Valentine’s Day is coming. Do you feel the pressure to create the perfect experience? Oh, I hope not! I have no issue with chocolate and flowers, and especially no problem with chocolate-covered strawberries from Amy’s Ice Cream (with hopes that my husband is reading this…). Yet Valentine’s Day is fraught with expectation, and with all of our baggage about our “love-worthiness”. And when you don’t feel deserving of love, it is very hard to open your heart to others.
I am reminded of a couple of song titles here. Johnny Lee’s “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” and CSN’s “Love the One You’re With”. Once you get into the lyrics of the songs, they don’t resonate as much with the point I want to make, but let’s just look at the titles:
Looking for love in all the wrong places: Anytime we seek love outside of ourselves in order to feel worthy, we are looking for love in the wrong places. It’s time we turn our affections inward, to extend love, compassion and acceptance to ourselves. We don’t need to perform any certain acts to deserve our love, being is enough. Truly, madly, deeply…we are enough and it’s time we appreciate ourselves for who we are. Look for love within…that’s the right place.
Love the one you’re with: Who are you always with? Every minute of every day, without any breaks at all? From your very first day here, to your very last? Of course you know the answer–your lifelong best friend and companion-yourself! Yet, do we really treat ourselves as a loyal and trusted ally, someone who is always(always!) there for us? From what I’ve seen, heard and done, I’d say “not really”. In my Yoga classes sometimes I ask students to give themselves a hug. Sure, it stretches the upper back and is a good variation for Garudasana arms. I ask them to not just do the action, but to hug with real feeling, suggesting that if they ever need a hug, and no one is around, they now know how to hug themselves, no problem. They usually laugh at this. However, I’m not really joking. I’d like to suggest that we all be prepared to give ourselves the love, the kindness, and the hugs that we need. So, love the one you’re with, day in and day out.
When you need a little love, take a break and take care of yourself, in a kind and compassionate way:
- Stay well nourished and hydrated
- Take a look at your inner dialogue; if you are not speaking kindly to yourself, change the conversation
- Slow down for a moment and have a cup of tea
- Take a walk in nature
- Take a warm bath
- Say something nice to yourself, and mean it
- Engage in a physical activity that energizes or relaxes you
- Practice metta bhavana, or loving kindness meditation. This is a way of developing compassion that is traced back to Buddhist tradition as described below:
The Loving Kindness Meditation
- Take a comfortable seated position You want to feel good so be really sure you are in a position of ease.
- Close your eyes and focus at your “heart center”, breathing in and out from that area. Anchor your attention to the sensations in that area.
- Begin to generate kind feelings toward yourself. If you feel resistance, notice and acknowledge it, and try to drop beneath those superficial cross currents.
- Continue to breathe in and out and say these phrases, or something similar, to yourself:
- May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.
- May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
- May I be happy.
- May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
- May I be healthy and strong.
- May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully and with ease.
- Sit and breathe ease-fully for a little while longer and then open your eyes and smile.
This Valentine’s Day, be your own sweetheart. When you can open your heart to yourself, you will find you will give and receive love more freely and fully, and probably get all the chocolate-covered strawberries you could ever wish for.