Love Yourself Better

this one is from the archives. I painted this 10 years ago.

this one is from the archives. I painted this 10 years ago.

He said, “The current goal is to love myself better.” And then he added, “Not so much a goal but something that needs teaching from our own mind.” His statement begs a great question, an ages old question: Can the mind teach itself? Really, the question is can the mind see itself clearly enough to teach itself?  Or, the question within the question: Can the mind teach itself to love itself? I scribbled the questions in my notebook and beneath them I wrote, “Is love teachable? Is love reachable through the mind, especially self-love?

We’d been chatting for a while and had covered a lot of territory, from Monte Blanc pens to typewriters to soap use around the world, clean water, the difference between good and bad scotch, the shapes of the 50 states and how they might influence personal identity and we’d somehow wandered into the epicenter: self-love.

His statement nailed the universal dilemma perfectly. It was a declaration of separation. The self watching and wanting more for the self. The separation is in the language: to love myself better. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made this statement. Which part of the self will better love the other part of the self? Which part of the mind will teach the other to love?

It is where myth meets the everyday. Every human being who has walked the earth has wrangled with separation and the yearning for self-love (re-connection to self, unity). The human journey is a walk from separation (birth, if you want to take it literally) to reunification (death). The story lives in mythologies the world round. If we were still willing to read our mythologies (religions) metaphorically, we’d see it. For instance, being expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge is the story the ancients told of the experience of separation. The inevitable bite of apple from the tree of knowledge brought duality consciousness: male/female, us/them, mine/yours, haves/have-nots, me/you. Separation. The rest of the story, not often told, is how, through out the rest of our lives, we seek the Garden where there lives a second tree: the tree of everlasting life (unity). We journey from knowledge (separation) to everlasting life (reconnection). The death need not be literal. To die to the self is necessary to experience the SELF.

Here’s the great paradox: loving another person is an act of self-love. The path to self-love is found when we serve something bigger than our selves. Think about it: the movement is always from separation to joining, from isolation to connectivity. The obvious question is, “Connectivity to what?”

Self-love is not found when the mind teaches the mind but when the mind gets out of the way of the heart. The love is always there. Love is never missing. Self-love reveals itself when the definition of self grows beyond our own skin. According to our latest neurological science, we experience ourselves as separate because we dull ourselves to our fundamental connectedness to others. In other words, we cultivate a story of isolation and then set about the real work of our lives: to see beyond what we think.

And then he said, “You know what else I just realized?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I just landed myself in a blog post.”


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3 Responses

  1. Yes. Separation is the core wound. And our journey as humans is back to wholeness, connection, and belonging… i.e. love. Which begs the question: What does that look like? And another: How do I help create a culture that fosters wholeness, connection, and belonging?

    • These are great questions! My thought (for myself) is the create wholeness, connection, and belonging within myself….a culture (our culture) is organic and grows on some basic assumptions: ours is based on assumptions of separation and brokenness. These assumptions may be changing; cultural change takes a very long time….

  2. Yes, that sounds right. If we can create this within ourselves then it moves into the culture through/as us. But it does take a long time. Reminds me of something I heard Wendell Berry say… that our society is in such crisis right now that we cannot afford to not be patient. We don’t have the luxury of urgency. That’s kind of what got us into trouble in the first place.

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