A woman in worship while standing under the rain

©iStockphoto.com/khilagan

Usually it is the sun that draws me outside. This morning it was the rain. It was the sweetest, most gentle downpour we’ve had all spring. I pulled a patio chair up close under the eaves and sat down to soak it in.

This spring has been rife with hard rain. Violent thunderstorms, destructive of the delicate blossoms going hog wild in the front garden, have often driven us deep inside our stone house till they blow over. Their ruthlessness is an all-too-apt metaphor for my own harsh treatment of myself—the pushing, the doubting and the unrest. This rain is the one I’ve been waiting for.

Gentle as it falls is how I want to be with myself for the rest of my rapidly diminishing life. Why is it so frigging hard? I’m able to be kind to almost everyone else and I do kind things for myself. To others I probably seem a paragon of self-compassion and self-care. Relatively speaking I am.

But relatively speaking is no longer good enough. If I want to be of utmost service to the world—and thank God I do!—it’s time to relax my tenacious grip and treat myself like the goddess that I am, and that you, the women who are reading this, also are. And I’ve got to do it from deep inside out. I must own and nurture my most sacred human Self.

We are divine and we must start treating ourselves with the love and care we would (we hope) lavish on a Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, should such a holy figure appear in our midst. Why? Because until we do, we cannot lavish that kind of unconditional love on anybody else either.

I lavished love on a guru or two in my day, and it worked! Being a devoted disciple awakened the love in me, not only for the guru but for myself. One of the men I called guru did unseemly things, we later learned. The other, from all I could tell, radiated pure love. Turns out it didn’t matter much where we disciples directed our love. What mattered was the act of bowing down, surrendering our hard-wired heads to our tender hearts, which opened the floodgates of love.

Whether gurus get our love or not (and that’s up to them), we who are their devotees become the first beneficiaries of our own opening hearts. No question that, for me anyway, the impassioned chanting and dancing we did with the gurus were the best of tonics for inducing profound love.

I hope I’m not suggesting we need to go find a guru (or religion or even “God”) to worship if we are to fully appreciate ourselves. What I’m suggesting is that if we want to foment a love worthy of our divinity, it’s not enough to go through external motions of self-care, however beneficial.

Of course it’s well and good to get enough rest, eat right, meditate, do yoga, exercise, and go for massage, etc. But all that and more is mere trimming around the edges of a genuinely self-loving life. Until our minds stop trying to whip us into any sort of shape whatsoever—and our hearts fly so open they can reign supreme—the earth-shaking self-love we long for cannot be ours.

No. If we want be the kind of lovers—the goddesses and gods—who effect real transformation in ourselves and the world, then our love for ourselves, for our rawest humanity and our highest divinity, must be our most ardent desire. It’s a lot to ask of ourselves in a culture that sanctifies the unselfishness of a Mother Teresa*. I am not yet there, and so what?

A deeper self-love is where I’m headed (or should I say hearted?), and I have a promising sense of what true love for our selves could look like. I may be moved to write about that next time. Meanwhile, I am very eager to hear what you make of a quest for self-love above all else.

* My take on Mother Teresa’s life is a whole other story, which I address in my book.

About the Author: Suzanne Grenager

A seasoned writer and mentor with a gift for helping people see and be their most authentic, empowered Self.

18 Comments

  1. Donna Rock June 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Mirror work is one of the hardest things for me.  As I look deeply into my own eyes, I hear the internal dialogue.  I would never be so brutal with someone else – and that point hits home often when I look at old photographs of myself.  I may remember seeing that photo not long after it was taken, and not liking it at all.  Years later, when I look back at it, I see the beauty, the smile, the sweetness.

    Here is to self-compassion and self-love.  And to your wonderful point, Suzanne, it helps to see the angel, Christ or Buddha within – and treat ourselves as if we really are the magnificent beings we were put here to be.  

    • Suzanne Grenager June 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad you mentioned mirror work, which is very useful in the practice of developing self-love. For those who don’t know, it involves, as you suggest, looking deeply into our own eyes and noticing what we notice, feeling what we feel — with the intention of really taking ourselves IN. Looking lovingly at our pictures is a fine practice, too. And it suggests a read shift, Donna, that once-reviled old photos of yourself can now call sweetly to you. Not least, I am happy that the idea of learning to revere ourselves as the “magnificent beings we were put here to be” (as you beautifully put it) resonated with you.

  2. Rachel June 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    While reading this post, Suzanne, I kept considering the unconditional, uncompromising love we lavish on our children. Where does that love come from? I believe it amazingly just flows from the wellspring of the Self you so eloquently discuss with us. My point, I suppose, it that love is ALREADY inside us!! How fantastic is that?!?! The trick is finding a way to bring it right out in the open all the time. Easier said than done, right? All those methods of self care are a good start, but recognizing the need to do unto ourselves as we do unto others (to paraphrase Jesus) and acting on it must begin TODAY. I’m in the path with you, Suzanne. Thank you for opening the gate!

    • Suzanne Grenager June 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Rachel, you make wonderful points here, first reminding us we are capable of an unconditional love that “flows from the wellspring of the Self” — your words, I think, rather than mine. Yes, love is our essence and it feels so good, which does make it hard to fathom why it isn’t “out in the open all the time.” The trick, I suspect, is in learning to shift our point of operation from the head (where love-blocking fear lives) down into our body, and especially to love’s home in the heart. Yoga was the single most effective tool in helping me begin to make that critical shift out of ego-mind and into my depths. Thank you for being on the path with me. I am happier than I can express that more of us are coming together, speaking up and holding hands as we jump.

  3. Encself June 19, 2012 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Self-love is hard.  But the consequences of not loving myself feel so awful.  As soon as I am down on myself, I feel tired, bored, lonely, cranky, not pretty, not impassioned about my work, and I could go on.  But I don’t need too, as I suspect you can relate to my feelings!  And when I feel good about myself I want to dance and incircle the whole universe in my arms and I am sure it will fit.  And if it doesn’t, who cares?  I still feel great! 

    • Suzanne Grenager June 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Self-love IS hard. I have observed that for most of us it’s harder to love ourselves than almost anyone else. We can’t see ourselves clearly enough is why, I think. Meanwhile, you helpfully express for us the unpleasant effects — feeling tired, crankly, not pretty, etc. — of the alternative to self-love, and *it* isn’t pretty! But oh boy, your image of self-love IS. Dancing and “encircling the whole universe in your arms and being sure it will fit.” Pretty fabulous! I want more of that. Many thanks for sharing your vision. I suppose the more we taste the fruits of self-love, the better we’ll get at choosing it. May it be so!

  4. Jim June 19, 2012 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Excellent blog, Suzanne!

    I teach that our true nature is love… That’s what we realize when finally we awaken to the truth that this “I” or “me” that we’re believed ourselves to be ever since about age two – the story-teller – is no more real than the stories it tells!

    Jim
    http://www.jimdreaver.com

    • Suzanne Grenager June 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Yes, thank you, dear Jim. Yours is a beautiful, liberating teaching and I recommend your book, End Your Story, Begin Your Life: Wake Up, Let Go, Live Free to those committed to dropping their storylines and returning to the essential loving Self, which I call the Self of All. I am so glad you have added your voice to the “Bare Naked” blog mix! 

  5. Rachel June 20, 2012 at 2:33 am - Reply

    So often, we ask more of ourselves than we would expect of any other, and we speak to ourselves with words we would not use on an enemy.  Thanks for this reminder…. it was needed!  Love always, Rachel

    • Suzanne Grenager June 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm - Reply

      So glad you found this post a helpful reminder, Rachel. And yes indeed, we hold very high standards for ourselves. Although I’m not so aware of saying harsh words to myself (except when I do something my mind deems extra stupid!), the high standards do see me pushing myself in ways that can be self-destructive. I suspect our harsh self-judgments take different forms in us, depending on our conditioning and such. I am glad you are here!

  6. Karen Latvala June 22, 2012 at 3:32 am - Reply

    Suzanne, thanks for eloquently putting into words the challenge that many of us have, at least from time to time, of REALLY loving ourselves.  Imagine what kind of transformation that self-love could create, not only in our lives, but in the world, since inner creates outer!
    Karen

    • Suzanne Grenager June 22, 2012 at 11:40 pm - Reply

      How beautifully (and succinctly!) you have expressed what is now *ours* to do in the interest of ourselves,  our souls, and the soul of the world. Thank you for reminding us that how we are with ourselves inside has almost unimaginable consequences in the world around us. Another way of saying it perhaps is that what we do for ourselves, we do for everyone. I am SO glad you are here, dear Karen, your strong, gentle voice a most welcome addition to this virtual conversation.

  7. Mary June 23, 2012 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Thank you for this.  I need to hear it…over andover again apparnetly.  You have found your niche in giving us these words in yoru blog.  I cannot thank you enough.  Mary

    • Suzanne Grenager June 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      You are most welcome, dear Mary. and I cannot thank *you* enough  for your moving acknowledgment that I have found my niche. I feel it is so, and I am beyond grateful to serve as a scribe for the wisdom we all carry deep in our beings. It’s an honor and a blessing I hold sacred.

  8. Heatherehughes July 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    If the goal is great love, expansiveness, gratitude (or am I getting it wrong that these are the tools rather than goals?), then how do those moments fit in when we are stopped from business as usual in order to take in some tiny pedestrian image… dragonflies skimming water, a dimple on a baby … and suddenly we are reminded of all the magic?  Those are my favorite times to be alive.  Is that care of self or realization of great love?  Or both?  

    • Suzanne Grenager July 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm - Reply

      Dragonflies skimming on water, a baby’s dimple…what sweet (if, as you say, pedestrian) images you share with us. My sense is we need to already be in a state of relative expansiveness — openness, receptivity — in order to let such experiences remind us of “all the magic.” And when we stop to observe and remember the magic, our expansiveness grows; we become more established (or really re-established) in the practice of it. I don’t see love, expansiveness and gratitude as “goals” or “tools” exactly, though perhaps they can be both. I find it helpful simply to recognize them as related qualities of the human heart, which the more we return to it, the more it will reward us with the love, expansiveness and gratitude that are our natural state. Love is who we are when we learn to quiet the ego-mind and simply BE. To realize the love that we are is, as your last question almost suggests, may be the supreme self-care.

  9. Bex vanKoot July 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I thought quite a bit about the mirror work when you spoke about Maha at the reading last night, about having someone to keep you accountable – someone to hold the mirror, so to speak.

    Many of my meditative moments are spent contemplating the concept described in the greeting ‘Namaste’ and its similar expression in Mayan Kiche` – ‘In` Lakesh’ – the idea that we connect with others by recognizing in them that same divine spark that we find in ourselves… and also realizing that we are only truly capable of understanding another person by the way they are reflected in our own eyes. We ‘know’ the things we know about other people because we are familiar with those attributes through our own experience and being (even if they are prevalent in different degrees, even if we hate to admit that we have anything in common with the person or what we are perceiving in them). This is why we so often say that we cannot love another before we love ourselves. If all we know of ourselves are things that we hate, this is what we will recognize most in others… and if we can’t recognize the things we love about someone else as being also part of ourselves, we will externalize our need for those things and create codependency.

    • Suzanne Grenager July 23, 2012 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      Yes, yes, and thank you, dear Bex, for your (I am quickly coming to see) ever-insightful comments. How right you are that we cannot accept, let alone enjoy, in others what we have not acknowledged and accepted in ourselves — both the aspects we prefer and those we don’t. And your theory about how codependency develops is so clearly expressed. To the extent I don’t love myself, I will be looking for it from you by trying to please you. And that will continue to keep me from realizing and expressing my true self. Amen!

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