Last month I wrote a blogpost called “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”. It struck a chord. More people than ever before wrote to me relieved and identifying with what I had said. Look here if you want to read it. In a nutshell, I wrote that I had used relationships- or more precisely infatuations with people to plug in feelings of lack and wanting. I equated this addictive behavior with other addictive thought and actions, disconnecting us from the fullness of experiencing ourselves in integrity. I said there was no “magic bullet” to fill the emptiness and to take the pain away.
I continued on my quest to unravel the mystery of what had made me and to some extent what was still making me so hooked and why I was so vulnerable to this search for the “magic bullet”. And I found something very interesting that evoked in me the deepest compassion. I was reading “Women Who Love Too Much” (excuse the gendering) and I understood that the reason why- from a very young age- I had used “love” and attention on others as a mental drug- was because it was just too unbearable at the time to be in my own body and to feel the extent of my own feelings. For whatever reason I couldn’t hold and contain what was happening inside me. And so not only was it easier to think about someone else but it was a way of surviving. Understanding this opened up inside me so much understanding and compassion for myself.
It’s not only thinking about our love for someone else that serves to protect us from feeling ourselves, it’s also any of the millions of ways we care-take for other people and take responsibility for them in ways they can take responsibility for themselves. I also noticed that the same dynamic of self-abandonment, leaving my body, happens when I project all the light and goodness on the people around me. I’ve used theological ideas of the unfolding infinite divine to see the infinite in others, even as they show me the very finite in themselves. There’s a way that this projection kept me in an illusion of seeing someone else’s beauty and simultaneously not feeling myself from the inside. It’s like the dark side of having eyes that see the beauty in others.
Now when I sit with someone and I feel my heart bursting and gushing with love and seeing their beauty, and seeing all other sublime traits, I am learning to check in with myself, to make sure I’m feeling myself and then allow the love for other to over-flow from the love of self. In this way the love of other is never depleting, it’s inseparable from the love of self.
As well as evoking compassion for myself, knowing that I had put my attention on others as the best strategy that I had in the moment to deal with my experience as a young person, has also revealed for me the way back home. I developed the pattern of putting my attention on someone else to avoid feeling my own pain. At the time this was a life-saving mechanism. Now I don’t need to do this anymore because I have the resource to feel and release the fullness of my own being whatever arises. I can return to the pain that still sits in my body- as it does in yours- and waits for release. However the pattern is still in place. Many habits we developed as children stay with us when we don’t need them. And sometimes it can be tricky for us to unravel ourselves from what feels like our second skins. Yet we can. With support. As Dr Seuss said: “unslumping yourself it’s a hard thing to do.” So my ongoing mantra is feel my body, feel my body, feel my body. What’s going on inside me? Bring attention back to myself at every moment. It’s also the background attention. The attention I’m talking about is the background to my actions in the world. It’s not that I’m just thinking about myself, but it’s that the thinking about myself is the basis for my action and being in the world- as opposed to my attention on anyone else forming that basis. I’m my homepage for myself. It maybe sounds obvious but when you are habituated to returning to a different homepage it’s a constant practice.
The ongoing returning of the lost object is the return of my consciousness and the reclamation of my power. But it’s not always a picnic. The good reason why I removed my attention from self in the beginning was because it felt unbearable so I’m having to revisit what feels unbearable- and simultaneously knowing and trusting that despite the feeling that it is unbearable, it is actually okay and can be moved through. And in turn this self-compassion is allowing more feeling to come up which is in turn also generating more self-love and compassion. It’s a moment to moment practice. The juice of life not for the faint-hearted. But the juice, the lusciousness, mining the depths of aliveness. It is so worth it. Being nourished from the well of all that is.
Let’s meet and dance and serve in love- the over-flowing love of self as it touches and kisses the world- and all its inhabitants.