Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of June 17, 2013

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Love of Self

(Opening Our Heart: Part 2)

Some people hate themselves. Thatís extreme. The rest of us, though, tend to be at least mildly dissatisfied with ourselves, wishing some aspects were different. Maybe itís about our body, or about our personality, or our intellectual abilities. While we all have strengths and weaknesses, our attitude toward what we consider to be our weaknesses preoccupies us. This can have positive effects, if it either drives us to work to improve what we are dissatisfied about or if it leads us to have more compassion for other people and their shortcomings.

In any case, we need not reject ourselves, or any part of ourselves. Just the opposite: the more we can accept ourselves as we are, the more joy and freedom we discover. We can work to improve ourselves, while at the same time accepting ourselves fully, loving ourselves. If we do not accept ourselves, we still would not even if we fixed the unacceptable aspects, because our ego would demand yet more perfection. If we do not accept ourselves, we will not accept others. If we do not love ourselves, we will not love others.

How can we come toward self-acceptance? Can we recognize that the one in us who can accept is not the one we wish to change? Our deepest self, our true self, our I, sees clearly, with compassion, and without rejecting. The impulses to reject ourselves come from our ego, from our illusory self that wants to burnish its own image, to look better. One part of our personality wants to change another part. Our thoughts reject some aspect of our body. Our body rejects the impulse-limiting wishes of our thoughts. And our feelings remain torn between wanting to indulge physically, emotionally, or in some daydream and wanting to live in a more disciplined and freer way. But the one in us who sees and has the power to accept is not in our body, thoughts, emotions, or ego. It is our self that we need.

In the spiritual path, the core of all the weaknesses we face is our lack of presence. The conundrum of non-presence is not about our body, it does not emanate from our mind, and it is not a result of our emotions, although all three must contribute to its resolution. This core problem of lack of presence emanates from us, from who we are. This is what we need to change, to come toward. To love ourselves means to love being present, because it is only in presence that we truly and fully exist. There is no self who can love and no self to love when we are not present. And when we are present, love comes naturally, because it has a channel through which to flow, namely our true I, our true self.

In practicing presence, we practice being our self, our true self. The more we practice presence, the more we can be present, the stronger and deeper our presence, and the more love we have, including for ourselves. That heart of acceptance embraces the whole catastrophe that we are, with all our features: the cherished, the ordinary, and the problematic. All those distinctions dissolve in presence, in being. We rise out of our self-blaming mode to cherish the whole of ourselves.

How might that right attitude of loving oneself manifest? We honor and care for our body, giving it what it needs, some of what it wants, and doing what we can to keep it healthy. We honor and care for our emotions, noticing what we are feeling, cultivating healthy relationships, and not allowing the destructive emotions free rein to run amok and damage us. We honor and care for our mind, feeding it the intellectual food and challenges that it wants and needs, and not allowing ourselves to be drawn into the endless stream of automatic thoughts and daydreams. And we honor and care for our self, our true self, by the practice of presence.

For this week, notice when you reject some aspect of yourself. Practice love of self by honoring and caring for your whole self.

See Also: Befriending Yourself


     

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