Ah yes, self-love, I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of time not really knowing what this was for me.  I went through phases of landing on this practice or that activity and thought it was me loving me.  It wasn’t.  Some of it came close; other things were just indulgence and probably very far from loving myself.  Believe me, there are times that I think indulgence is exactly what may be called for – rich piece of chocolate, anyone?  But indulgence is not self-love.  For the most part, truly loving myself has turned out to be far more simplistic than I was thinking.

In fact for me, thinking was a part of the problem.  Thinking put me in my head, into the world of judgment – yes, I absolutely deserve…that chocolate, those shoes, to just watch Netflix, and so on… you get the picture.  Thinking took me out of my inner knowing.  And that’s something that happens a lot in our modern society. Linear thought is emphasized and rewarded.  Feelings? Not so much.  Of course intellect is important, but it should serve the heart not dominate it.  Our current structures leave the impression that feeling deeply is somehow  a weakness. It’s not.  Feelings help us navigate our lives and give rise to compassion for others.  

When people are uncomfortable with the emotions of others, it is usually indicative that they may have something to heal.  And, those of us who do tune into what may be considered “paranormal” are at risk of derision.  This dismissal of sensitivities that others do not experience is frustrating.  In today’s society it is perfectly acceptable that we physically see less than 1% of the entire electro-magnetic spectrum.  Well, what about the other 99%?  Do we honestly think that no one has any perception of all of that 99% undulating all around us?  Of course we do.  But if we shame each other for feeling or sensing it, that is truly weak.  

As someone who came into the world with a lot of sensory and internal “knowing,” as I grew, these internal skills were not well received to say the least.  Truth spoken, before the listener is ready to receive, results in rejection of both the truth and the truth teller.  So, like many, I shut down those aspects of self.  This was far from self-love and it took me many years to get back to my true essence,  not care what others thought, and actively love those aspects of self.  

Dropping who I thought I needed to be and instead, having a clearer awareness of who I truly am was a great first step toward loving myself.  Feeling stifled in my younger years and being a people pleaser, I tried to shake free of all of that once I became independent.  However, in trying to shake free, I catapulted myself to the other extreme.  I even told myself (and everyone else) that I hated certain colors which, turns out, I really like.  I wanted to be bold and adventurous and brave, but  thought  I needed to be noticed to be valued.  Being calm, reflective, or soft seemed to me to lack passion. It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I had an experience that reflected to me a much clearer and more accurate picture of me.

I was in a local coffee and smoothie shop and ran into a former yoga instructor and friend.  She was getting ready to travel to Mexico the next day, and as we caught up, she shared that she was going through something difficult.  I did what I always do, but this time I noticed.  Whether it was the nature of our relationship or my readiness, Spirit timed this encounter and I could feel that swirl of energy around both of us, with part of me  outside of myself observing this exchange.  I saw how earnest and sincere I was, holding her gaze.  I felt my strength as her emotions poured forth, and I heard my voice, quiet and steady, as I softly responded to her.  She hugged me tightly and thanked me for giving her what she hadn’t even known she wanted or needed, as we said goodbye.  I walked to my car, still in that swirl, and defined the predominant energy as gentleness.  In that moment, I realized gentleness is a quality that I possess.  It was like unwrapping a longed for gift.  I was so struck by this epiphany I called my sister and told her, “You know what?  I am a very gentle person.”  She said, “Yes, you are.  I’ve always known that about you.”  This was great affirmation at what was coming through loud and clear for me, even though I had resisted this quality about myself for a long time.

In addition to becoming  aware of my actual qualities and not the ones I  wished I had,  moving into self-love happens when I act from my heart and drop societal expectations.  I went through this letting go of what others might be thinking of me and that helped me move closer to grasping the concept of self-love.  I realized when I just honored what was in my heart – by my actions, by speaking up, sometimes by remaining silent – I felt good.  Really good.  Standing straighter, taller, breathing deeper, smiling more, at ease in my body good.  Over time this led me to feel into what was different.  What had shifted was getting out of my head, out of the worry, the tenseness, the uncertainty and, instead, feeling  into my heart.  I was aware of my consciousness and directed my point of choice to be made from my heart instead of my head.  It’s hard to find the words to explain all of this, because it is a feeling and an activity that, in many ways, bypasses the intellect.  It’s funny – peculiar funny, to engage in writing, which is a path of the intellect, to explain something that is not intellectual in nature yet is highly intelligent.  As it was happening to me, I would find myself in my head, asking questions, worrying, weighing, measuring, judging.  The deep essence that is truly me, my consciousness, would catch myself in this state.  Then, typically, I would take a deep breath and feel my consciousness, all that activity swirling in and around my head, slide down and away into my heart center on my exhale.  Once here, in the space of my heart, I felt calm.  I could re-examine whatever issue had me swirling but now from a place of centeredness.  Once I started noticing this pattern, I couldn’t not notice it.  And, as I noticed, I would direct my energy more and more to take that deep breath and that most important human journey from head to heart.

This self-love journey remains a practice.  And, just like with meditation, the intrinsic meaning of practice is “repeated exercise of an activity or skill so as to attain proficiency” (New Oxford American Dictionary).  So, I repeat this practice of going from head to heart, over and over, each day.  This action of bringing myself from the outer influences of my head into the deeper essence of my heart is self-love.  I have this perspective now for so many reasons, all of which basically crystalize into knowing how to be my authentic self. Live from my heart.  Or, as my dad would often quote Shakespeare, “…to thine own self be true…”   Me, loving myself enough to be me.  Finally.

Wendy Casey – 2023