Love has many forms and expressions.
It’s often something we seek, however did you know that there are more potent ways to feel and experience Love?
The beginnings of this path are self-love, knowing that we can cultivate and radiate love through our own bodies has been a game changer for me.
For me, self-love has been an ongoing journey over the last 20 years, with some big stops and starts. I started with affirmations, which really are like bandaids instead of surgery, especially when used without doing the deeper work. They may last a while, but don’t address the core concerns.
Sometimes I would be consistent in my experience, taking care of myself and doing regular practices. When ever I did the feedback was always the same “you are absolutely shining with love”
And other times not so much. I would just become neglectful of myself, and “forget” to do the things that supported me, some days there just didn’t feel like there was time.
Often in a relationship, I would get lazy with self-love, and expect my partner to fill me up, I was looking for him to bring the nourishment and aliveness that I was longing for.
This put a lot of pressure on my relationships.
Until I learned how to cultivate the quality of nourishment that I was desiring. At the time I didn’t even know I could! Becoming aware that love starts within felt painful, especially when the cultural narrative, movies and books etc.. had me convinced that the answer is “having the right relationship.”
What I see now is that self-love and being loved by another (whether that is friends, family or an intimate partner) is a complementary dance. And in truth one requires the other, especially if you desire the valuable healing, expansion and nourishment that comes with this kind of love.
All of us have different life experiences, and our journeys will unfold in varying ways. For some people I have worked with, it’s having a certain relationship arise that accelerates their self-love, and for others, self-love magnetises in the desired relationship.
The path of love is not a “one size fits all” experience.
But if love from another is lacking or not in your life, you cannot make that appear, you cannot control how another loves you or shows up in your life.
Believe me, I tried that with great failures and pain to myself and others!!
How to cultivate self-love?
1. Take 5 minutes each day to journal about your feelings. This gives you the opportunity to truly listen and be witness to your inner world - (this brings about healing and release.) When feelings are touched fully and witnessed, something begins to loosen in the body.
2. After journaling your feelings, take 5 to 10 minutes to move your body. Express the feelings through your body, you can use sounds and noises - but absolutely no WORDS!
This is what I see as the equivalent of our internal daily housekeeping, eg. taking care of the dishes and wiping down the kitchen benches. (Going for therapy is like spring cleaning - it goes deeper and is more thorough, and is very necessary when there has been a long period of overlooking or denying feelings and emotions.)
A daily practice such as this will support you to be emotionally current, and present to what is alive in your body and being each day.
Moving your body and expressing your feelings is often best done with music that is unfamiliar to you. I often use classical piano by Ludovico Einaudi as that gives a lot of variation of pace and feeling whilst also being deeply soothing.
With this music playing, I give my body permission to move however it needs to move in that moment. It might be in tune with the music, it might be in complete disregard of the music, it may be chaotic, it may be peaceful.
I allow it to be an unwinding of any tension that I am holding. I create space for my feelings to move fully through my body - whether that is sadness, anger, fear, happiness, excitement, or any other feeling. I also create space for my movement to be up high and on my tippy-toes, to be rolling on the floor, crawling on hands and knees or anywhere in between. Truly allowing the animal nature of the body to guide me.
Moving in this way creates internal spaciousness, freedom and relaxation.
I also add sound into the movement and expression practice, giving myself permission to express whatever sound my body needs to make. The sounds can be a roar like a lion, weeping like a baby, hooping and celebrating like a clown, deep ecstasy of pleasure rippling through the body or gibberish and complete nonsensical sounds.
It’s rare in today’s world to have uninterrupted time for free movement and expression of sound. For me, it’s been an extremely liberating and a powerful way of staying present to my body and feelings each day.
Consistency of these practices is more important than quantity of time, taking time each and every day - even if it’s 5 minutes daily, will be more transformative than doing an hour once a week.
3. As I mentioned above, sometimes being witnessed requires an external witness in the form of someone who is trained to hold space for your process. If you feel that you need further healing of past trauma, create supportive professional therapeutic experiences by engaging with a practitioner who you trust.
This can be via one on one or group counselling or coaching with someone who is trained to support you to feel your feelings, and begin to live in a more loving and empowered way.
The desire for love is a call to growth, a call of self-discovery. Love is calling each and every one of us home, to know our true selves.