Looks like Valentines Day is on the way again. Are you hoping for flowers and romance?
While it’s nice to be adored, it’s a truism that we have to love ourselves first. No matter how much attention is showered on us by friends and lovers, if we don’t love ourselves enough to truly believe we’re worth all the effort, we can remain curiously unsatisfied (and even anxious– “What if they find out I’m really not that nice/pretty after all and abandon me?!”)
If you can’t offer yourself love and compassion, it’s hard to believe you deserve it from somebody else. And the worst culprits for neglecting to appreciate and care for themselves? Women who spend a lot of time caring for others. OK, disclosure time. That’s me too.
I see this lack of self-appreciation in my yoga classes. When it’s time for savasana, so many students plonk themselves down in a haphazard way and say ‘no, no, I’m fine’ when offered a blanket or pillow. But when I go over and spend a minute or two helping them out with a few props to find the ideal position, a look of bliss spreads over their face as they enjoy, maybe for the first time that week, a position of absolute comfort and support.
So why do we spend so much time worrying about everybody else’s welfare while frequently neglecting our own? Personally speaking, I’d say it’s because we’re time poor and guilt ridden. And we should stop it now.
My antidote to busy-guilty syndrome is Metta Medtitation, a Buddhist practice that helps us cultivate deep compassion. I love it so much because it asks us to develop compassion for every living thing, including ourselves. I’m no burning martyr and, despite my best efforts, I find myself feeling resentful when my life becomes all about meeting the needs of others and never my own. However, I also feel uncomfortable about self indulgence and behaving in a way that doesn’t consider the feelings and wellbeing of others. Sounds familiar?
The joy of Metta meditation is that we are asked to cultivate compassion and love for ourselves, our nearest and dearest and for the community at large. From our own family members to people struggling with poverty or pain, Metta meditation helps us to remember that we’re all interconnected. And that’s the key.
When we feel disconnected from others, we suffer (yoga tells us that sense of separation is an illusion and that we’re always connected – we just lose sight of that truth). And there’s no quicker way to become disconnected from others than to feel alienated from yourself.
Metta meditation (and mindful, compassionate yoga) teaches us to love ourselves by reminding us that we are part of a universal community of beings that are dependent on eachother for our wellbeing and survival. We are all worthy of love and compassion. Now, that’s a Valentines Day message I’d like to share.
Enjoy a free guided Metta Meditation with Nikola Ellis.