How do I internalize the love I am seeking?
For anyone who knows me well, you know that I have been single for a looooooong time. In many ways I feel blessed. Being my own primary partner for the last few years has allowed me the space I needed to heal and grow after the deep and painful journey that was my last relationship.
Though I had experienced some beautiful relationships in my life, that last one was a real doozer! It also happened to be full of goldmines, though I wouldn’t have called them that back then.
During that relationship it seemed that every time I turned around I discovered another part of myself that was totally unloveable, another part of myself that I was ashamed of, angry at, or disgusted by.
As hard as I tried to maintain the beauty that also existed in the relationship, those unlovable parts wouldn’t stop activating the shame, anger and disgust that was lurking just below the surface. It only took one off glance by that man for the awful feelings and thoughts to kick in. “Ugh. Of course he doesn’t look at me with love in his eyes. I’m pathetic, worthless, and full of myself at best.”
Though I can identify these thoughts and feelings pretty clearly now, at the time they would flood in so fast that I almost didn't recognize what was happening. What I did notice was that my defense mechanisms -mechanisms that would do anything to not want or need love from a man that didn’t seem to love me- reared up and oriented my attention towards all of the things I didn’t like about him.
The disdain I felt towards myself wanted to lash out in the name of not being felt by me. It created judgements in my mind, pointed out the qualities I didn't like in him, and then seemingly allowed me to retreat on my high horse.
Wow. In seeing those words I notice my mind telling me that I sound like a complete lunatic! And perhaps I was in those moments, but what feels more helpful now is the reminder that I was really hurt and I didn’t yet know how to love myself, let alone someone else who was also hurting.
On the bright side *because I always believe there is a bright side,* I walked away from that relationship with a long and detailed list of spiritual homework that I was highly motivated to take on, as I refused to allow myself to repeat that relationship.
Moving forward, the spiritual homework I took on oriented around the question “how can I internalize the love that I am seeking? The love that I dream of?" I knew it had to begin with learning to love those parts of myself that I had rejected in that relationship.
In holding curiosity about the cultivation of deep inner love in my heart, I've magically been guided to people, places, practices and situations that I needed in order to build that love and compassion. In many ways it seems like this journey has been guided by something bigger than myself, something orchestrating on my behalf. I just needed to clarify my intention.
So in the name of offering a few ideas for anyone else out there wanting to cultivate self love, I can share that it all began with a simple practice of placing my hand on my heart each morning before I got out of bed. As I did this, I offered a few reflections of what I loved about myself.
During those first few weeks I felt really disconnected to the actual feeling of love, and the lovable aspects I named were pretty surface level. “I love you for your willingness to get down on the dance floor. I love your hair. I love how much you love your family.”
As time went on, the lovable aspects came through more easily, and I actually began to feel love for myself. Eventually I deepened into finding love for the parts of myself that had evoked shame, anger and disgust. “I love you for your willingness to face your own shadows. I love you when you make a mistake because mistakes are how we grow. I love you even when you get angry because anger is a part of being human.”
There have been many more practices and experiences that I hope to share at a later date, but for today I leave you with these words of self love and some curiosity about how you have been growing and internalizing love…