Several years ago, I had a psychic reading and the shaman told me, “You need to be better at loving yourself.” At the time I thought, “What? You’ve got to be kidding. I totally love myself.” In retrospect, I was great at pampering myself. I have always tried to be generous about taking time for me: an occasional massage, going on retreats, developing hobbies, taking quiet time for a treat at Starbucks. I thought that such luxurious behaviors meant that I was crazy about me.
Still, from time to time, glimmers of unrest cracked through the façade of my self-love. Certain annoying habits and tendencies that I wasn’t proud of caused me embarrassment : when I lost my temper . . . when I had a negative attitude . . . when I needed too much sleep . . . when I yelled at my children . . . when I snapped from too much stress and too much of everything. I didn’t particularly like or accept the weaker shadow-side of me.
Recently, I listened to a lecture on the Buddhist concept of ‘maitri’, which means unconditional friendliness towards the self . . . unconditional compassion, like what you might have toward a best friend. And so it dawned on me that there was a deeper level of radical acceptance that I had been missing. Really loving myself, or being my own best friend, meant accepting ALL of me and forgiving myself for being flawed and human.
On the heels of Yom Kippur, I think the message of self-forgiveness is especially relevant. For me, meditating on ‘maitri’ has allowed me to experience a subtle shift that embraces the perfect and less-than-perfect aspects of myself more whole heartedly. And amazingly, this self acceptance has become the foundation for seeing others as more whole. In forgiving myself, I am infused with a capacity for forgiving others.
So who is your best friend? Is it your spouse? A special girlfriend? A guy you like to hang out with? How friendly are you being to yourself? The seeds of how you relate to them are sown in how you relate to yourself. For me, I have begun an internal transition to develop a better, kinder, friendlier, more compassionate relationship with myself. In fact, I may just be the best friend I ever had.
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