Love is all you need… to inspire and get you on the right track. If we make love the source of our thoughts and our actions, then only great and wonderful things can happen. With the hallmark holiday of romance swiftly descending upon us, there’s no better time to address the topic of love. I’m talking pure, deep, untamed vibrations of the heart. That feeling of swelling in your chest like a great big balloon and the greatest sensations of satisfaction, joy and gratitude filling every nook and cranny of your soul.
In yoga there is the ethical and moral practice of ahimsa. Ahimsa (a = not, himsa = hurt) can be roughly translated from Sanskrit as the practice of non-harming or non-violence towards ourselves and others on a physical, mental and emotional level. To do this we must be able to forgive ourselves and others before moving on to practice respect, compassion and love in all our daily actions and words. According to ancient yoga philosophy, the active, mindful practice of ahimsa can lead to a more harmonious, peaceful and tranquil life. So how can we practice ahimsa in our modern western world? Where can we start? We begin at the source. That is, with our very own selves.
True ‘self love’ is seeing yourself the way you see your best friends, partner or cherished family members. You love everything that makes them uniquely them, imperfections and all. You support their dreams. You tell them how much you love them (and when you’re not saying it out loud, the chances are, you are thinking it). You hate to see them hurting and will do anything to comfort them in the way you know is best. If someone or something upsets them, you are the first to defend them.
So why not see ourselves in the same way? Why can’t we be our own best friends too? Maybe if we filled up our own cup to the very top with self-love and compassion, perhaps then we would have even more love to pour into the world and our loved ones? To do this we need to look towards ourselves every day, really look hard, and tell ourselves that we are enough, that we are wonderful, that we can do anything we want. Stop the voices of anxiety, worry and self-doubt, just like you would stop that bully attacking your loved ones. Face it head on, and call it out on its sh*t! Imagine this voice speaking to your best friend or your partner. How dare it speak to them like that, so how dare it speak to you like that. It’s not easy to quieten a voice that has lived in your head for years but it doesn’t mean you should let it continue. So just like you would train at the gym or rehearse a new skill, remember, practice makes perfect. Get into the habit of speaking up to that monster and embracing everything about yourself.
Where to start…
Begin by waking up every morning and telling yourself, truly and wholeheartedly, how much you love yourself for the incredible person you are. Pick out three things you are grateful for and focus on them. Maybe you choose three different ones each day or choose the same three for that week or month. I would like to suggest choosing at least one thing you normally struggle with. For me, for years, I had a huge hang-up about my legs. This stemmed from an incident in my young teenage years when a neighbour (a mother herself) made a very hurtful and scarring remark about my legs. At such an impressionable young age and growing up in the ‘size zero era’, I developed a serious complex with my physique. This haunted me right through my teens and twenties. On the eve of my 30th birthday I decided that enough was enough. Initially, every day for about 6 months, I stood in front of the mirror and told myself how amazing my legs were. I thought of how they allowed me to do so much in my life and how I had never stopped to give thanks for them. Riddled with shame and guilt, I cried every morning I did this. Sometimes self-forgiveness is required before beginning self-love. I had to go right back to the beginning and had to learn to forgive myself for all the horrible things I had said and thought in the past before I could begin embracing and loving this part of me. It was a painful and uncomfortable process at first, but as time passed I found myself becoming less critical of myself and soon the morning mirror ritual began to reduce to only a couple of meetings a week. Now I am beginning to address the next big bully who tells me almost every day that I am not good enough to be the best that I can. I am finding this very painful to address but just like before, I am going to practice every day, for as long as it takes, until I finally, completely believe in it.
You won’t find self-love and acceptance from the amount of likes you get on Instagram or the compliments you receive from others. Self-love is not something that can be obtained externally, but rather is something internal which requires patience, consistency and gentle nurturing. Develop the healthy habit of exercising some self-love and appreciation as part of your daily routine. If we are truly set on achieving a healthy balanced lifestyle, it is essential to get into the practice of creating a positive mental attitude towards ourselves on a daily basis, alongside regular physical activity (e.g. yoga, walking, gym, dance, swimming, climbing etc.) and healthy eating. One other great opportunity to practice this positive self-affirmation is straight after a great workout or movement session when endorphins are high and you’re feeling particularly good about yourself.
Another way to tap into the practice of self-love is to delve into the things you are passionate about. Pick up that paint brush, get creative in the kitchen, go dancing, read books or like me, roll out that mat and flow to some sick-ass tunes. The most successful people in life are those who spend their time doing the job they love, indulging in their favourite pastimes and hobbies and being around the people they care deeply about.
Love has so many beautiful layers and routes to reach out and heal the world, beyond the boundaries of our own little bubbles. Strengthen your heart by holding a little kindness for others. It doesn’t have to be a great big gesture. Something as simple as letting someone join in front of you in the traffic, complementing the person behind the counter at the supermarket, or showing a little restraint and holding back on hurtful knee-jerk comments in an argument, are really easy and powerful ways to spread a little karma and joy.
The mind is the most powerful tool we have and we need to train it to think happy, healthy thoughts, just as we train our bodies to be healthy and happy through physical movement and eating nourishing food. Daily practice of self-love and appreciation is a beautiful way to practice ahimsa in your life. You will be amazed by the relief and sense of freedom a little self-love can create. Fill up your own cup, each and every day, with some well-deserved love and see how your love can overflow in a great, big, powerful wave, embracing your nearest and dearest, and reaching out to more people as it goes further and longer than before (remember to refill each morning!). Go on, give it a go. The world needs more love.
Peace, love and light,