In our last post: A Simple Practice to Discover how Deeply you Love Yourself, we discussed the struggle many of us face in loving ourselves. The simple act of looking at ourself in the mirror and saying “I love you” is often challenging, because the concept of unconditionally loving ourselves, exactly as we are, is foreign to most of us.
We’re taught to love and receive love from others: mainly family and romantic partners, sometimes friends as well. But when these relationships don’t give us the love we need, or give us a mix of love and pain (physical or emotional), the resulting wounds and trauma we experience teach us to close off our hearts in order to protect ourselves from more pain.
Furthermore, we’re rarely taught how to express and process all the negative emotions we experience throughout life. Instead we learn to repress these emotions, to pretend they don’t exist and stuff them down deep inside so we can present a happy face when we’re in polite company. Over time, these repressed emotions pile up on top of our closed-off hearts and solidify into a hardened, protective shell.
While this hardened shell protects us from feeling more pain, it also hampers our ability to feel love – love from others as well as the love that lives in our hearts and is available to us whenever we need it.
Here is a simple practice to start chipping away at that crusty shell, adapted from Whatever Arises, Love That, by Matt Kahn.
Find a comfortable seat, in a chair, on a couch, on a meditation cushion, it doesn’t matter as long as you can sit comfortably and relax. Close your eyes and settle into your body. Feel your feet, legs, and torso, become aware of your arms, shoulders, neck and head. Connect with yourself.
Begin with a few deep, calming breaths. Inhale deeply to fill your lungs with clean, nourishing air, and exhale fully to breath out stress and tension. Do that two or three times – filling up with fresh air and then emptying out stale negativity.
Now place your hands on heart and say “I love you”. Say it lovingly, playfully, as you would to a pet or child. Repeat it a few more times, changing the inflection and tone of your voice, staying playful.
When I first began this practice, it felt very uncomfortable, like a physical pressure jabbed into my chest – that sensation occurs because this practice is chipping away at the hardened shell around our hearts.
It’s similar to the dentist scrapping plaque off your teeth – it feels decidedly unpleasant to scrape away at that hardened shell, but when it’s down, we’re cleaned and refreshed. Telling yourself “I love you” is kind of like taking an ice pick to that calloused husk surrounding your heart. Each statement can feel like a sharp jab to the chest.
If your protective shell is very thick, it might be unpleasant for awhile, but eventually, if we keep chipping away, each statement of love for ourselves allows us to feel more love in our hearts.
Try it for one minute straight, just one minute. Set the timer on your phone and say “I love you” to yourself for one minute. Notice how it feels.
Of course, if all of this sounds like total bullshit to you, you’re probably not going to feel much. But if you’re curious nonetheless, maybe try it in a group setting, such as my in-person or online Meditation Conversations.
When we’ve been living cut-off from our hearts for a long time, an outside influence can help re-establish a connection. Sitting with a guide or healer who can provide a transmission of love can help re-awaken within us feelings that have long lain dormant.
So if you’d like to feel more love in your life – love from others and love from your own heart – then give this practice a try. Perhaps make it a daily ritual, if you can find five minutes to spare in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Why not? What have you got to lose? We can all use a little more love in our lives.
Enjoy this video to help guide you through the practice: