Can you look in the mirror and say “I love myself” without flinching?

“I Hate Myself”

Dear lord, I heard this very recently from an accomplished, brilliant colleague who has achieved more success than most writers dream of. But despite having health, success, and a loving family..the internal feeling of self-disgust has crippled critical aspects of his life.

And I guess I want to deal with this. I’ve had students speak of this in so many ways. Today, I’ll just touch on the physical, but I want to go more deeply into the way this cripples our lives.
Self-hatred dealing with body image, rape and abuse, and other issues can result in obesity, self-destructive drug or alcohol use, and pushing the physical body until it collapses. Storing negative emotions in the body so that you don’t have to feel them. Engaging in risky, demeaning sexual activity and simply not holding yourself as precious.

The discipline necessary to eat well, exercise regularly, and rest thoroughly come directly from a sense of loving yourself–that you are WORTH the discipline.

A good basic measure is: if you were your own most beloved child, would you engage in this behavior? What would you tell your own son or daughter to do in regard to smoking, drinking, drugging, eating, exercise, sex, rest, and so many other questions. Do YOU live according to your own values? How much more would you have to love yourself to have the discipline, the joy, the sheer bliss in living? The commitment to dance through life rather than slog?

How much difference would loving yourself, deeply, truly and without reservation make to you?
From whom, or where, in life did you get the impression that you were less worthy of love than any other human being?

You are an adult now. It is up to YOU to give yourself the love you need to thrive. Start today with the simple commitment: I will love myself. I will learn to heal the wounds, and heal them. To embrace my true self, and live every day as if I have a contribution of beauty and joy to give the world.

Until, in other words, you can look at yourself in the mirror and say: “I love myself!” and mean it. And know that that self-love raises the value of the gift of love you give to others.

The first step is love. We’re going to walk that path for a while.


(p.s.–and yes. I love myself. And like myself. For all my flaws and failings, all the ways I know I still have to grow…the little kid inside me is THRILLED with the adult I have become. I tickle the hell out of me. If I wasn’t me, I’d want to be my friend. But I do not, and never have, thought I was any better than anyone else. The trick is that that gives me permission to believe that there is no one any better than me. So there!)

Anahata (Heartbeat) Meditation

Heartbeat Meditation

Over the last thirty years, my most consistent practice has been Sri Chinmoy’s “Heartbeat Meditation.” While I loved it and considered it central to my spiritual development, part of this was pure trust—Chinmoy was the first human being whose aura I could perceive (believe as much of that as you wish), so I simply put faith in him, as we often must in our gurus.
It was later that I began to understand why simply sitting and listening to my heartbeat was so powerful. I thought I’d touch on it just a bit.

1) Love and Fear compete for the same place in our hearts. Consider them to be different forms of the same primal energy. Survival. Evolution. But each has its strengths and weaknesses. So long as we believe in the false ego, love is a safer medium for growth.

2) Sitting quietly. Relaxing until you can feel your pulse, or taking your pulse if necessary. Listening to the rush of blood in your veins, knowing that the most essential part of our being is automatic and given to us before birth. We were loved and cared for before ever we entered the world. Connect with that peace and centeredness.

3) Anger is a mask over fear. Find the fear beneath the rage, and the rage dissipates. This is so incredibly useful I CANNOT recommend it highly enough.

4) The following are often symptoms of fear: writer’s block, obesity, unhealthy relationships, political rigidity, depression, rage, paranoia, racism, sexism. Belief that the universe is going out of its way to hold you back. That people are talking about you behind your back, or conspiring to control your behavior.

5) The bad news is that the world doesn’t care about whether or not you succeed. The good news is that the world doesn’t care about whether or not you succeed. On the material level, it is up to you.

Start with loving yourself, deeply and without limit. If you can do this, and it raises your love and respect for others…you are on the right road. Take another step.

The Wounded Child

I 100% agree with what this article says: that behavioral dysfunctions are a form of PTSD, often related to childhood trauma. This is one reason that the “Morning Ritual” concept incorporates both the “Ancient Child”, heartbeat meditation, physical motion, and focus. Why I believe so strongly in dealing with the fear that lies at the base of all negative emotion. Sigh.

I can tell you the first time I realized how bad it was, and how I needed to trust instinct rather than the surface or presenting stories. I was a GOH at a convention in Texas, and teaching a morning Tai Chi workshop. There was a lady on the periphery of the workshop, trying to do the movements. She was extremely obese, and more, her teeth were rotted out. My first impression was that she was like one overweight person pushed into the middle of a second one, a very sweet small face and bright eyes in the middle of a puffy cocoon of fatty tissue. Over 300 pounds.

I am always very connected to the people in those workshops. All kinds of odd subliminal information pops into my head about them, their emotions, sex lives, all sorts of stuff. It isn’t esp. It is that our bodies reflect our histories. They store our emotions.

I worked with her a bit, and in adjusting her body, something horrible happened, horrible because I didn’t know how to handle it. Suddenly, I saw the sweet face as a trapped child within the massive protective cocoon. The bright eyes calling out to me from within a prison of flesh: HELP. A fear of being seen sexually, combined with a deep, desperate hope that someone could see her, and love her, and help her free itself.

And I knew. The teeth. The body. This woman had been terribly, horribly, serially abused as a child. And her brain had done what a brain is supposed to do: do everything in its power to prevent her from ever being seen as a sexual being again, to obscure the secondary sexual characteristics. Yes, I know it is illogical. But that’s what I saw.

Too damned clearly.

After the work shop I went to my room and cried. Just…sobbed. Something had opened inside me, and I felt like I was watching personal histories, not just physical bodies, in that convention hotel. Millions of individual behavioral choices arising from values and beliefs connected to emotional and physical pains and pleasures. If I respected them, I had to believe that they were doing the best they could. There was no laziness, no lack of wish to be healthy and strong and happy.

This was something very different. Post-industrial society has unteathered calories or immediate survival from physical performance for the first time in our evolutionary history, and we are seeing something extraordinary. In a few generations we will have figured it out, but right now…dear God.

I wanted to leave that convention, and if I hadn’t been GOH I would have. So I put on my face and went back down.

And…she followed me. Showed up at panels and signings. Always on the periphery. Smiling shyly at me. And finally, on the last day, she asked me if we could talk.

We had coffee. She said that she didn’t know why she was talking to me. Just…that there was something about me. She felt that I had seen HER, not just her body. And was driven to speak to me.

And there, while I sipped my latte, she changed my life. With only a tiny bit of reassurance and coaxing she described a history of abuse that precisely matched what I had seen. Her stepfather. Her stepuncles. A mother who pretended it wasn’t happening.

Abusive relationships. And a near-suicidal threshold that led to a solution: to become invisible in plain sight. Years of being unseen. And now a heart-wrenching urge to find a way out of the prison she had built for herself. Was it too late? She wanted to know.

And I remembered something that Leo and Diane Dillon, the great, great artists had once said to me when I asked if I had lost my way as an artist: “if you can even ask the question, it’s not too late.”
That was twenty-five years ago. I had nothing specific to offer this lady except hope, and love, holding her hands as we both cried.

But I changed that day. I knew that I saw things that were contrary to social narrative, and needed to trust my instincts more than the popular wisdom. And I knew that I had to find a way to understand what we are as human beings that we can be smart, and good and decent and still hurt each other and ourselves so badly, and remain in denial about it.

That was, in many ways, the beginning of my awakening.

I don’t remember her name. I don’t know where she is or even if she is alive. All I can say is that I hope I touched her as deeply as she touched me.

Whereever you are, my love, I see you. That perfect little girl who deserved to be loved, and held, and cherished, is still within you. And I pray you found a way to both keep her safe, and let her free.


Deservement: The Art of Self-Love

In the last 24 hours, I’ve dealt with four different students or clients where the core issue is one of self-love. Deservement. The following things were triggers:

1) Childhood abuse, both sexual and psychological. Being touched inappropriately, told they are worthless, used as “things” rather than people before the full development of ego walls.

2) Perceived betrayal of childhood ambitions. Either giving them up, or doing things to achieve them that were in violation of core values.

3) Abusive adult relationships. “Crazymakers” who bond to you powerfully economically, emotionally, or sexually. And then…gaslight you. If you don’t know the term, see the movie. Basically these are people who are either emotionally imbalanced or have some drive to unbalance you, keep you from leveraging your intelligence and emotions, with an end to domination. To do this, they either criticize or terrorize you, until you have twisted yourself into a knot to please them, and no longer know where “north” is on your personal compass. At that point, you are infantalized, willing to do whatever it takes to keep them happy so that you can escape the pain. Brutal. (more…)