meditation for self-love
"IF YOU TRULY LOVE YOURSELF, YOU'LL EASILY LOVE ANOTHER;
IF YOU TRULY LOVE YOURSELF, YOU'LL NEVER HARM ANOTHER"
- Ani Naqvi
February is the month of love, with Valentine’s Day in the middle and we are surrounded by symbols of it.
However, there is a deeper love than the couple love that we need to focus on more regularly. How many of us have an inner critic, a negative voice, always telling us what we can’t do and how incapable we are? I know I do, and most of my friends too. So much so that we have even given names to these demons that haunt us day and night. There’s no worse critic than our own inner voice and it can be crippling for some people causing depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
This negativity is a symptom of a much deeper malaise, where we feel we do not deserve love or happiness. Self-destructive behaviour in all it’s forms, eating disorders, over or under eating, smoking, alcoholism, drug taking, self-harming are but a few of the ways how this can manifest. Even if you don’t fall into one of these categories, you may be putting off a project you have dreamed off for years because of that nagging little voice that says you can’t do it or comes up with all the problems before you’ve even started.
In the modern age we are surrounded by images of the ‘perfect’ body, job, money, status and feel constant pressure, this is compounded by ‘idyllic’ pictures on social media and contribute to this further. We are never content with what we have or who we are and in our competitive society, we always strive for more. No wonder Buddha said that our constant desire for more creates suffering within. This helps to keep us in a perpetual state of unhappiness.
We can change this narrative though. Instead of reaching for the chocolate when we’re feeling unworthy, unlovable and not good enough, turn to meditation instead. For it is only through meditation we are truly able to traverse these choppy waters and come out the other side bathed in warmth, love and light.
Meditation is Love for you
A common misconception about meditation is that we have to ‘empty our minds’. This is not true, we can only ‘empty’ our minds for milliseconds at best or if we are living like monks meditating for 12 hours a day. In the outside world, our mind is always active. Meditation is simply about seeing things as they are and not drowning our sorrows in a bottle or by busying ourselves constantly, through exercise, TV, social events, social media etc.
Sitting down for even just ten minutes a day is the ultimate in self-love. When you carve out a precious few minutes to convene with yourself you are saying that you are worthy. Maybe you have kids and a husband to look after, sick parents and other commitments but ensuring you always have that 10 minutes every day just for you means you are giving yourself the same value you give others.
By allowing yourself this space and time it gives permission to let you really feel, to be vulnerable and listen to everything from within instead of pushing it away and avoiding. You allow for things to come up and then pass. Perhaps we feel that if we really listen we will be drowned by negativity but that's not so. Sure, difficult emotions, feelings and thoughts come up, but we are able to acknowledge them, which then allows them to be released.
Through meditation we understand everything is impermanent, everything passes including these negative thoughts. By cultivating the attitude of the witness, we can tap into something deeper that helps us through the vicissitudes of life. How does one do that? Watch your thoughts and feelings as though you are sitting on the side of a river watching the river pass by. Don’t jump into the river but remain impartial on the sidelines observing. This is meditation and once you can do this in your meditation sessions you can do it through your daily life.
Suggested Meditation Practices for loving yourself
First make sure you will not be interrupted, switch off phones and clear your schedule. Try to set the same time and place for meditation every day. If you can do this twice a day that is even better but once is also fine.
An easy practice for people starting out in meditation is a guided, lying down relaxation called Yoga Nidra. For more information about this technique, you can find it here.
It’s essentially a practice that moves between a wakeful and sleep state, similar to hypnosis, which makes it great for changing negative thought patterns.
This particular yoga nidra combines the benefits of the normal yoga nidra practice with nada yoga, the yoga of sound, utilising music to go deeper into the practice while simultaneously focusing on the heart centre.
To understand more about Nada yoga you can go here.
Briefly, it’s the use of sound and music to access deep states of relaxation and meditation. The music operates on a different frequency, which allows this to happen more easily.
Through the use of a Sankalpa, a resolve (more information on this on the yoga nidra link) you can give yourself positive suggestions of what you would like to achieve, similar to a hypnotic suggestion. Over a period of time when you use the same Sankalpa / resolve regularly that Sankalpa can be realised. Always use a positive sentence, e.g. “I am loved and deserve to be loved” as opposed to “I am not ….” for example.
The practice is done lying down in Shavasana, so you don’t have to worry about sitting upright, and as it’s guided it can be easier to follow when you are starting out in meditation.
If you prefer you can also download the app, which is available for Android phones.
If you are more experienced at meditating or would prefer to practice without an aid this is another technique you can practice.
- Ensure you are comfortable and steady. You can be in a comfortable seated position or lying down if you need to rest your back on a wall that’s fine, just make sure the spine is straight and most importantly you are comfortable. It’s not important to sit cross-legged, it’s more important to be comfortable as this will allow you to focus and get into the meditative state more easily.
- Now, close your eyes and focus on your breath without changing the natural breath. Just observe the breath. Begin to notice the breath and it’s quality, whether it’s shallow or deep, where it originates from, and all the sensations related to the breath.
- The breath will automatically start to lengthen once you focus your attention on it. Allow tension to be released with each exhalation and slowly relax more and more. Once you have spent a few minutes observing the breath you will find your mind starts to quieten down naturally. There will still be thoughts and that’s fine, just observe them without getting involved as per the river analogy.
- Allow all feelings and thoughts to come up and pass as though you are an impartial observer, negative or positive and always remember that EVERYTHING including life itself is impermanent so try not to react to pleasant or unpleasant sensations, feelings or thoughts.
- When you are in a relative state of calm and relaxation start to focus on the heart centre and take a few moments to concentrate here. While calm, shift your awareness to all beings, animals and plants and yourself and say to yourself, “may all beings be happy, may I forgive all those that have hurt me, may I release myself from pain, may all beings live in peace and harmony.” Repeat this a few times and really believe the words and sentiment as this will automatically open the heart centre. Notice any sensations that come up and allow them to pass. Perhaps you notice sorrow and grief or happiness and joy, which ever it is don’t judge it. Don’t wish for more positive feelings and don’t try to push away difficult ones. Try to cultivate a feeling that both are equal. Just sit and observe without reacting.
- After practising for a few minutes start to close the practice by giving thanks to yourself for taking the time to sit and practice. Ensure you take time to really give gratitude and love to yourself as much as others.
Benefits of practice
By taking time to meditate you are loving yourself and it is only through this that we can truly love others.
All life is woven together in the cosmos. Meditation can change your experiences and life becomes lighter, you feel more at peace and harmony, calmer and more relaxed. You’re able to take life’s ups and downs in your stride and live a life full of grace and love. This quality is then reflected in those around you and through our connectivity, more joy, peace and harmony is spread. Those around you feel the benefits of your practice and you find people respond to you with love and joy in return. And so it continues. If we all meditated, the world today would be a different place. Be the change that you want to see and start today.
Photo credit: Alex Cerrato
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ani is a writer, yoga teacher, Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant and English Teacher. She is passionate about all things esoteric and combines this with her other great love of writing. Ani is London born, she loves to travel and lives part of the year in Sri Lanka and part in Europe with her Italian husband, Andrea who is also a yoga teacher. Together they have their own wellness and yoga retreat in Italy.