It seems easy to have what we call loving kindness. If we asked individuals I bet many would say they do and they practice loving kindness. Can we really know what that is when we can't and don't love ourselves and practice loving kindness on us? It is one thing to give love to our children, and it is important. It is one thing to buy someone a coffee and pay it forward. It is one thing to love your family or friends or group or community or country. In all these instances, there is good and nothing wrong. It does well for us and for our world. Any love is good love. How many of us can say we actively practice loving ourselves? How many of us gift ourselves on a regular basis, even if the gift is by appreciating us? How many of us judge ourselves regularly and find us giving us hateful messages about us and have negative thought lines going through us? I think if we are honest with us, most or all of us do to varying degrees.
The problem is that all of us because we are imperfect beings, give us and our children and others negative messages and messages that have been passed on down to us for generations. We find ourselves yelling at our children and the words that come out of our mouths are words that we heard our parents say to us and we didn't even like them when we heard them as children. Learning to love begins at home and continues inside of us on a daily basis. Remember when mom looked into our eyes and just loved us, or dad? And if not, imagine what that would be like. I am sure everyone one of us has at least heard stories or read books or seen movies that stir in us that parent/child love. We are just loved, exactly as we are. Do we do that for ourselves?
One way we can practice loving kindness is through knowing and honoring our personal boundaries. If you are like me at all, I have trouble doing that. My need to be loved and to care for others sometimes supersedes my personal needs and so I override my boundary and do too much. One way we can tell when we do so is that we become resentful of others and we may say things to us like, I always have to do everything, or I am tired of carrying the weight of it all, or I need to protect myself from others, etc. Sometimes those are the words I find I tell myself. I am learning that when I feel this way that I went too far and didn't love myself enough to honor my boundaries.
I have a patient who is told what to do and how to do things and she wants to be able to do those things. But sometimes she just can't do them. If she does she finds that she is not honoring her inner voice. For her, when she doesn't listen to her voice and instead wants to and tries to do what others tell her and how they tell her to do things, she finds she is paralyzed and can't do anything. She experiences a lack of energy and motivation. This is another form of overriding her boundaries and it mimics her early life when she had no one except for another young girl to guide her. In her case, she felt lost and rudderless without adult guidance. She didn't have a developed inner voice yet and so she felt lost. Now, she finds that she is back to that very young feeling when she didn't know who she was because by following someone else's way she again is not listening to her voice because now she is letting it overtake her own young developing self. Learning how to listen to herself is learning to love herself and the ultimate act of loving kindness.
In this world today where we see so much violence and we are riding a wave of blind patriotism where many of us are so overwhelmed by feeling helpless to protect us from the acts of selfishness and barbarism all around us, many people are resorting to self-protection instead of self-loving and confusing the two. As we learn to love us and see us as part of a whole where how we think affects everyone, and that every act has echoing repercussions around the world, and that true honoring of our boundaries is not the same as separation from others, we have a chance to change us and change the world. It begins with one thought and act of loving kindness at a time, beginning with us.
Shift Your Story/Shift Your Life:
Close your eyes and think about what you would like to do as an act of loving kindness towards yourself. If you are not used to gifting you, gift you in some way. If you are not comfortable with listening to your boundaries, listen to them. If you find that you have lots of negative self-talk and judgments, feel how it feels to reframe those judgmental words into words of openness and self-possibility, and so on. Once you have a sense of what that act would be, then feel in your body how that feels to you. Breathe it in and give it some life.