Maitri // Unconditional self love

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There's not always a quick fix for problems. Some lessons demand the long, winding route. These lessons keep me up at night, forcing me to take a good look at the ugliness, the stuff I'd rather ignore. It's not an enjoyable experience to stare your truth straight in the face, but sometimes you have to take time to get to know what's broken so you can find a fix. Other times it's not about the fix. It's about looking at the reality of all that you are and all that you've experienced, the good and the bad and figuring out a way to coexist with all of it. Self love means seeing and acknowledging all parts of yourself, including the things that aren't so beautiful, all the while choosing to love, accept and maintain a high opinion of yourself through it all. 

Maitri, a Sanskrit word for lovingkindness, unconditional friendliness.

A buddhist word that resonates as I sift through the messiness of this process: Maitri, a Sanskrit word for lovingkindness, unconditional friendliness. I'm looking at maitri through the lens of unconditional lovingkindness towards SELF. I grew up flaunting my perfectionism, how I loved for things to be perfect and I was my own worst critic. You can relate, right? But I'm realizing: the cracks are beautiful. Not just mine. Yours too. Those things that you think make you a broken vessel? Your humanity is beautiful not just in spite of them but INCLUDING them and alllllll the things in between the good and bad. The grey area, too. 

To stay with that shakiness — to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge — that is the path of true awakening.

Pema Chodron says:

"Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.

To stay with that shakiness — to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge — that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic — this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior. We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resentment, bitterness, righteous indignation — harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, a sense of inspiration."

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Practicing lovingkindness towards self isn't at all about fixing things or solving problems. It's not about eliminating problems or becoming society's version of a perfect human, perfectly moral and in equanimity at all times. Lovingkindness towards self requires giving up control altogether, letting these ideals fall apart. Feels like a free fall, I know. 

Thoughts, emotions, moods, and memories come and they go, and basic nowness is always here. In the midst of all the heavy dialogue with ourselves, open space is always there. -Pema Chodron

For me, that means fighting the impulse to stay busy. Building in white space and openness for reflection, honesty and lightening up with myself. The real work is in having courage to face the ugly head on, while embodying love of self all the same. Seeing and lightening up. Feeling and letting go. This is part of why meditation is so great. It's hard to put this balance into words. It's something you have to feel out. Much like hitting a high note and memorizing how it feels to nail it. How the soft palate is positioned, the tongue is relaxed, the throat open and free of tension. You can talk about it all you want, but you have to practice getting used to the open feeling, how it feels in the body. And then you can get to that wide open space more often, more quickly.

So my top priority this year and more importantly, moment to moment, is to practice more unconditional lovingkindness toward myself. I've been through a lot and I'm sure you have, too. No one else is going to give me peace of mind -- only I can do that. 

Does this make sense? Do you struggle to accept yourself sometimes? Where could you find space to be a bit kinder with yourself? To love and accept all parts of you, while still working to improve without the goal of perfection?