“The finest thing in the world is knowing how to belong to oneself.” ~Michel de Montaigne
Most of us are plagued with some degree of unworthiness. Even after close to 250 days of active work at creating a positive life, I still find the tendrils of connection to a belief that seems to be part of my genetic code. It equates my pain in life to something wrong with me. I know I am not alone in this most fundamental experience we have of abandoning ourselves. I have found a Buddhist teacher, Tara Brach who addresses this issue in her book Radical Acceptance.
She equates our belief in our unworthiness as a trance-like belief in a false self that is inherently separate and on some deep level not worthy. Her teaching on radical acceptance encourages not only an honest acknowledgment of what is going on inside, but also a courageous willingness to be with life as it is in the moment. She writes: “There is an increasingly well-known adage that says “What you resist, persists.” Your identity gets hitched to whatever you are not accepting. And the more you push something away or run from something, the more your sense of self is linked with that experience.”
The leap comes from giving yourself the opportunity to accept an experience without having to like it. It is the combination of acceptance without resistance that gives freedom. Often it is hard to tease out the pain from the resistance which is usually some form of judgment we make about ourselves or the situation we are in. The layers melt together and what gets lost most immediately is our ability to hold onto ourselves. Exchanging our judgments for a devotion to mindful attention opens our ability to relate to our own pain. Our sense of being becomes larger than the feelings that felt too big to hold; suddenly it becomes manageable. Freedom is not escape from painful feelings, it is having the room to experience it and move through it.
After close to 250 days of this positivity quest, I would have thought that this equation of my own relationship with my self would have been solved. I would know the truth of how to love myself. Even as I would like to believe that there is some threshold that would have gotten me to the other side, a nirvana of self love or at least the absence of self loathing, I realize again that it is a process and direction rather than a destination that I am seeking.
Sylvia Plath, the gifted and tormented poet once wrote: “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” This is a hopeful chant. I want to sing this and give up the idea that any of it should be any other way.