Self-love spills over, ripples out to include others.
The same can be said for self-hatred and self-abuse or neglect. That too spills over, contaminates those around us, ripples out into the world.
I am not suggesting that we remove ourselves from life or others until we have learned self-love. It is often the world and others that teach us about love of self and others.
It’s not a one-way linear process. Giving birth to my sons opened me to a well-spring of loving that I did not even know existed within me. Some days, when self-love feels impossible, when I don’t even know what it would look like in a given situation, I think of Brendan and Nathan and ask myself how I would offer my presence, my heart to them if they were feeling the way I am. And suddenly I know, perhaps only a little, but at least a place to start, a way to offer something that is self-loving.
And the reverse is also true. When someone – friend or stranger- is behaving badly and I barely check the impulse to judge them or say something nasty, I can pause and think about a time when I have not been at my best, have perhaps behaved badly because I am angry or frightened or feeling pressed beyond my resources. And, I consider how I hope others would respond, what kind of response might stop the spiral of my bad behaviour, and in doing so find a way to respond to the other who is having a less-than-stellar moment.
We don’t learn self-love or how to love others and the world alone in our room. Although we can send love out from solitude, we learn how to love- how to find and act on that feeling of connection and caring- in the fires of daily living in community where so much is beyond our control.
The Grandmothers who have spoken to me in my night dreams for thirty years say, “Intimacy heals.” That’s what love is about- a willingness to intimately be with ourselves or the other, hearts open, feeling the joy or the anguish.
Intimacy- and in turn healing- of course flourishes where there are clear, healthy boundaries. Knowing that I can distinguish between what are my choices and what are yours, is what allows me to love, to be present with my heart open without fear of disappearing or interfering with your autonomy.
And healing happens. We’re built for it, made at a cellular/ energetic/ molecular level in the image of a sacred and creative life-force that always turns its face toward growth and healing, even in the moment before death (and on some level, even in the moments after as all that dies composts and nourishes new life.)
As to what else happens after death- I do not know, but I feel a strange and abiding peace and more than a little excitement about where the adventure will take us next.
Oriah House (c) 2014