Explore Loving-Kindness for Ourselves This Valentine’s Day
As February is the month most often associated with love, I started to think about what it represents and what kind of love is important. I have often felt that Valentine’s Day focuses on romantic love and yet loving ourselves is so important in creating peace and fulfilment in our lives. In “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook,” Stahl and Goldstein (2010) describe lack of self-compassion as a “great unnamed epidemic” in our society today (pg. 44). I think this lack of self-love or compassion often shows up in the way that we talk to ourselves. When I pay attention to my self-talk, I often find myself speaking to myself in a harsh, self-critical voice. Most of us have this self-critical voice and often we speak to ourselves in more critical ways than we would speak to a friend. We can become so used to this voice that we don’t even consciously hear it anymore and yet it still affects us, much in the same way as subliminal messages.
One way we can begin to create love and self-acceptance towards ourselves in place of harsh criticism is saying loving-kindness phrases to ourselves. Loving-kindness phrases can be said in a formal meditation or we can repeat them at the end of the day or in times of stress or criticism (self or other). We can simply set the intention that we want to send ourselves love and compassion and repeat the phrases to ourselves. Below are phrases that I use, but there a number of versions of phrases including ones in Stahl and Goldstein.
- May I be happy
- May I be at peace
- May I be well
- May I be free from suffering
If we are not used to feeling love towards ourselves, this practice might at first feel uncomfortable. As we do this practice, we can just allow ourselves to notice whatever feelings may arise, without judging ourselves. Often, if we do not feel love towards ourselves, we can become critical of ourselves or think we are doing it wrong. What is important is just to set the intention to send these loving phrases to ourselves and notice what thoughts or feelings arise. Stahl and Goldsetin suggest that we cannot fully send love and compassion towards someone else until we are able to give that to ourselves. As we see reminders of Valentine’s Day this year, we can use that as a sign to send love and compassion towards ourselves.
Stahl, B. & Goldstein, E. (2010). A Mindfulness-based stress reduction workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications Inc.