There’s an old story about a monk that left the monastery and went into the woods to find peace and solitude. He climbed a tree and meditated there, day and night. The local villagers called him Birdsnest because of his high perch, and they would often come to him for pithy and wise advice. He became so renowned, in fact, that the local governor heard of him and decided he needed to speak with him. The governor searched the woods for days before finding Birdsnest and was angry and sore after the long hunt.
The governor called up to Birdsnest, saying, “Tell me, monk, what is the one thing that all the Buddhas ever taught?” There was silence for a moment, so the king got even more annoyed. “I am the local governor, you have to answer me! Tell me the one thing that all the Buddhas taught!” Then, soft as a whisper, came the reply from the monk: “Only do good things, never do bad things.”
The governor was livid. “Only do good things, never do bad things? You have to be kidding me! I traveled for days for this nonsense? I knew that when I was three years old.”
“Yes,” Birdsnest replied, “The three-year-old knows it, but the 80-year-old still finds it very difficult to do.”
I have taught meditation for 14 years. In that time I have met with people from all walks of life and they all have one thing in common: They know that they should embrace all of who they are, love themselves, and thus have a strong foundation for offering love to others. They have known that since they were three years old, but no matter their age they still find it very difficult to do.
I have practiced meditation for 26 years. In that time I have discovered something important: The more familiar I have become with every aspect of who I am, the more I learned to embrace the beautiful and creative parts of myself as well as the scary and painful parts. The more I have been able to befriend and ultimately feel love for myself, the more loving I am toward others.
What prevents us from love? The doubt that tells us we’re not worthy of it. It’s heartbreaking but I have met with hundreds of people who have no confidence that they are worthy of love in their current state. Thus, they attend self-help conferences hoping someone will give them the one cure to make them whole; they drink or smoke themselves to oblivion hoping to forget who they are; or they date anyone who glances at them in the hopes that this magical new being will complete them.
Here’s the thing: We are innately loving and lovable…as is. We don’t need something outside of us to make us whole or complete. We already are, today. Our task then, is to discover that simple truth. Here are three key steps to discovering your own wisdom and ability to feel worthy of love.
1. Get Familiar With All of Who You Are
Meditation is, at its core, a practice wherein you get to know and understand yourself. What you uncover might spook you, and you might discover some wonderfully inspiring parts of yourself, too. It’s a bit like dating your own mind. When you date someone, you want to get to know them so you spend a lot of time with them. Here, we can spend a lot of time with our own mind by engaging in meditation practice.
Later on when dating, we might start to discover that while the person we’re hanging out with is really cool, they also have some negative qualities as well. They’re quick to anger, or jealousy, or are incredibly narcissistic. But we continue to spend time with them anyway, knowing the good outweighs the bad. With our mind, that’s the equivalent of discovering all the neurosis we carry around with ourselves through the act of meditation. In the same vein, we can become familiar with all of who we are, and learn to accept it.
While you always have the option of breaking up with someone you’re dating, you can’t ever dump your mind, so you may as well get to know it better and embrace it.
2. Discover That You’re Worthy of Love
Thankfully, when you meditate it’s not just poking around and looking at neurosis. You will, at some point, discover that underneath those layers of confusion you are innately peaceful. You are inherently wise, good, and…dare I say it, whole and worth loving. You are complete unto yourself. But don’t take my word for it, try meditation and see if you, over time, discover this peaceful-abiding nature on your own. That moment when you are resting your mind on the breath and relax more than you normally do? Rest in that and feel your ability to love.
3. Develop Confidence in That Love
Once you’ve rested in this peaceful state, free of self-doubt and inner criticism, you should develop faith in that. Instead of listening to the normal ethos around how we should all look thinner and taller and have more money and a better education and better jobs (and so on) we can drop the comparison act and learn to love ourselves as we are. When you experience that innate wholeness, then you can have confidence in that instead of the societal whisper that says you need something outside of you to complete you. This is not an intellectual understanding of being innately loving or whole, but an experiential one.
The more we are able to explore the workings of our mind and heart, the more we learn to love ourselves. The more confidence we have in our worthiness of love, the more we are able to express that sense of worthiness to others. Then, we aren’t sitting around doubting ourselves but are inviting everyone we encounter into a giant love party. When they join in, we act as a mirror, echoing back their own worthiness of love.
Maybe when you were three years old you had this confidence in your worthiness of love, but you have lost that feeling over time. Meditation helps us rediscover that thing we knew when we were three years old. The more we meditate, the easier this will be.