomes your friend, and even your lover. I wrote the book because I’d realized that many people, even meditators, don’t realize the connection between meditation and our basic capacity to love and accept ourselves. All the psychological work in the world, all the self-esteem practice, all the enneagram analysis, all the prayers won’t take you to that core of self-hood without some form of deep meditation practice.
How do you get to that deep meditation space? The first step is to give yourself time to sit past your restlessness, sit past the up-swells of mental static and emotional turmoil. In time, that interior sense of being begins to arise. And once you’ve touched it, it becomes your ground–the place to stand amidst inner and outer turmoil.
A few years after I first started meditating, I realized that I was hanging onto some heavy-duty childhood issues, a big backpack of unresolved grief, and a whole lot of anger. I started working with a psychotherapist, where I found myself accessing emotions that were so intense that there were times it was hard to look at them. I don’t think I could have stood it if I hadn’t had daily access to a witnessing presence in meditation. That inner presence held me while I faced into some really basic inner knots. And often the resolution would come not while I was meditating per se, but while I was walking or bathing.
A deeply held emotion would come up, and the witnessing–self would bathe it in Presence, and after a few minutes, the painful feeling would dissolve. There were certain things about myself I would never have been able to look at, much less let go of, if I hadn’t had the firm grounding in Essence that meditation had created.
Meditation, when all is said and done, is indispensable not because of the states you experience while meditating, but because of its capacity to create that space for us. It is THE great conveyer belt to the dimension of ourselves that is truly able to find itself lovable.
Face it; the ego-personality-self really can’t love itself, at least not for long. For one thing, it only likes you when you’re conforming to its idea of how you should be, and how your life should go. The ego-self has impossibly high standards, and much of the time we just can’t live up to them. To get the approval of the ego, we’d have to arrange for our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and all the conditions of our lives to be under control–and since they rarely are, the ego generally feels too scared, too anxious, and too separate to like itself.
What meditation does is open you to a higher, more spacious perspective. And in that spaciousness, the issues and dilemmas have a way of getting resolved. Real meditation, the kind that transforms you (and why would you want another kind?) will eventually dismantle the inner filters that skew your perception of yourself and other people. It will show you your own essence, your true nature, the Big Self, the sage inside you (who always, by the way, has good advice, if you remember to ask!).
One of my Facebook correspondents calls it her own personal reset button. But meditation also lets you get advice from the sage inside you, find inspiration for whatever it is you need to do, discover that one breath can take you into infinity.
Sally Kempton also writes the popular “Wisdom” column for Yoga Journal, and teaches at retreats and conference centers including Kripalu and Esalen. Check out her new book, Meditation for the Love of It, and her CD, Beginning Meditation on her site, if you’ve ever even considered starting meditation or if you want to improve your current practice. Sally is also a minister of Religious Science.
Take the self-love challenge and get my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways for free at http://howdoiloveme.com. And you can post your loving acts HERE to reinforce your intention to love yourself.
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