Being Open to Ourselves

Posted on February 24, 2019


A reminder to myself…

We tend to beat ourselves up over our imperfections because we are culturally conditioned to do so. The nature of conditioning is that often we do not even know we are doing it. Conditioning sustains itself through its own invisibility.

We are human and we cannot change who we are. We can only accept ourselves as we are and move forward. Actually, accepting ourselves as we are is the first step to moving forward. If we do not fully accept ourselves, then we cannot accept others either.

‘Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto. I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.’ That’s one thing I’m learning.” ~ Maya Angelou

Our judgmental thinking is a constant and hard-wired into us. Thought has a mind of its own. We must learn to pay attention to our thoughts and observe them. We are constantly making assumptions, judging, labeling, categorizing ourselves and others. Thought constantly is creating an image of ourselves and of others. Then thought tells us that this is the way the world really is, without reminding us that these stories in our heads are just that, stories in our heads. We are caught in a viscous cycle of thought creating the world and then saying, I didn’t do it. We are automatonic illusion machines with thought running away with reality, especially in the middle of the night.

So how do we begin? First we accept and love ourselves unconditionally. Then we guard our hearts by paying attention to our thoughts and the tricks they are playing. This requires time alone in silence. It is a discipline.

When we start any spiritual practice—we expect ourselves to improve.

This is a “subtle aggression against ourselves,” Pema Chodron writes, and it’s a bit like saying If I jog, I’ll be a much better person or If I had a nicer house, I’d be a better person

Read on for her instructions about how to extend lovingkindness toward ourselves, which is more about accepting who we really are than about getting rid of the characteristics we don’t like.

“When we start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, we often think that somehow we’re going to improve, which is a subtle aggression against who we really are. It’s a bit like saying, “If I jog, I’ll be a much better person.” “If I had a nicer house, I’d be a better person.” “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.” Or the scenario may be that we find fault with others. We might say, “If it weren’t for my husband, I’d have a perfect marriage.” “If it weren’t for the fact that my boss and I can’t get on, my job would be just great.” And, “If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.”

“But lovingkindness (unconditional love) toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. (It) means that we can still be crazy, we can still be angry. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

“Curiosity involves being gentle, precise, and open—actually being able to let go and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves. Precision is being able to see clearly, not being afraid to see what’s really there. Openness is being able to let go and to open. When you come to have this kind of honesty, gentleness, and goodheartedness, combined with clarity about yourself, there’s no obstacle to feeling lovingkindness for others as well.”