Love and Compassion: Be your own Valentine
A lifetime without
Love is of no account
Love is the Water of Life
Drink it down with heart and soul!
~ Rumi, mystic poet
February, and specifically the celebration of Valentine’s Day, turns our thoughts to love and romantic relationship. As joyous and beautiful romance and deep relationships are, I want to turn your attention today toward the most beloved of all relationships – the one you have with yourself. Mindful living is nothing if not an expression of the love we have for our lives, our spirits and bodies; a way of caring for our hearts. When we love and show compassion for ourselves, we are able to more deeply connect with others and relate to our world meaningfully.
How can we more intentionally bring this kind of love and compassion into our lives? This question prompts a return to a Native American teaching parable I’ve shared with you in the past. It is the story of “Two Wolves Within”. Here is a reminder of that parable:
A Native American Elder was once describing his inner turmoil with a dear friend. He struggled to find the words and after a period of quiet reflection, he shared this:
“Inside each of us are two wolves. There is a Good Wolf and there is a Bad Wolf. The Bad Wolf is mean, sad, negative and angry. The Good Wolf is open-hearted, kind and loving. The Bad Wolf fights the Good Wolf all day.”
He fell silent again, and after a time, his friend spoke. “Which Wolf wins?” he asked the Elder.
The old man reflected again for a moment and then replied,
“Whichever Wolf we feed the most”.
Ponder that story for a moment…..what rises up for you?
Notice in your daily life the moments when you are aware of feeding your inner “Wolves”. Do you feed the Good Wolf – or the Bad Wolf? What emotions arise as a result of these choices? The greater awareness we have of both the little and large choices we make and the subsequent paths they take us down, the better our chances of making more loving (and Good Wolf nurturing) decisions.
As a result of simply increasing awareness, you will begin making more Good Wolf choices. When we make these kinds of choices, we feel energized, encouraged, balanced and centered and as such, we are expressing love for ourselves. No matter what, we will sometimes still feed the Bad Wolf. We are human after all, and the purpose of living mindfully is gentle progress (include peace for just who we are) – but never perfection.
When we are aware and regard ourselves with kindness, the Bad Wolf has minimal negative impact on our lives. In fact, sometimes the Bad Wolf even helps by teaching us powerful insights – like pointing the way to the next growth edge or learning curve. With that kind of instruction, we can gently redirect ourselves back to nurturing the Good Wolf and expressing love and self-compassion.
How often do you feed the Bad Wolf of self-criticism, impatience, judgment, even disgust? What would it feel like instead to treat yourself as you would your dearest friend, or as a mother comforts her child? Imagine how you would respond to the experience of compassion, empathy and love for yourself. My hunch is that you would begin making more Good Wolf choices from this stance of compassionate self-acceptance – and more readily experience joy, energy, an abundance of well-being and yes – Love! These positive emotions lead to healthier, more supportive choices for how we care for our bodies, our hearts and our minds. Acceptance and love brings purposeful and meaningful change. Now that is the power of living mindfully!
Here are some tips for feeding compassionate self-love and building up your “Good Wolf Pack” in the process:
1. Reflect on a part of your life that feels conflicting or incongruent; a part of your life that is in conflict with how you want to live. It could be smoking cigarettes, binge-eating, laying on the couch in front of the TV, isolating yourself from loved ones, or a multitude of other choices that disconnect you from your authenticity.
2. Whenever you notice these behaviors or patterns of thinking, take a moment to pause and reflect.
3. As you pause and reflect, open yourself to what emotions you are feeling and what you sense in your body. Do you feel anxious? Lonely? Angry? Hungry? Tired? What else? Take note of these feelings, simply noting them as they are.
4. Notice with compassion and acceptance whatever emotions, thoughts or physical sensations come to the surface as you simply reflect. What are you longing for? What do you need? How can you lovingly comfort and support yourself? You may even find it helpful to place a hand (or your hands folded) over your heart.
5. Gently ask yourself a few questions to guide your awareness and acceptance. You might try questions like: What is it I need right now? What do I care most about? What is really important to me right now? How can I show myself compassion and love right now? Whatever thoughts and feelings come to the surface, accept them without judgment.
6. Return to the conflict and choices at hand. You will be amazed by what happens when you practice these steps with consistency and kindness!
Self compassion frees us from self-criticism and the self-abuse that so often comes when we feel inner conflict. It is a simple truth: When we are beating ourselves up, we can’t be mindful of what is actually possible in the present moment. Mindful living comes from making choices that arise from compassion and a loving relationship within. This is most possible when we are aware and accepting of what is alive in our moment-to-moment experience.
In this way, bit by bit, we learn to hold our hearts within our own loving hands. That is the Good Wolf at its best!
Healthy, loving people are very much like healthy wolves: Keen, loyal to oneself and one’s pack, playful, intuitive, brave, adaptive and vibrant!
Please remember to send yourself a Valentine this month, in whatever form shows genuine love and compassion for the Beloved within you.
~May our hearts be filled with Loving-Kindness~