I have to admit that I love Kamal’s book, because the idea is so simple, yet powerful. But loving myself has proofed to be way more difficult than it sounds. I bet most of us will find it somewhat hard, because for most part we are truly our own’s worst critiques and judges. So here is my how-to-guide that has helped me keep the practice alive:
1. Make it a daily habit, even for just 1 minute:
As a wise friend likes to remind me, this is a practice. You don’t go to the gym once and consider yourself done. Same here. Meditation is a practice. Working out is a practice. Loving yourself is a practice..
If you don’t even have 1 extra minute to spare, you could still do it while brushing your teeth or making your bed, just do it every day.
2. Make a vow to yourself:
This day, I vow to myself to love myself, to treat myself as someone I love truly and deeply – in my thoughts, my actions, the choices I make, the experiences I have, each moment I am conscious, I make the decision I LOVE MYSELF.
This will probably feel very weird at first, which is normal, but if you find it hard, you can imagine someone you love and transfer that feeling of love to yourself.
3. Truly give it your best:
The truth is to love yourself with the same intensity you would use to pull yourself up if you were hanging off a cliff with your fingers.
I caught myself doing it just half-heartedly, because I was afraid I am turning into a narcissistic or something, which in retrospect sounds really funny.
4. But don’t strain yourself:
Once again, there’s no need to consciously create healing or anything positive. The subconscious takes care of it. All I have to do is give it the image – in this case, light; give it the thought – in this case, loving myself. It does the rest.
If you are anything like me, you might catch yourself trying to be the best at “loving yourself” and turn the practice into a competition that defeats its purpose. Just beware of that.
5. Just keep sitting and giving it your best, despite feelings of doubt:
Your job is purely to love yourself. Truly and deeply. Feel it. Again and again. Make it your single-minded focus. The mind and body will respond automatically. They don’t have a choice.
6. Make the thought of loving yourself your one true anchor in daily life:
The goal, if there is one, is to practice until the thought you chose becomes the primary loop. Until it becomes the filter through which you view life. Then practice some more.
7. Don’t get discouraged if you are still feeling down sometimes:
Negative emotions are simply part of life, part of what it means to be human, if we were to lose them, we’ll also have to abandon the positive emotions, since they are just two sides of the same coin.
So, it would be a set-up for disappointment to expect that this practice will simply erase all our negativity once and for all. However, I think the point of this practice is not to abolish the negative emotions, but to create a new, more beneficial way of relating to them, so that they don’t cause us suffering. Buddha has said:
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional
And I firmly believe that by loving ourselves we can change the lens through which we view these negative emotions up to a point when they have lost their grip over us. In the sense the love we cultivate for ourselves erodes their strength until they are powerless to hurt us.
8. Love your entire self, not just the parts you like
It’s easy to love our strengths, while in the same time continuing to judge ourselves for all those things we wished were different. But exactly herein lies the real transformative power of this practice. Because only by embracing what appears to be broken and loving it, we gain the power to really change it.
9. Don’t let fear get to you:
When I first started with the practice, it felt so unnatural to me that I felt a lot of inner resistance coming up. All kinds of thoughts were racing through my mind saying why this is not for me. For example, one of my recurring fears was:
Who do you think you are to love yourself, you should love other people, not yourself, this is selfish and you are turning into a narcissist!
If that comes up for you, simply remind yourself of the airplane analogy “Put your air mask first, before you assist other people” – that is so true for real life, because you simply can’t give what you don’t have.
You’ll probably have different kind of doubts and fears, but you’ll feel some for sure in the beginning, so in those cases it might be useful to follow Kamal’s advice:
Fighting fear doesn’t work. It just drags us in closer. One has to focus on what is real. On the truth. When in darkness, don’t fight it. You can’t win. Just find the nearest switch, turn on the light.
10. Keep going, even when everything is awesome:
Don’t let yourself coast when things are going great. It’s easy to wish for health when you are sick. When you are doing well, you need just as much vigilance.
Please share it with someone who needs a bit of extra self-love right now or comment below, if you’d like to add something to the list.