Let’s go radical this Valentine’s! Let’s make it a priority to ask OURSELVES to be our valentine. Why should we do that? This is where my thoughts are going this Valentine’s Day.
One of the foundational components (or, as I am apt to coin them, core threads) in my work with people is the idea of radical self acceptance. An ordinary motivation for people to choose the work of self inquiry is wrapped up in the packaging of a low self esteem. It is a common occurrence to see that someone is their own worst critic and the challenge of the work of personal growth is an attitude adjustment from self judgment to self acceptance. Another common motivation that draws people to their personal spiritual work is the deep desire to serve; to serve in a way that allows service to be offered easily without an attachment to an outcome. Detachment from outcomes comes only as a result of a deep acceptance of one’s self. I can only love fully if I accept myself. By loving myself and having compassion for all of me, I am better equipped for loving others.
This concept of self acceptance is a very important one in the growth of our spirit. The truth I walk with is that I really cannot truly love someone else if I don’t love myself. If I am in relationship with a loved one when I don’t love myself, I tend to look to the other to validate my sense of self and this dynamic starts to wear thin after a while. What works better in the long term duration for loving relationship with other is if I commit and follow through with deepening my intimacy with myself as a priority, rather than have the priority of my relational focus be directed towards others, I have more of a chance of actually seeing the other person and their true beauty rather than trying to glean a glimpse of them through the veil of my projections of my unclaimed love of myself.
This is a wordy way of expressing the age-old truth of ‘Know thyself’. This came into our collective mind before the Golden Rule of ‘Love thy neighbor as you would yourself’’. Somewhere along the way cultural mores made it more of a priority to love others; even to the extent of allowing our self deprecation to turn to self loathing. I suggest that it is imperative that we do the work of learning how inherently precious we are before we explore the concept of the preciousness of others. If we don’t do this, our holding ourselves as less than others comes through in unconscious ways. We cannot truly declare the inherent preciousness of life if we do not claim and embrace that we, ourselves, are part of that equation.
Given this imperative, it is also important to embrace the gift others give to us each time they enter into relationship with us. They give us a reflection of what it is that we need to accept in ourselves, especially when we react to them with an activated emotional response. When we REALLY feel something about a person; whether we feel they are the best of the best, (we call this falling in love or hero worship or kissing our guru’s shoes), or if we feel they are the worst of the worst, (politicians not of your affiliation, reflections of authority who we blame or anyone you have a dislike for), we can use this as instruction for accepting what we are seeing as a part of us too. We are human and we are really seeing parts of ourselves that we have not been able to accept before. The theory goes that as long as we reject any part of what we encounter in others, that aspect of ourselves remains in the shadow and comes forward in unconscious ways. I call this a sacred gift and I am grateful for everyone in my life as they show me clear mirrors of myself; reflections that I alone could not see as easily. I also relax in awe with the knowledge that I am also a reflection to everyone who I encounter and their reactions to me are, likewise, instruction for their personal inquiry of self acceptance. When I am able to respond to someone in a neutral fashion, I say a prayer of gratitude for the reflection they show me of what I do accept in myself. That neutrality means that I am responding to the beloved other before me rather than to the reflection of myself asking to be seen and embraced.
What I find so curious about Valentine’s Day is that it is all about giving one’s heart away. Why would anyone want to do that, really? As with any other cultural norm that bewilders me, I look to finding the inherent truth of the practice rather than to the trappings of the action that the culture has supported with that truth. Maybe we really cannot understand the importance of holding our own hearts until we give it away and experience the consequence which, truly, is an act of self betrayal. Maybe then we have the opportunity to claim our heart back through doing the work of releasing the attitudes of blame….’You MADE me do that!’….or adulation… ‘Only YOU can do that so well!’ Or maybe…we give away our hearts because we are too frightened to realize how hard we grasp this soft heart of ours and we let go of that precious piece of ourselves in the hope that the illuminated other (which, in reality, is really a reflection of our own true light) will hold our hearts in a more kindly way.
I wonder if asking ourselves to be our Valentine to be a valid option this year, could allow the potential of radical self acceptance to move into reality. I wonder how that could shift all of the difficulties we have in allowing ourselves to hold our hearts gently to a place of sweet compassion. I smile hugely with the image of the world from a place of sharing our love and knowing that we’re responsible for our own hearts.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!