How To Love Yourself During Times Of Suffering

Let´s face it. We don’t want pain and we don’t want to suffer.

I have had plenty, as I am sure we all have. It´s a part of life. We feel, we think, we experience and we bump up against our wants and needs that are unmet by those who love us. We all try our best and yet some of this pain and suffering won´t leave us alone. It´s like a shadow. Or a creep in the belly that we try to numb out. But pain and suffering cannot be killed by our judgments about whether it was right or wrong. It just won´t.
Many of us try. We try so hard. Because we believe that if we allow ourselves to see and acknowledge our pain it may just about kill us. Because when the event occurred we felt like it would feel better to be dead than to be where we were.

As a kid, I was very open. Vulnerable. I cried easily. I was what you might call an easy target. Lots of the older boys found that very amusing and I ended up in situations where I was scolded by them and shunned by the girls in my class. It was probably out of fear. I carried the shame for a long long time. And the guilt of not being able to change anything. Especially the fact that I wasn’t able to stop feeling.
Patterns like this stick like glue. Like that fast sticking glue that makes you fingers stick to each other in a second and you have to go to the hospital to unstick them. You simply cannot yourself. And this is my point. We get trapped in our self. In our image of self. And it sometimes takes some help to unstick it.
But you have to be willing to do it too. Be willing to look at what is sticking with you. And to allow it out in the open. To be received. To be out on the table. In the open air.

This is what I believe about myself and this is how it makes me feel. All of you has to be there.
And there is also another factor that needs to be there. Loving Kindness. Non-judgment. Care.

If you don’t have that you will simply not allow any help in and you will go on being stuck.

For me, for a long long time, I had a real issue with Loving-kindness. The concept of Loving Kindness felt almost like a glittery fairy in the woods that some might be able to see but I certainly wasn’t.  If only… If I only knew what it was. It seemed so far fetched to have that, to feel that, and to offer myself that.

But I figured if I want something, and I cannot make it happen myself I need a teacher. And as they say, when the student is ready the Buddha appears. Naw. The teacher right. But my teacher happened to be Buddha.

Loving Kindness in the tradition where I practice is called Metta. In the tradition of Pema Chödrön, for example, it’s called Maitri. It’s not something new to us. It is innate. And as I go forward in this unfolding I want you to keep that in mind. We are all capable of Metta. Of loving kindness. Of holding space for another person in care for them, and for ourselves. It’s not some fuzzy snuffy thing that we need to learn. Nope. But just as with awareness that we use when we practice focus in our Mindfulness of breathing meditation Metta can be cultivated.

So what is this Loving Kindness/Metta? Metta is a Pali word, deriving from the word Mitra which means friendly, benevolent, kind and good-willed, and also love amity and sympathy. It´s mentioned both in Buddhist texts, The Metta Sutta, as well as in the Upanishads and Vedic scriptures.
We all knew, and we all know the importance of this ability to offer Metta.
Research in for example psychology and physiology in the late say 200 years or so has validated the importance of feeling like you matter and belong. And for thousands of years, it was absolutely necessary for us to survive at all. Be a part of the group or die. Basically.

I feel like in these days many of us try to be so “good” and manage all of life ourselves as we might believe that needing someone else is a sign of weakness. Well on the other side of that coin is our ability to offer connection. Some of us have known the feeling of being treated like an outcast, shunned by people we love. And how incredibly much that hurts.
And how incredibly hard it can be to open that door to trusting again.

The other day I was having lunch with my friend E. She is a very wise woman and she may not talk all that much but when something comes out it’s most often very profound and might shift things for you instantly. I told her about my trust issue and that I felt it all came back to me not trusting myself. My feeling always gives me away and I cannot trust them to shut up or go away. So I felt a deep sense of not trusting myself. She pondered it for a minute, slowly chewing her thai food. She didn’t even look up when she said to me: Well what can you do to show yourself that you trust you then?
We often go look for that which we think is missing or that we wish to not have by looking for an example, a specimen of a human being that has conquered the mountain in which we are standing at. Not ready to climb just yet, but we want to know how. We get lost in the millions of ways to do it and it all becomes a matter of BSTD, Bright Shiny Thing Disorder. This is my answer! This is what will fix me!

Only… Only my friend.. you have to be there too. <3
There is simply no way on earth that someone is going to help you become who you truly are without your participation. It´s not like someone is going to put you under anesthetics and you will wake up without that creep in your belly telling yourself: you are incomplete, bad, wrong or stupid. It’s not like cutting off a leg. That can totally be done during anesthetics.

I am sorry. And I am not sorry!
Why? Because there is absolutely a way for you to do this! You can cultivate Loving Kindness. You can offer yourself a space of non-judgment. But you might need a little practice. Or a lot.

That is when the teacher enters. So many of us simply need a reminder that we have this ability and how to cultivate it.

This is a little something that you can start with. Research has shown that putting a hand on your chest or on your belly or on your own shoulder brings on a sense of calmness and comfort. So I suggest you put perhaps one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
Or one hand on your belly and one hand on your shoulder. Whatever feels best to you.

And you say. “Hey, I am here for you. I love you.”
And then you sit with that for a minute.

How does it feel when you are there for yourself?
When you no longer leave yourself in times of distress.

Now ask yourself what it is you need? Is it care? Is there some memory spooking inside that makes you feel sad? Perhaps you can with all the care and love you feel for yourself right this instant  and walk into that memory and be there. Be the supporting factor.

Hey, I am here for you. I love you I care. I care for you.
See how that feels. Just for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be during a hard time. It´s actually really good to practice this whenever because it builds up your ability to practice when the fire is burning hot, in the midst of an inner tantrum of anger with someone that stirs up all your inner creeps. Or when a great sadness comes on and you feel so alone your heart is just going to tear itself apart. Hey, I am here. I am here for you. I love you. I care.

For some of us that has more or less deliberately tried to not feel or love in case the hurt would feel overwhelming even this small exercise brings up a lot. An almost overwhelm of feelings. Tears. Then just repeat. Hey I´m here for you. I love you. I care. You are not alone.

Perhaps it´s mind chatter. The intellect wants to meddle with it and tell you a word of advice. If that occurs you can start with bringing in into your awareness someone that you truly care for. Perhaps your child, your pet or a friend. Open yourself up to that love and care. And delve in it for some time. And then affirm to yourself that this is an ability you innately have. To feel all this love. All this care. And then you can expand that bubble and include yourself. I have this for you, and I have this for me.
We must use our minds wisely. Our ability to imagine and our ability to focus. In a helpful manner. I know I have this for you, so even if I feel like I don’t deserve or dare to show it or feel it towards myself I know I can.

As a concept, Metta is just as vast as the sea. Or as the Universe. And just as with everything that includes all that is it is hard to put words to what it is exactly. The Metta Sutta tries to and many interpretations have been written during the years. It may be hard to grasp and that is fine. But I invite you to read it. It might just awaken something within you that lets the rays of Love into your heart. The sort of light that says to your inner creep. Hey, there is something for you out here. Some love. Would you like that?

Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.

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