I’ve been faced with the question of ‘who am I’ with my clients lately. Often the suffering that enters my office is in the form of feeling at odds with self, how self fits into others and community, and questioning the value of self. Sometimes this is in the form of constantly rescuing others, other times in the go-getter American attitude of non-stop distraction. Don’t be fooled, I see this in 7 year olds as much as I do in adults.
Self. It’s not a topic we talk genuinely about often, but simply one we refer to. “I’m hungry.” “I’m bored.” Yet rarely, “I’m feeling vulnerable.” We put so much energy into our outside worlds. We even kid ourselves into thinking that we’re taking care of ourselves by watching TV, shopping, or playing video games. Yet when we do this, is our attention, compassion, and energy focused inward? Or are we temporarily escaping reality by putting our energy into something else?
How often do you take time alone, without distraction or judgment, to explore and get to know yourself? The thought of sitting alone in a quiet room can elicit the urge to crawl out of your skin. “But what would I do with my time? That sounds like torture!”
In order to love others, you must first love yourself. In order to love yourself, you must first know yourself. Truly know yourself. Not your hobbies, television and music preferences, or job. YOU. Feeling like Adam Sandler in that awkward group therapy session from Anger Management when he’s asked who he is? That’s okay. Breathe deeply. The ‘you’ I’m talking about is that perfect you inside. The perfect person you see when you first hold a sleeping newborn. That realization that they could do anything, be anyone- the limitless possibilities. The awe you feel is your perfect nature seeing theirs. Wouldn’t it be great if we felt that way with our loved ones all the time? I like to think of it as our perfect heart. You might hear it referred to as our Buddha Nature, our wisdom, our perfection, etc.
We are all created with perfect hearts. We all inherently are peaceful, happy, and calm. But life happens, and we lose sight of that. We get hurt, experience fear, don’t get our basic needs met, or are given messages that we are not good enough. Over the years we believe them, adopt them as who we are, and then experience suffering. So we create an image of happiness and grasp it tightly, only to find when we open our hands, nothing is there. Why? Because happiness can only come from within. The moment we seek it outside of ourselves, we have already lost it.
The good news is there is nothing in you to fix. You are inherently good enough, strong enough, loveable. The goal is simply to get to know that good in you, witness your own perfection, witness that same perfection in others, and just be in that place. Will you stay there all the time? Not unless you’re enlightened. But any small moment you can realize your inner wisdom and act from it, instead of from your automatic pilot (i.e. your mind, where anger, jealousy, fear, disgust, etc come from), is success.
Positive thoughts, negative thoughts, neutral thoughts… all these are perfectly normal. Try not to push them down or encourage them. Allow them to be by noticing them, not acting from them, not holding on to them. Turn the TV off and take time to rest by simply allowing yourself to be, looking at yourself positively, and not getting bogged down by thoughts or feelings. All emotions and thoughts are temporary – like waves of an ocean – let them come, rise, and dissolve back into the ocean of your mind.
Find the perfect you that is always there. Conjure your wisdom when you need help to be patient, kind, strong, or forgiving. When you can find and embody this energy, life’s overwhelming emotions won’t sweep you away for as long, or as deep. It’s our job as counselors to witness your perfect heart with our own, and help you to uncover your wisdom.
It’s time to fall in love with yourself again.
I wish you the courage to lean in,