Love Your Neighbor… as Yourself.
It was 2003 and I was living with my then husband and our two small daughters outside of San Antonio, TX. Still entrenched in my former religious group and ideas, I was carrying a great deal of baggage from my upbringing, indoctrinations, and familial dysfunctions.
(There isn’t a way to feel God within until we love ourselves.)
That year that I experienced my first, — and I hope my last, depression. This was the real thing; profound, debilitating, painful, cold, scary, bizarre; like your thoughts, emotions and feelings all have vertigo.
And then this happened…
Some friends from “the fellowship” were visiting. Sylvie, the wife, told me that her family had visited a therapist of sorts, and that she gave them a strange therapy for the ailments they consulted her for.
The therapist apparently saw that my friends didn’t need medicine, they needed to learn how to love themselves. They were not sick, they just didn’t love themselves.
There were no piles of supplements to take home from this therapist.
In the session, she had my friend lie down, close her eyes and say to herself: “I love you Sylvie”. The therapist would be watching Sylvie’s muscles’ response and how they tensed up instantly. “Do it again” she was told; “I love you Sylvie”, muscles tense up, involuntarily… time after time. Her body’s intelligence knew that she was lying to herself when she said “I love you”, so her muscles would tense up.
The therapist told them to make a recording of their own voices with the message, “I love you — fill in the name” and listen to it every day.
I don’t know if they followed directions, but maybe that message was for me.
Starting that same day I started telling myself “I Love You”
In my own thoughts and my own voice any moment I wanted: “I love you Vivi”… “I love you”.
I kept doing it every day; over and over. It started sometimes to run in the back of my mind. Despite suffering depression, I knew at a deep level, I am sure, that this was something I needed.
Fast forward fifteen years and I still do it, perhaps daily, automatically in some situations when I need to feel the reassurance. My voice has gotten more tender, and I know the words are true. Even when I am passing through suffering, — or perhaps, especially when I am passing through suffering, I know I am there, and I am loving myself through whatever I am going through.
It is not a selfish thing to love ourselves; it is the most altruistic thing we can do, in effect.
I could not pinpoint when I “got it”, and when my muscles stopped tensing up, but I know that the kinds of transformations that started to show up in my life never could have happened without something new being introduced in me. Something ALIVE. These movements are still going on today. I don’t know where they will lead me, but I trust the foundation.
Love for my own self; love for my life’s journey; love for my life’s efforts, for every impulse of love, care and compassion… This, I understood clearly, was the same as loving God.
Talking about loving God is empty babble if in our hearts there isn’t a love for ourselves. We cannot give what we don’t have, — even though we can pretend and deceive ourselves that we do.
It is simple: when we recognize the divine aspect of ourselves, loving ourselves is automatic, and that is loving God. This also produces love for others, who we now see, at least in some measure, as being connected to the whole divine network of life that never ends.
This is not to be confused with the horror of narcissism. Not by a million miles.
It is love for myself that allows me to discipline myself.
It is love and respect for myself that allows me to admit when I have been wrong, and that pushes me in the direction of truth and the highest good.
I have come to discover that everything that I have been able to accomplish since 2003 is a result of what I started that day as I plowed my way through a depression. My impulse for growth was present despite it all.
Keep the mind out of it as much as possible
Tell yourself: “I love you — your name”, and watch and FEEL your body. Do this over and over; even mindlessly as you are doing things; walking, driving; you can do this while you do almost anything. You can do it a hundreds of times a day easily, regardless of your state of mind: “I love you _______”.
(If you sigh, that is a good sign :-)
This connects you eventually to the vastness of Love that is.
Make this gentle change… it will take you to good places.
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Copyrighted material 2017