The Path to be friend with self: Knowing, Accepting, Loving. Part 2
The way our minds works is always by opposites and contrast—good-bad, up-down, in-out, right-wrong black or white etc.—so what we see positively simultaneously provide of the opposite.
That contrast is challenging but it is where the real work of to be friend with yourself begins.
As we practice, we uncover our layers and layers of ideas about ourselves. It is clear that we are accepting some aspects of ourselves and rejecting others. Some parts of us are so well hidden away that we can pretend they are not there at all. Friendship with self is reduced to like and dislike.
The challenge of the path of meditation is to continually expand the bounds of our heart, of our love and friendship. We start with ourselves by simply looking inside like a flash light looking in the dark.
We come up against our fear of opening up to our negative views about ourselves.
We also come up against the opposite that is our arrogance.
By taking a mindful and honest look at the kinds of thoughts and feelings we have about self, we learn about the limits we place on our friendship with self and others.
Why meditation can be useful in our self-discovery?
This meditative path is one of greater acceptance. We are learning to accept and befriend not just the parts we like of course, but also the parts o we dislike /hatred as well. Sometimes we identify with only our acceptable side, with our successes, and at other times we identify with our flaws and failures.
But as our meditation practice progresses, we become the watcher, the observer of our stream of thoughts and opinions. Rather than clinging to one positive or one negative trait, we find we do not need to fixate on either extreme. We are all those things, and our experience is constantly in flux.
Of course, there will always be aspects of ourselves we like and those we dislike, aspects we are proud of and other aspects we are ashamed of. But the more clearly we come to know all these aspects, the more we are able to accept and relax.
Instead of seeing parts of self, we discover the whole self as it is. You don’t fight anymore with yourself because you are signing a peace treaty with yourself. In fact, we may discover that our failures and flaws are more powerful teachers than our successes.
With the benefit of sitting practice without overthinking or trying to fix anything, we become clearer and less emotional about our strengths, weaknesses, our accomplishments, failures, our obstacles and our breakthroughs. Both aspects are challenging.
Coming to appreciate ourselves in this way doesn’t mean we become complacent, egoistic or narcissistic. Accepting our extremes doesn’t mean that we cannot make decisions about what is beneficial, what is harmful and how to fix ourselves.We should not take it personally, it is just information. Now, when we meditate, we do so from a realistic perspective and from a feeling of warmth and friendship. Meditation practice is almost like a courtship with ourselves.
We become less defensive. We make discoveries and experience breakthroughs. It is hard to cut through our fantasies and take a realistic look at ourselves, but it is also a big relief.
There is something very enjoyable about the whole process. We find that the more aspects of ourselves we welcome the lighter we feel about self. The burden of self-protection is a heavy one, and it feels good to let it go. We are more likeable without this self-protective shield shield.
There is no particular end point to the process of making friend with yourself. It can be a life time quest and no rush is required.
But there is a wonderful spill over: each time you accept and open your heart to yourself you become a bit more open to those around you. As you develop a base of friendship with yourself, the quality of your daily social relationship will enhance.
With meditation practice, you are simultaneously taming the mind and opening the heart. It is so simple and natural: from interest comes knowing, from knowing comes acceptance, and from acceptance comes love.
It is impossible to express empathy and compassion to others w/o starting with self.