Self-Love is Important
Self-Love Is Important
Let's begin by exploring how respecting ourselves and cultivating inner resources can lead to a sense of internal abundance, which enables us to be happy, resilient, and more attentive to others.
"In meditation practice we're always practicing letting go and starting over. As we cultivate this we find that it benefits our lives more and more."
Overview: Self-Love Is Important
What if we were to think of love not as a sentimental feeling or a limited commodity, but as an innate ability we can strengthen? In our first unit of study, we'll start to broaden our understanding of love while breaking down some popular misconceptions about it. We'll explore what it means to love ourselves without considering it to be narcissistic or self-indulgent as well as how we can avoid contracted states brought on by anger, fear, greed, and jealousy.
Sharon will wrap up the lesson with a calming meditation to practice returning to the breath when we get distracted. She'll then answer a few common questions that crop up when it comes to self-care, relationships, and mindfulness meditation.
The Broaden and Build Theory
This theory developed by Barbara Frederickson at the University of North Carolina is a model of how deepening our experience of positive states can develop our inner resources.
As we deepen positive states such as compassion, equanimity, generosity, and gratitude, we're able to broaden our perspective. We have more options. We can breathe. We have a sense of greater and greater spaciousness.
This is a huge contrast to how we feel when we're lost in anger, fear, greed, jealousy: these are states that are incredibly contracted. We have a limited number of options. The world closes in. We have tremendous tunnel vision: as if it's only this one thing that will ever make us happy. We focus on negatives. If we can imagine the opposite of feeling like this—openness, relief, release—this is what Barbara means by "broaden."
As we grow and deepen these positive qualities we build a sense of inner resource. We build a sense of inner sufficiency or even inner abundance.
In the Buddhist tradition, for example, generosity is said to best come from a sense of inner abundance or at least inner sufficiency. To be generous without a feeling of privation or obligation requires that we feel inside ourselves that we have enough. If we feel inner abundance, we can delight in giving freely and with openness. Generosity doesn't just mean material generosity: we can offer lovingkindness, our attention, compassion. If we feel depleted, broken, shattered, exhausted, or overcome there will not be much inside that we can extend to others, to allow us to care about others... even to pay attention to them.
Barbara Frederickson's research suggests that if we cultivate these states: lovingkindness, compassion, peace, generosity, gratitude... we will have a reservoir that we can draw upon as we care about others.
Self-love enables us to care for others without burning out or having our motivation distorted. For example, generosity may become martyrdom. The act can look the same on the surface but come from a very different place inside. We learn that it's not "only about me" but it's "about me as well as you." We include ourselves in the love and attention we give to others.
All beings want to be happy
Simply because we exist, we want to be happy. Everybody wants to be happy. Not just in the superficial sense of enjoying pleasure: we want a sense of belonging. We want a sense of having a home, in this body, in this mind, with one another on this Earth. We want a sense of being part of something greater than our usually limited sense of self. The desire for happiness is not something we should feel squeamish about. It's not to be confused with craving or greed. If we can align our urge towards happiness with wisdom instead of the ignorance it's often aligned with, it becomes a homing instinct for freedom. We can cut through many obstacles.
All beings are vulnerable
Though we don't all bear the same measure of pain, everybody's life is fragile, moving, and changing. We all know that life can change on a dime. The compassionate flavor with which love can manifest is really about an equality between us and including us.
The more we cultivate love and care for ourselves, the more we cultivate resilience. We have a sense of wherewithal with which we can meet adverse circumstances or the truth of change. We don't feel so devastated, so overcome as things are shifting and changing and we're uncertain what's coming next. Resilience is that ability to start again, and not carry so much of the past into this new beginning. It gives us a sense of flow, rather than holding onto pleasant experiences that are always changing. When difficult, painful challenges arise, we sense that we have something within with which to meet them. We don't feel so overcome or destroyed by what's happening. This is the promise of creating greater and greater love and kindness toward ourselves.