I am reading a book written by Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. A focal point of her message is that “Love for others without the foundation of love for ourselves becomes a loss of boundaries, codependency, and a painful and fruitless search for intimacy”. Self-love is at times challenging for me. Society seems to teach us that self-love is about fueling our inner ego. Even the thesaurus attached to my word processing software proposes “egocentricity” as an alternative to self-love. Societal mores be damned. I frequently find myself surrounded by unhappy souls. It is clear to me that to align myself with the normative behavior that is our modern society’s expectation, will do little to aid in my own internal progression towards being a better person, husband and (step) father. I believe there is substantial truth in the concept that unless one is at peace with one’s self there is no way to be at peace with others. Self-compassion is at the root of the transformation I am travelling down.
Sharon’s second point of resonance for me was the statement “Generosity coming from self-hatred becomes martyrdom”. The act of giving with the expectation of a return will eventually lead to mental fragmentation. My personal manifestation of this teaching is that the true path to inner happiness is to give freely without expectation of reciprocity, this is true both of material as well as mental gifts.
It is apparent to me that the most profound teachings are probably the most obvious ones, and it would be easy to self-criticize from needing to learn these lessons. Ironically that action of self-criticism would be counter to what has been my greatest learning of late; To continue to allow mental fragmentation based on the past will never result in my own internal peace, instead I must accept that the past is unchangeable and it will only lead to unhappiness if one attempts to change it. To find happiness and move beyond the the suffering of the past, the past must be used as a teacher. Through taking the conscious step of learning from the past I can stop the retrospective mental flagellation and instead improve and move forward. If I can find peace within me, and be compassionate towards myself, by recognizing my mistakes and making the choice to learn from them, then I can develop the ability to be compassionate towards others that I love. Self-love does not symbolize an insular egocentric weakness, it is a manifestation of an understanding that only by loving ourselves can we truly love others.