Learning how to love ourselves: First step in loving others



Q: So how does one learn to love oneself?

A: I’ve found the following to be useful:


  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart


Notice that all of these require that a person get outside their self that is, outside their narrow little ego-self, so as to include the “other.” This in effect expands the image of self to something greater than the ego and it’s the ego that contains the idea of being less-than.

Giving reverence to something much bigger than yourself takes you out of the confined space of the personality and opens the door to the infinite space of the divine. Love is no longer about you (as in getting or feeling love) in that you literally ‘become’ love i.e. you are its expression.

Note that all require increased consciousness as well. In order to see the reality around you, you have to be willing to let go of the reality you have. Loosen your expectations of others (and yourself) and allow what’s there to filter through. The act of forgiveness is a really effective tool in this process. Holding someone or some event in blame, censure, or punishment becomes a locked prison cell for the person doing the holding as well as creating unnecessary resistance in the other person. Note that blaming, censuring and punishment rarely affects positive change in people. Typically people just learn to avoid the blamer/punisher.

Love and caring cannot exist in a condition of animosity, blame, rancor, revenge, impatience, and aversion. And its loss isn’t just local to the person or event that’s unforgiven, it creates a ripple effect that spreads out across all of ones reality. Forgiveness is one of the most freeing experiences one can ever have. It what opens the heart and allows all the rest to come into your world. It literally opens you up to the Grace of God.

“I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.”


Lastly, you might have noticed that all the useful suggestions for opening yourself to the love of self require that you sacrifice, your point-of-view and your need for control. Points-of-view keep you locked in place, it narrows your reality to a myopic view of what’s actually there. Love is so big that it cannot be seen through the peephole of your limited point-of-view. There is nothing more limiting than a point-of-view. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one, just don’t be wedded to it.

Have you noticed how little in control you actually are? We do things to control the actions of the other so that we might feel safer, or more important. But this is a never-ending battle and we never really feel safer, or more important. Thinking that we have control of anything other than ourselves is a distraction. And we can’t have control over ourselves until we know who and what we are, which brings us back to the need for increased consciousness.

So how do we get this increased consciousness?

  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart




love-small.jpgWhat? You thought that because Valentines is over that I wasn’t going to talk about love anymore?

We spend our lives in small things, separated from our bigger essence.

Love is like the ocean. The ocean is but one wave until it is touched by the wind and transformed into many. Between two people it is like two waves traversing the world and finally meeting, the two becoming the one.

Have you noticed that when experiencing love, when you are submerged within it, you see it everywhere you look? Is it actually out there, or is it in the person that experiences it? And why does it seem to come and go so easily?

It seems to me that if you imagine love to be something outside yourself that something or someone puts into you, then you are separated from your true nature. You and I spend a lot of our lives in a shallow sleep of small things where we have imagined ourselves separated from our bigger essence. It’s because we think that who we are stops at the end of our skin. And we spend a lot of time and energy protecting that skin from the so-called outside world. But in this world where as a lone creature we seek safety, we fail to see that safety, true safety, can only exist when we are not separate.

In order to feel love we need to feel safe and in order to feel safe we need to surrender this notion that we are separate. Love cannot truly visit our being with barriers and boundaries surrounding us. Including others by including them in the attentiveness of our hearts awakens us to not only their humanity but our own as well.

A consciousness of the real self meditation:

In a quiet room imagine yourself expanding your consciousness so that it takes in everything in the room. Now expand that awareness to include the house, and the neighborhood with all its people, animals, trees and insects. Expanding this consciousness even further, imagine that you have become within the limits of your skin the whole city, state and nation. Expanding out into space look down at the world that is now a part of you and push ever outward to include the Moon, the planets, the Sun.

Now, ever so quickly, expand to include the galaxy and then to all the stars and galaxies that make up the universe until you are at the very edge of time and space and the emptiness that it is expanding into. Then include the emptiness– the nothing.

Look closely now into the darkness of your mind. Is there and end to it, can you actually see the walls where your mind ends? No, you cannot, for what you are doesn’t have an end. If you are an expression of everything then there is no real threat against you. It is only when you are a tiny, quivering little thing, alone and drifting in the hugeness of existence that you have to protect yourself.


A Rumi Meditation

The Dervish


The Sufi Dervish. Their focus is on the universal values of love and service to the world. In their practice they try to let go of the illusions of ego in order to open to God.


Try using this poem by the 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi as a meditation for expanding your awareness.


“You have heard of the ocean of nonexistence.

Try continually to give yourself to that ocean. 

Every workshop has its foundations

Set on that emptiness.

The master of all masters works with nothing.

The more such nothing comes into your work,

The more the presence will be there.

 Dervishes gamble everything.

They lose and win the other,

The emptiness which animates this.

 We have talked so much.

Remember what we have not said.

 And keep working. Laziness and disdain
are not devotions. Your effort will bring a result.

 As dawn lightens, blow out the candle.

Dawn is in your eyes now.”



Imagine your life up to now as but a dream limited only by your imagination. Imagine waking up within the dream to discover how really big you actually are. When awake in your life, love becomes the foundation of that life. When lucid in your dream you expand rapidly into your bigger self. Love is what you actually are.

A lesson from our dreams: From Plato’s Shadow World to our own

Priscilla Hernández, ‘Nightmare’


I have often said that every person in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer e.g. their emotional and behavioral characteristics are a mirror of your own. Though this is a truth in dreams it’s also a truth in our waking lives as well.

Each of us is mirrored* in the others that we meet. Hate a certain behavior in someone and you are seeing your own rejection of that behavior in yourself. Dismiss someone out of hand it’s probably because you don’t want to acknowledge their behavior that they reflect from yourself no matter how small it may be.

How are the people you reject just like you? How are the people you like just like you? Both reflect parts of you.

This fact leads me to compare the dream world with the waking world and helps me to see that maybe both worlds really are a dream, the sleeping dream and the waking dream. Interestingly learning to decipher each dream can help us understand ourselves better and where we fit in the overall scheme of things. Both dream worlds can act as a personal therapist and guide through the journey of our life.

Often when a dark and scary being shows up in a dream we want to run from it, hide, or verbally or physically defend ourselves vigorously. This type of dream being is known in psychology as a shadow aspect. When the shadow shows up in a dream either in the sleeping or waking world** take a break before reacting for there’s an opportunity being presented here for you to see a part of yourself that may need dealing with and perhaps modifying so that you can begin to manage the darker aspects that show up throughout life. In short, seeing others as a mirror for self-improvement and/or self-acceptance is a sign of a maturing and evolving psyche.


*An interesting resource that I’ve used as part of my blog comes from Justin Gammill through the following link: https://seventhrayblog.wordpress.com/author/violetflame2035/

**If you want to look deeper into this concept of the Waking Dream and how it is used therapeutically for greater self-awareness you might like to read “Life as a Waking Dream” by Diane Kennedy Pike, Riverhead Books, 1997.


Become the goal and lose the soul



I read an article not too long ago that likened self-fulfillment with attainment. But it’s not really about what you have, or what you do is it? It’s not about how much or how little you have or the status of what you do.

So many have struggled up the ladder only to find that at either the top or somewhere along the way that all the having and doing is hollow, with no meaning, and at a deep level where your true sense of self-worth lay, profoundly empty.

On the surface this can be viewed as heresy, and dangerous talk, for all national and global economics depends on striving ambition and continuous competition. He who stops to think, falters i.e. he who muses, loses.

Now, don’t misunderstand me I’m not advocating the end to market driven capitalism, or striving, or competition, or shooting for the moon (goal setting). I’m just suggesting that there’s a better way to play the game, a better way to act out the story.

We can have our cake and eat it too. How? Just remember that there is striving, there is ambition, there are goals to be made and actualized, but that we are not our goals e.g. what we are is not defined by the outcome of the game.

The soul loves to play and is nourished by the game, but when a person begins to identify with the piece on the board, or the digital avatar on the screen, the soul gets lost and people get hurt.

When we forget that we are souls or spirits moving the game piece that is our human form we lose regardless of how many things we accumulate or squares on the board we jump to.

So by all means play the game, there’s much to be learned in it and much joy to be had, but play it knowing that the outcome of the game is less important than the play.

It’s our souls that suffer.


 In order to survive the planet has learned to nurture symbiotic relationships.                                           Pic By– http://www.terrypond.com


“Man’s Capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

Rheinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944)


In order to live with one another in any kind of peace requires that each man be willing to give up some portion of his self-interest to the society. Though the soul of man yearns to be free– to be what it is, this yearning is what drives him to create societies that will extricate him from tyranny.

No man can ever hope to be complete and whole without the relationship of all other humans. But it’s that societal relationship that also threatens his autonomy– the very freedom he yearns for. But by his very nature and the nature of all things, both selfish and unselfish impulses struggle with one another for dominance.

What we see in most societies is a back and forth war between self-interest and social interest that often weakens the social agreement and that self-centered justification is then transformed into some collective moral justification that allows him to brutalize his fellow man. With moral justification he can then hide the true character of his collective self.

This back and forth struggle keeps humankind in a constant state of flux careening rapidly between justice and injustice, self-interest and collective interest, and selfishness and selflessness. And here for me is the crux of the problem, societies i.e. nations are basically selfish whereas the individual has within it a kernel of selflessness. It is this selflessness in balance with our selfishness that we each need to nurture. In short, we cannot expect nations to change until we do and we cannot change until we’re ready to give up our need to dominate everything– religiously, geologically, politically, and psychologically.

Right now we the collective people of this Earth in the name of self-righteousness, politically and religiously, are imposing our will above the will of every one else, attempting to change, to bend, reality toward our selfish needs and in the process ignoring what really needs to be changed– our fear-based penchant to dominate in thought and by physicality. When we make our own egos paramount we create the oligarchs, despots, and dictators of this world, we erode our ability to be free, and it is our souls that suffer.

Be the change you seek. Don’t expect it from your religionists or politicians they’ll only change when you do. And don’t use your religion to self-righteously control the hearts of others, use it to find the beauty in your own heart.


“God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, courage
to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

–Reinhold Niebuhr (1942)

Positive and negative dreams…REM and non-REM


The Nightmare by- John Henry Fuseli (1780)

I’ve talked about REM sleep and dreams before, ad nauseam. But research has shown that we don’t just dream during REM, we also dream during non-REM (with its four stages leading up to (and from) REM with non-REM out performing REM by over 2.5:1). And it turns out that there’s a qualitative difference between the types of dreams!

Those who are awakened during a non-REM episode report generally positive dreams while those who are awakened from REM report mostly negative. What’s that about?

Well, during REM sleep the Amygdala (located deep within the medial temporal lobes of our brain) that deals with unpleasant emotions, aggression, and fear and modulates REM sleep, hence the negative vibes. Along that note, it’s interesting that people with depression jump into REM quickly by bypassing the non-REM stages–the positive stages. A dysfunctional Amygdala is also implicated. This rapid entering into REM and depletion of overall nonREM is a marker for depression and often precedes a depressive episode*.

Nightmares are also experienced during REM and are affected by a dysfunctional sleep cycle in that people with depression and/or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) tend to have a lot of them. There’s a movement afoot in the Psychiatric field to find ways of diminishing nightmares in those with chronic depression and PTSD. But nightmares are similar to ancestral dreams and may very well be rehearsals in the struggle to survive. They may be the brain’s way of aiding an individual to confront their fears and tensions head-on. Drugs may in the short term provide a respite for the insomnia of the depressed caused by nightmares, but if used over the long term what may they be doing to the process that nature uses to resolve and deal with fear? Do we really understand the functions of sleep and dreaming well enough to be interfering in this way? Might not it be better to develop a different way of therapeutically dealing with the darkness other than the popping of a pill to suppress it?

REM dreams tend to be dark and sometimes unpleasant and the Western culture tends to avoid these emotions in that it is believed that it’s best to leave them alone. But what is the consequence of this avoidance over time? What is the consequence of suppressing the natural negative? Perhaps in some of us it takes the form of chronic depression, or chronically unresolved fears and anxieties, especially those fears and anxieties that seem to be unattached to any stimulus, what psychologists call “Free-floating.”


Both REM and non-REM have what appear to be important, perhaps even vital, functions to our survival and learning. It turns out that non-REM is our internal trainer–it mirrors past experience in a time-compressed manner. It literally is helping you in the present to relate to the future from the past. The REM dream, however, expands time and takes you into the future in order to practice it and to test various scenarios. This may explain why some dreams seem to be about what’s happened during your waking life the day before, while others seem more distant, or unrelated to waking life events, perhaps more internal in nature.

Dreams in both forms seem to be nature’s way of preparing us for whatever comes next. Basically it’s an ancient survival tool, the content is different, but the mechanics are pretty much the same.

Dreams seem to reinforce learning, creativity, and survival skills, provide a window to your emotional self, and open a space for life preparation, i.e. practice. They do this by providing a totally different point-of-view to that of our waking life i.e. they are intuitive and visual in contrast to the waking life’s linear and logical. What seem to be intractable problems in one’s waking life can be overcome through the highly creative, free-associating content of dreams.


*Bypassing non-REM sleep also interrupts the body’s healing/repair/rejuvenation/immunization cycle that further reinforces the depression.