“Love is the absence of judgment.” - Dalai Lama
What does that truly mean, and how can we cultivate it?
Self-love is high up on the list of popular Instagram hashtags of 2021. Although certainly a step in the right direction for our society, is this really just a marketing-friendly buzzword tossed about by millennial start-ups selling bath bombs and luxury candles?
Although it can certainly make you feel good, at it’s core self-love isn’t really about pampering and preening oneself. The true nature of cultivating love for oneself roots much deeper than simply being able to look in the mirror without overwhelming critique arising.
For many of us it takes years of deep emotional and spiritual work to begin cultivating true love for oneself. Quite often the ego can masquerade as self-love or body positivity, presented in the form of TikTokkers booty-shaking to Beyoncé or slathering on a £200 face mask once a week. Although none of these actions are particularly detrimental to building a love for ourselves, somewhere underneath the lavender-scented exterior that nagging voice is still present, criticising our every move, step or decision.
The great spiritual masters taught self-love as the recognition of the divine in ourselves. When we can see and accept the divine in ourselves, we become merged with the divine consciousness and can know ourselves truly and deeply with an all-loving presence. This kind of self-love might sound a little esoteric but in plainer terms these ancient teachings simply acknowledge the part self-acceptance has on the path to self love. When one accepts oneself truly and recognises the divine within themselves, one can experience an all-knowing, all-encompassing love for themselves, as a pure manifestation of the divine.
In the modern day it is easy to get lost on the path to self-love. In a world of instant gratification, financial gain over community gain and a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude, acceptance of self is proving harder and harder to acknowledge as we drive ourselves further away from who we truly are, at our centre. Discontentment and discomfort is played upon by marketing teams who drive up the prices of *insert here* beauty treatment claiming to increase happiness, health and wellbeing tenfold by freezing/burning/melting cellulite off thighs that work perfectly well as they are (or something to that effect). It’s certainly hard to rise above the noise, the buzz of insecurities, one-upping and immediate gratification of likes pinging in on a latest selfie. It can feel like being trapped inside a hurricane on its path to complete destruction. Unstoppable and out of control.
In the experience on myself, a humble Yoga teacher from rural England, I have watched love arise in myself with the gentleness of poetry. It has risen slowly and with ease alongside a deep and compassionate acceptance of my flaws, an humorous appreciation for my human messiness and the many wonderful gifts I uniquely offer the world. I’m still on my own path and there are days when self-loathing feels much easier, or I fall into the marketing traps cleverly laid out for me - but I encourage you to think on this dear reader, is anything good ever really easy?
However bumpy the path may be, true self-love arises gently and softly from the depths of ourselves. Stirring and swelling through the cavities of our bodies and minds like a memory that has always been present - we’ve just forgotten it. Like anything worthwhile, it comes slowly and with the combined magic of discipline and surrender. So here’s a few words of wisdom to meditate upon…
Put in the work, daily.
Allow feelings, emotions, thoughts to arise without judgement.
Listen to and nourish your body.
Be gentle and kind to yourself.
Create, in what ever way speaks to you best.
Release the ego chatter, let it slip away into silence.
Surrender to the guidance of the divine.
Lastly - a sparkly bath bomb once in a while can’t hurt.