Beginning to get more of a routine with this. Doing the 10 breaths when I wake, swiftly followed by the music meditation and the mirror work, all done whilst lying in bed. Then the mantra throughout the day. The mirror exercise is significantly easier. My eyes don’t dart all over the place now, I can hold my gaze. This morning, when the 5 minutes was up I carried on, using different phrases and reaffirming the vow.
Today I’ve spent in bed. A CFS crash, and I know exactly what triggered it. But it’s given me pointers for several things I thought I’d dealt with, but haven’t fully. It’ll pass.
Did all the exercises. Kept with the mantra “I love myself”. Got up and had a very short evening walk round the block just now. Breathing in “I love myself”, finding a glimmer of the feeling, breathing out “thank you”, which is so very much easier. It’s a good combination as it leaves no space for other thoughts. Tho of course they find their way in, but I simply continued to go back to the mantra.
I woke this morning again with extreme CFS symptoms. Did the exercises straight away, including the mirror and music ones.
Whilst doing the mantra I also felt an appreciation and thanks for my little flat. It’s lovely, and suits me right now at so many levels. And then I added the thought – but it could be better. Which, I realised, is much how I see myself. “I love myself” but I could be better. That’s not exactly loving myself. But the flat really could be better… My body and health really could be better… but that’s not actually loving my flat or my body/mind if it could all be better. It feels very critical, judgemental and unstable.
But it’s how my brain was conditioned as a child. Of course you’re loved, but you have to do better. In everything. That doesn’t set up an environment where one truly does feel loved or accepted. Or cherished or valued, respected or acknowledged, come to that.
I listened to another Kamal interview. A short and, I found, very useful one – listen here. It reinforced the principle of absolute commitment to the practice, whatever is happening. And whilst I say I’m all in, I could, well, ‘do better’. So today I’ve just kept at it. Not taking any notice of the critical ‘could do/be better’ thoughts, whilst also being aware of the need to give it my all. What he also stressed was about adding the feeling in. I need to focus much more on that, because that’s what makes all the difference, and I’ve been more focussed on simply remembering to say the words.
Whilst it’s not unusual for me to feel extreme fatigue throughout the day, I don’t normally sleep, but today I did, for several hours. It was only just now, having forced myself to go out for an evening walk around the block, that I suddenly put two and two together. Whilst yesterday had been a great day, I did have a conversation about a long standing and ongoing challenging family issue which I had thought I’d done quite well with at the time, but of course that’s why today I had such heavy going symptoms. It’s totally related. I subscribe to Dr John Sarno’s principles about chronic body conditions being how the body tries to protect you from extreme emotions. It seems crazy on the face of it, why would this excess fatigue today have anything to do with a phone call yesterday? But I’ve experienced it happening too often to have any doubts. I carried on my walk, saying of course, of course! It was actually a relief to realise the connection. I also included the “I love myself because of the experiences I am having”, which felt very integrating.
Kamal said his health conditions disappeared after practising “I love myself”. I can see no reason why that’s not applicable to everyone, including myself.
Doing the 10 breaths when I woke I was very aware of the fibromyalgia which I’ve had for some years and which is very noticeable on waking. I’ve looked at it in all sorts of ways, releasing, accepting etc, but if I’m honest, I don’t fully accept it, and I do get frequently frustrated by it. Frustrated in a resigned kind of way.
Whilst I was repeating the “I love myself” mantra I was reminded of another similar practice that added “BECAUSE of who I am” – or something along those lines. I realised that I was finding it hard to have any sense of loving myself because of the pain in my body, because the pain was distracting and I felt it shouldn’t be there, that it was wrong to be there. But when I added the BECAUSE bit, it took on a whole different feeling. I tried some variations – I love myself because of what I experience – I love myself because of what I am – I love myself because of how I feel – I love myself because of the pain. The pain didn’t magically go away, but it did somehow soften and there was an underlying joyousness as something felt acknowledged and genuinely accepted, included. It felt like things relaxed a little, and came together.
I seem to be dropping into the practices a little more easily. The mirror work is definitely getting easier. And several small things throughout the day made me smile with the ease with which they happened. Someone found my keys that I dropped on my morning walk before I’d even noticed they were missing, she’d put them in a safe place and told me where to find them. An outside tap that had stopped working last year, meaning I have to carry a watering can a longish way and then refill etc, suddenly got fixed, quite out of the blue. My sister brought round a pile of detective novels, which I love and have run out of as the libraries are closed – she virtually never visits, plus she was happy. Nothing major, but all bringing me a series of smiles.
I woke with a deep sense of sorrow this morning. I did the 10 breaths, read my vow out loud, did a brief meditation, refilled my hot water bottle – yes, really, it was that cold – and lay there a while, contemplating the words “I love myself”. Eventually I went to take a bath. I like to soak and read but had just finished a novel, so I took two new ones with me. Started to read each, but neither caught my interest. I noticed my copy of The Untethered Soul lying nearby and felt drawn to pick it up. Randomly opened to Chapter 10 – Stealing freedom from your soul.
As is the way, it could not have been a more helpful chapter for what I was experiencing this morning. There was a nothing I hadn’t read elsewhere, but as always it’s about the synchronicity of where we’re at, combined with certain words and phrases, that those concepts can suddenly fall, slot, slot, slot, into some sort of mysterious place. Like everything lined up and something finally found its target. Something reconnected. Not into any mental understanding, because that had already been done, (and the chapter is actually about stopping the mental manipulations and overuse), but into something far deeper and more paradoxically complexly simple. That place that gives you that settling, home-coming sensation. Where tension you never realised you had slips away and a silence falls. Quiet and clear.
I might say more about it another time.
I just went for an evening stroll. I’d not been out all day, other than to do a brief watering of my tiny bit of garden – my small flowerbed, and a chat with a couple of other residents, much earlier on. I can sit and stitch all day long, very, very happily, which is pretty much all I’ve done. Bit (very) addicted really. Watching things on my iPad, listening to radio plays on youtube. But it’s not good for the body to sit in one position, in one place all day and a walk has always been important to me, all my life. Must have a good walk every day, and if not a good walk then at least a bit of a walk. Just move. So I forced myself to get up and go out.
I went round the houses, and started to repeat the mantra. I realised it was in a rather desultory manner, and I thought, “why are you not taking this all that seriously?’ And I realised I was being very casual, and why would I not take something as fundamental as “I love myself” as being of the greatest priority? How could I be so casual about it? If I were walking with my little 5 year old niece beside me would I just ignore her, forget she was there, not look out for her? Be casual about her glorious presence?
I never imagined such a simple phrase would have stirred up so much for me in such a short time. I had thought I already loved myself but it has been painfully evident I do not have a clue what that actually means. That, for all sorts of reasons, I find it an uncomfortable phrase and concept. And as much as I’ve played with variations on the phrase, to make it more palatable, more relatable, the actual phrase in its purity – I love myself – would seem to be key. It can’t really be negotiated. Well, that has been my experience so far. If I can’t get to grips, as it were, with this in its absolute essence, then it would seem to be profoundly pointless skirting around the edges playing around with insights about this and that forever more.
I dipped into the book again this morning. I am quite amazed that despite the simplicity of the instructions and the exercises, there is so much of the detail I have overlooked. It seems very important to keep referring back to it and incorporating those details along the way.
On my walk earlier this evening, whilst repeating the phrase “I love myself” I noticed how I still had little feeling of love. The words don’t conjure up any particular sensation. Perhaps they’re not meant to. Is love a sensation? Or do I think it ought to be? All I know is that there is some sensation, which is probably love, that I would like to experience at a deeper level than I have before. It feels like ‘before’ has only been skimming the surface.
As I have previously, I contemplated how I might access that feeling of love. One of the attributes I have assigned to the idea of love is Value. It is amongst the top ones for me – feeling valued and valuing that which appears in my life. And also being cherished, and cherishing. I can tune into those sensations more easily. I can feel something in my heart respond to those words and ideas. I practice saying “I value myself” and “I cherish myself”. That starts to open something up.
I decided it might be easier to change the phrase to “I am loved” – or at least to play with that phrase – because it’s an idea I can more easily respond to. It’s a phrase to relax and drop into. To be embraced by. But as I did the mental loop with these words, and the added feeling, I realised there was a certain passivity about it. It was a one way street, I had no responsibility other than to receive. And maybe that is so, and all as it should be, but what it made me notice about the phrase “I love myself” is that there is an activity in it, I have to become engaged with the idea and I am going to have to participate for it to be anything other than blah blah blah. There is a certain sense of responsibility and, in a way, stepping up to the mark in today’s hearing of “I love myself”.
I noticed that yesterday I mentioned unexpected things coming up in my memory. Today someone said something to me that was very unexpected, and I felt upset. As I did the exercises, and reflected on how I felt, I remembered there have been numerous occasions throughout my life that have been very unexpected and unpleasant as experiences. And most of the shock afterwards has been because I had seen myself as an ‘innocent’ just getting on with things, aiming to be friendly, intending to be helpful, and I have felt misunderstood and unfairly attacked. It has been a repeated feeling, reinforced by events seemingly, to the human body, of both minor and major significance.
There was a time a man in the street had been talking to me urgently but I couldn’t understand what he said as it was another language. After a while of trying to communicate, to be helpful, we were clearly getting nowhere, so I smiled, turned and walked away. Moments later something prompted me to look behind and I saw him running at speed toward me. I was on my bike, but standing astride it looking at something, and had nowhere to go – I couldn’t get to the peddle quick enough – and at that moment there was no-one around. He straddled the front of my bike, grabbed me and pulled a knife which he held to my throat. That was pretty unexpected. I stood very still, noticing the the bizarreness of it. Almost comedic. But definitely unpleasant. Unpleasant after the event, not necessarily so at the time. He wanted money, and more money than I had. A solitary passer by called out to me, then was joined by another and the man ran. As a PS the police caught him quickly and he got 4 years imprisonment, but that’s another story.
A week later, a dark, perfectly circular mark, like black paint, appeared on the soft part of my upper left arm. I looked at it with puzzlement and then realised it was the bruise from where he had gripped me so hard. It had taken all that time to appear. It was so unexpected and I felt an almost deeper upset about the mark he had left on me.
There was another time when I was living on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, with my dog, and we were walking by a loch. I had stopped and ‘conversed’ with a very wild Shetland stallion that we’d passed. He was grazing and I’d taken a photo of him, close up. My dog and I walked away, and a while later I looked up to see the pony galloping directly at me from a distance, clearly without friendly intent. Again, I had nowhere to go, behind me was the loch, around me were miles of moorland without a tree, bush or fence in sight. That was unexpected. I had no choice but to simply stand and watch him hurtle toward me. I had the thought that he would rear and pound me to death, that I was going to die an ignominious death at the hooves of a small, but very muscular, Shetland pony, and no-one would find me for months. As he approached I held out my hand, and he skidded almost into my face. After some moments, apparently disarmed, he backed off, and I and my dog cautiously and carefully crept away.
On the Isle of Harris, same period as the stallion, my dog and I were walking over rough land and we came to a wooden bridge over a medium sized river. As most labradors, he adored water and he loved diving. So I found some sticks, stood on the bridge and threw one hard downstream. As I followed through with my arm, leaning forward, part of the rickety bridge gave way and I carried on with the stick, through the air, toward the river. That was incredibly unexpected. My dog, eager as ever, had started jumping just as I threw and there was a beautiful moment as he glanced across at me with a look of such surprise, and our eyes held for a moment as we flew through the air, side by side. I didn’t know if there were rocks below or how deep it was. But there was that brief moment of stillness, of time not being as it normally is, and I went with the flow, the flight, and somehow landed upright, waist deep in very cold water.
Another time, as an 18 year old, I was getting to know another student at university, and what I thought was something friendly and normal turned into rape. I had nowhere to go because of his greater strength. That was unexpected.
I’m tempted to bring various learnings, and regretful platitudes, from other teachings in my attempt to understand, work out what to do, how to deal with things, what sort of reaction I ‘should‘ have, how I ‘ought‘ best to respond, but that would go against this Loving Myself practice. Any upset of whatever magnitude is not love or loving. I ask the question, “If I truly and deeply loved myself, would I allow myself to experience this upset?” And I’m not entirely sure whether that means the physical event or the emotional experience following. I don’t think I need to know. It’s simply a question which I don’t presently feel a need to answer. The jump-to response is ‘of course I wouldn’t’, but I’d rather take those moments of quiet and stillness that occurred in every one of those unexpected events above, because every time there has always been a brief glimmer of the unreality of it, as well as the comedy. Something inside me always laughed. Doesn’t mean I didn’t ‘suffer’ in varying human ways afterwards, as I associated all sorts of meanings to each of the many events and their apparent consequences, but I feel I was almost always gifted with a moment of seeing beyond.
I’ve often thought, when I’ve reflected on many of my experiences, that I must really enjoy giving myself a good scare, and find all manner of means by which to do it. There’s always been a sense, perhaps bizarrely, of gratitude afterwards. Or maybe it’s a deeper knowing that, at some level, there has been a choice. How would I have known how something feels if I hadn’t experienced it? That’s often been my thought. But I really have had enough of all that now. Now it’s just an old, oft repeated habit. I don’t think our learnings need come through pain and suffering. But perhaps that’s the only way we’ll take any notice. I had a beautiful dream once of learning through pure joy and companionship, one of those ‘big’ memorable dreams. If I truly and deeply loved myself would I continue to experience learning through pain and upset?
I can choose how I feel whatever is going on outside of me. That is the lesson we all want to have truly learnt isn’t it? To realise absolutely that we can choose. And to have command over that choice. If I truly and deeply loved myself I can allow any feeling to arise, to notice it, and to let it dissolve into that from which it arose. I can choose peace instead of this. I can decide to treat myself lovingly and with care and consideration when I have any feeling that seems unpleasant and unwanted.
In The Sedona Method, which I find so helpful and simple, you welcome the feeling and then let it go. Simple. Not trying to deny, escape, avoid, hide, distract or change anything. You notice the feeling is simply a sensation appearing on All-That-Is and is nothing to do with who you are. Feelings, sensations come and go. They really do. For me right now, it seems that if I were truly and deeply loving toward myself I would be consistent in simply noticing the feelings coming and going and not ever make them mean anything at all about who I truly am. Take nothing personally, as it says in Don Miguel’s Four Agreements. Not always easy, but very loving to Self.
I have so many more thoughts about this. Thoughts, in particular, about the fear that arises around any upset I have, and where that stemmed from. And thoughts about upset being when expectations have not been met. What are my expectations? I assume that people will naturally behave kindly and fairly. I know they often don’t seem to, but I still expect it. But associated more deeply with that is the expectation that things will go wrong, that I’ll get a shock of some kind, that my expectations will be blown out of the water.
Thinking can be helpful, and then it can become a distraction, it can outlast its usefulness. So, I have kept, and shall keep, practicing “I Love Myself”. I started listening to another of Kamal’s video interviews, and he was asked what was the most important thing about his practice and he said consistency – and persistence. He compared it to going to the gym. You don’t decide to get fit, go the the gym and expect to have done it in one session. So whilst I don’t feel this practice is making any noticeable difference to my experience of life at this moment – except in bringing uncomfortable things up – I shall keep with the consistency and keep showing up with it, and exploring. It’s only been six days. Anything I need ‘do’ in terms of actions to take, will become clear, will unfold if I stay in that moment of silence and stillness.
Last night I started rereading bits from the book. I noticed in the forgiving section it said to write things down, everything. I hadn’t done that bit. I’d rather skipped over things. And through the day today, I’ve noticed things coming up in my memory, that I’ve not forgiven myself for. Unexpected things. I was a little surprised. I need to get some paper and sit and do this. Tomorrow?
I also noticed, asked myself, am I actually listening when I say the words ‘I love myself’? It seems to be basically background babble, I can hear it but I’m not listening. I remembered how, as a child in particular but also as a young adult, I used to hear a lot of things I didn’t want to hear, opinions and ideas I categorically didn’t agree with, a lot of things that seemed untrue. And I grew used to blocking it out. Keeping a straight face whilst disagreeing with everything around me. Not wanting to listen, becoming stoney faced to what was being said. And I wondered if I was doing that with these words. And, if I’m honest, have I ever, ever believed anyone when they’ve said they loved me? Apart from my grandfather who died when I was six. I did believe him. But I’m not sure I actually believe anything much that anyone says. That’s cynicism, not scepticism. I think I am an internal cynic, and it feels like I’m applying an old technique to just letting the words sail by me because I don’t trust them.
But I did all the exercises anyway.
The resistance to doing this today has been strong. Not so much to doing the exercises – altho I put off the mirror work and music mediation all day until 6pm – but the 10 breaths and the mental loop are simple. As I started to do the mirror exercise, the thought arose, ‘why on earth did you ever suggest doing this’, but it was immediately followed by a ‘no, no this is exactly the thing to be doing right now’. I don’t regret starting this at all. It feels necessary. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t extreme resistance to it. And we are only on day 4!
What I realise, increasingly more clearly, is that whilst I like myself, am pretty ok being myself, I don’t actually love myself. But it’s that paradox, as always, in that I know that I do, that the deep truth is that I do love myself. But I don’t feel it, I turn away from it. It feels like there’s a great brick wall that is preventing the true connection. That that which loves, and that which is loved is ridiculously disconnected. It’s easy to pretend otherwise. To deny it or ignore it. To say, yes, yes of course I love myself. But I realise that these feelings of resistance, and the neutrality with which I hear the words, indicate that I don’t presently truly love myself. I can’t (or don’t want to) receive it from myself. I am refusing to acknowledge that infinite, eternal connection. That there is nothing else but this. All else arises from it.
Doing the mirror work, the thought appears yet again, what is it that I’m looking at, who is it I am talking to? There is only a sense of disinterest, slight mocking for doing this, a feeling of it being a bit ridiculous and an underlying irritation. If I’m being perfectly honest. And that’s the whole point here – for me. Being honest with myself.
Being honest with myself is a loving thing to do. There has been a lot of dishonesty in my life, from very many people I’ve trusted. And, in turn, I’ve been dishonest towards others and towards myself. I felt a bit of a spark of something there – like a spark plug making a brief connection, jumping the gap, attempting to ignite. If I loved myself I would be honest to myself. I love myself and so I am honest with myself. That feels like a small glimmer of something. A small recognition. Like something connected somewhere.
For the meditation to music, I chose Deadbeats, Funky For You, because it’s one piece of music that I can listen to over and over, because it’s repetitive, and because it just makes me smile every single time. It lifts something in my heart. Half and hour ago I lay back and listened to it – can’t not move a little – and contemplated the phrase, I love myself, over and over. And I’m listening to it as I type. Somehow the music stops me thinking anything else, it’s simply, ok, I love myself. With a smile.
Today, various thoughts about this practice have arisen, and now seem to have disappeared. I’ve done all the exercises. And I’ve left it late again, to write. The fatigue, labelled as CFS/ME, has felt significant today. It has been one of those days when I’ve felt dazed, almost drugged. I know it’s a defence. From ACIM, “sickness is a defence against the truth”. I can feel that through and through. I have yet to fully let it go. There’s another line in ACIM, about when you no longer see the value in sickness then it is gone. I still give it some value. But I take little notice of it, I give it almost no credence.
Today we’ve finally had rain. And the temperature has dropped significantly. It’s a stark contrast to how it’s been for weeks. I quite like it, yet somehow it also seems to dampen the spirit a little. It’s welcome tho, the rain.
As I walked late this afternoon, I asked myself, “If I truly and deeply loved myself, would I allow myself to experience this fatigue?” I allow myself to experience it because it’s still mistakenly seen as a protector. I can feel that. I can feel how I am trying to protect myself. I can see how I still hang on to ‘sickness’ as I don’t entirely trust that what it appears to protect me from would disappear, that it would still seem to be real. Intellectually I know differently, but there is something stubbornly hanging on, believing the threat to be real and so the ‘sickness’ stays. Of course it does. If I truly and deeply loved myself would I allow myself to continue to hide the truth from myself, through a mistaken idea of protection?
As I continued to walk, I took off my glasses. I want to be able to see clearly, physically without glasses. Having cataracts seems a great metaphor for drawing a veil between oneself and clarity, between oneself and the truth. If I truly loved myself would I allow myself to experience an increasing lack of clarity, a lack of clear vision?
And as I walked, I did the meditation to a different piece of music, that was so beautiful – Hauser playing Albinoni’s Adagio – listen here.
I keep going with the mental loop. I do not want to make anything mean anything. I do want to see the truth. I do want to allow myself to experience the truth.