There is a way of loving yourself that you have only begun to understand. The opportunity for this way occurs in the present moment, always. And it is in reference not to your behaviors, your actions, or even your way of being in the world.
This way of loving yourself is so close, so right in front of you, that it can be the hardest to see.
If you are reading this, if you are following my writing, then you’re likely not new to the conversation of personal and spiritual growth. There was, therefore, very likely a time in your past in which you became aware of the conversation that you had inside your head. There was a point at which you became witness to your thoughts. I don’t mean that you attained the intellectual understanding that people think. I mean that you had the visceral inner experience of watching thinking happen inside you, as opposed to the former experience of being the one doing the thinking. When you became witness to your experiencing, the witness was ‘born’ so to speak.
The witness was a neutral observer, in a state of awe and wonder at all of the happenings which, until that point, had been doings. Once the witness was around for awhile, others began to gather by its side, vying for the position of first responder.
The first responder is the one who acts in response to what is being witnessed.
For many of us, there is an unkind first responder that shoves themself to the front of the queue, taking up the place and habit of damning all that is witnessed.
For example, you become the witness to your own defeatist inner dialogue, and the unkind first responder bashes you for having said inner dialogue. The loving awe of the witness is burned up quickly in the fire of increased hate by the first responder.
As another less intense but equally scrupulous example, we have the problem-solving first responder. Here, when you become witness to your own defeatist inner dialogue, the problem-solving first responder immediately inquires into the source and supposed reason for such defeatism, striving valiantly for a solution and inadvertently making a mountain out of a molehill. What could have been a passing cloud becomes a dark and sustained thunderstorm.
One of my favorite lines from the children’s TV host Fred Rogers is “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”
The reason I love this so much is that it is a question that orients you toward your choice of first responder regarding their awareness of your feelings.
It works the same way in regards to being witness to your thoughts.
“How do you respond to the thoughts that you witness?”
In the best books on parenting, I’ve read, the overlapping and primary advice in dealing with undesirable behavior in the child is to first and foremost create a supportive and welcoming attitude toward the child.
In this same way, when you can have your witness’s first responder be loving and kind, you are going to create an environment within your mind that is healthy, peaceful, and encouraging of the kind of growth you want for yourself.
When you witness your thinking, have the next act, the first response, to be lovingly kind to you for thinking that thought.
No matter how dark or horrible it may be, love yourself for thinking it.
Thinker: “Why am I so fucking lazy?”
First Responder: “It’s OK that you think that.”
The paradox here is that providing our darkest thoughts with a loving embrace does not encourage them, it relaxes them into obsolescence.
When I declare that “I am love, I am loving awareness, I am loving kindness”, I am first and foremost inculcating a habit of first response to that which I witness.
Being this with others in the world unfolds naturally and effortlessly when the first responder to my witness is that way toward my own thinking and thoughts.
This is the way of loving yourself so close to you, that it can be hard to see. In the same way though as you move a fulcrum up a lever its leverage increases, moving your love this far inside you and this deeply into the present moment of your witnessing, gives you immense leverage to more freely love and move the world.
Hence my riff on Archemedes’ famous statement…
Give me the lever of your mind and I will move your world.
My favorite part of the day is being in a conversation in which I help you to see where you have weaponized your self-awareness and are using it against yourself.
What’s the good of being conscious if you’re just going to be a jerk about it?
When your first responder is loving and kind – when you become a friend to your self – your witness becomes a great asset and your consciousness, a superpower.
Loving us all, JPM