the fear of loving ourselves

Each year I wait for this out breath: Little buds on my father’s transplanted roses that signal another year of surviving the harsh winter.  I remember agonizing over whether to bring the roses out from their beds in Montreal where they were coddle against the warmth of the bungalow’s foundations and brought to life each year by a more temperate climate.

These roses had been planted by my father in the back gardens of their home and were a showpiece of the neighbourhood.  And, typically, they were also a focus of some warm-hearted competition with their neighbour who managed to grow some of the most beautiful tree roses I’ve ever seen.  All summer long, Bruce and Dad would go on about the best way to prune, cultivate, and feed these plants.  The fence between their houses fell to disrepair.  The crabgrass invaded one yard as the dandelions parachuted into the other.  And they argued on – sometimes about the weeds but mostly about the worthiness of the floribunda over the hybrid tea.

After my father died (has it been ten years already) and my mother’s dementia left her planting the florist-delivered long-stem red roses, the house was rented to a stream of people and the roses – by now considered heirloom varieties – died.  With only five bushes left, I became obsessed with possessing them.  But the possibility that rescuing them would also kill them stopped me at the planning stage until one year I decided to dig deep and commit to whatever outcome evolved from my action.

It’s not enough to step up and take a chance.  There’s the follow up, the follow through.  Call it what we will, the real work begins after the commitment is made.  We know that about pets, plants, and people important to us.  But what about our own lives?

I suggested to our meditation group that we learn to fall in love with ourselves.  Embrace ourselves as we would a lover – filled with enticement and wonder at this being we are.  Seeing every act and engagement with ourselves as inspiring and vital to our life.  Someone commented to me that it seemed egotistic.

That’s the fear we have, isn’t it?  That self-love is a slippery slope to self-centeredness and narcissism.  So we withhold, become Scrooge-like in our tenderness to our hurt and sorrow.  And when that deprivation becomes too intense to bear, we react through grasping and greed.

Perhaps a considered approach would yield more nourishing fruit.  Preparing the ground each day to receive the treasured aspects of ourselves, to be held, watered, and feed so that healthy growth is possible.  Patience when we are dormant to our potential and welcoming when there is sight of aspirations that lean to the sun.  What might happen then?

4 thoughts on “the fear of loving ourselves

  1. you asked if a theme was emerging and I think Barry has named it above. For me your teaching has been what that commitment is. It’s about nurturing is sustained through our care and attention to detail. I look forward to one more tomorrow! I needed to hear this. Feeling sad this week, it is so easy to throw myself into lethargy and carelessness. You have reoriented my gaze.

  2. I love that you said this about loving and embracing the self. Having been exposed to Advaita teachings over the years, which say that there is “no-self” – which is ultimately true in the respect that there is no *separate* self from our True Nature – somehow gets turned into a kind of fundamentalist self-denial – i.e. – there is no “self” to care for and nurture type of thinking, which creates all kinds of dichotomies within and a kind of dis-integration. But when one is committed to the Universal Truth – one embraces everything *as* That which we are – and we bloom.

  3. An interesting discussion. My experience is that as I awakened to the fact of no-self I understood that my true nature was shared by all beings. At that point compassion arose quite naturally for myself as well as others, because there is ultimately no separation of self and other, Because it was all-embracing, I never feared that it was narcissistic.

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