5/28 Practice Circle: Learning to Love Yourself

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    Mark Knickelbine

    Learning to love yourself, as Whitney Houston famously sang, is the greatest love of all. It can be hard to find wisdom in pop songs, but it’s true that the most important dharma practice of all is cultivating kindness, compassion, and love for yourself.

    Reread that last sentence, and notice what arises in your thoughts and emotions. If you’re like many people, you get a certain “ick” factor. Our natural negativity bias applies to our perception of our own personality and behavior. It’s easier to see what’s wrong with me than to appreciate what might be lovable; I seize on every criticism and insult and the times I have received praise and appreciation just don’t seem to stick. We’re taught as children to not to be conceited and “stuck on ourselves.” As a result, many of us don’t even like ourselves very much, not to say anything about love.

    But this attitude signals a rejection of who we are, a belief that we are not worthy of love, or that love is something that can only be found outside ourselves. It is part of how we reify our self-image as something isolated and alienated from other people and even itself. In fact, however, our desire to practice is rooted in our wish not to suffer, and that in turn arises from our basic self compassion. In the Dhammapada, Gotama uses a parental metaphor to convey the value of dharma practice: “Not even your mother or father can help you as much as your own well-trained mind.” In order to learn to see ourselves and others as we are, we first have to accept our own lived experience, and that in itself is an act of love.

    So when Practice Circle meets this Sunday, May 28, at 6 pm Pacific, 8 Central and 9 Eastern time, we’ll share some practice and reflection on the power of loving one’s self.
    If you haven’t joined us at Practice Circle before, we’d welcome the chance to practice with you. Our new videoconference rooms on Zoom are optimized for mobile devices, and of course there’s no charge to participate. Just follow this link: https://zoom.us/j/968569855

    I hope to see you there!


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