Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Exploring the relationship with your Self

The Pink Moon brings our focus onto the relationships in our lives.  Many people only think of romantic relationships, but this really does talk about any relationships:  romantic, friend, family, business.  It is helpful to even stop and consider the very casual relationships we have with people.  Perhaps you see the same person when you order lunch everyday, or a fleeting encounter with a stranger on a bench.  The more we tune into how we handle the relationships in our life, the better those relationships become.

And yet, when we talk about relationships, we often forget our most primary and fundamental relationship:  the one with our Self.  To me, the relationship with Self is at the core of my spiritual practice.  Much of the work I do is to better tune in, understand and work with the aspects of my Self.  In many ways, this is like learning about another person, so you can better understand and work with them (as you would when working on a relationship with another person).

But do we really treat our relationship with our Self with as much importance and reverence as we do the other relationships in our lives?  If you have children, parents or a romantic partner, do you do special things for them?  Things that you wouldn't consider doing for yourself?

This sort of circles back around to self-care and the idea that doing things for our self is selfish.  And it is, but only in the very best way!  I think that what we often call selfish is actually self-centered (another word with a bad reputation).  When we are acting in a self-centered way, we are putting ourselves in the middle of whatever we are doing.  And this isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Putting yourself first means giving yourself value.  And so many of us are trained to put other people before ourselves.  If you are always putting other people first, you will find yourself depleted and undervalued.  It is perfectly fine to choose to defer to someone else, or to allow someone else to go first, but we should also do these things for ourselves, especially when we need it!

A bigger issue, that I see, with people building relationships with their Selves, is that we often aren't comfortable with our Self.  So the idea of spending time with yourself, doing things alone, or doing things just for you can be uncomfortable.

But this can bring so much value into our lives!  I think that learning to be comfortable with your Self, without needing distractions or other people present is a very important first step in building up that relationship.  It can feel raw and sort of scary, or make us focus on the things we don't like about our Self, and yet the more we do it, the more comfortable we get, in bits and pieces.

I spend a lot of time alone, and starting next year, that time will be increasing.  It is not uncommon for me to eat alone, or to find ways to entertain myself, for long periods of time.  I typically have one day a week, where I am alone from the time I wake (at 6:30 in the morning) until about 7pm at night.  So I eat all three meals, by myself, and am left to my own devices mostly all day.  Once our son goes off to college, this will happen an average of 3-4 days every week.

I am lucky, that I was an only child, so I sort of grew up building this relationship with my Self, and learning to play alone.  I think it is a really valuable skill, and while I made sure that our son grew up learning how to share and play well with others, I also encouraged him to play on his own for a while every day (he was also an only child). 

I remember reading a book (one of SARK's books actually) that suggested going to movies alone or going out to eat in restaurants alone, and how daunting it can be.  And it is a little weird feeling sometimes, and you possibly feel like other people are staring at you, but it can be quite liberating as well.

I don't think we should feel like we need to wait for other people to do things that we enjoy and can do on our own.  I have no problem eating out by my self, and I've gone to movies alone.  I watch shows that I like and that no one else in my household cares for.  By uncovering things that I enjoy doing alone, and developing the ability to really sustain myself, it allows me to not need to have other people around to be content.

But I also think that by deciding that we deserve nice things, and that we are the one to do them for our Selves, we are building up not only our self-confidence and self-worth, but also showing the rest of the world how we expect to be treated. 

There are lots of ways to work on the relationship with your Self, and it may help to think of your Self as another person.  To start, think of them as a prospective romantic partner.  How would you learn about someone new, who you think is interesting and you want to get to know better?  Spend some time, not only thinking about what you like and don't like, but also exploring your memories and dreams.  These are only some of the things that make you who you are, and these are things that you would want to know about someone else, so you definitely want to spend some time getting to know them about your Self.

It sounds very basic, but there are a lot of people who know only very simple things about themselves.  They may know they dislike strawberries, but it never occurred to them to stop and figure out why they don't like them.  Perhaps, it is something about the taste or texture.  Or perhaps they have a memory from childhood that they had forgotten, which made them dislike strawberries.  By exploring the why's behind our likes and dislikes, we can better understand how we relate to the world.  And sometimes, we may find that things we thought we liked or didn't like were actually symbols for other things.  Once we uncover this truth, we may find our tastes actually change!

Once you start to explore, and find things you enjoy or are drawn to, start thinking of nice things to do for yourself.  It's kind of like dating yourself!  You may feel comfortable starting big, or you may need to start small.  Buy yourself a treat, your favorite candy or drink!  Take yourself to an activity that you love, or set aside a night to indulge at home in your favorite show or movie.  But I think a big thing is to find a way to do it alone.

There is a real difference to doing things alone, even if there are other people in the house (but I also find that doing things alone when no one is home has it's own, wonderful energy).  If there are other people home, request that they give you some time, to do your own thing.  If this means working out a deal with your partner, or a family member, so they will watch the kids so you can soak in the bath without anyone banging on the door, then that might be what it takes.  It will be so worth it!

As you start to build this relationship with your Self, you may find that things that you didn't care so much for before, start to be less bothersome to you.  You might not care for a physical feature of your body, or a mental or emotional trait.  But, just as the more you love someone, the more likely you are to overlook or be able to take their faults in stride, you will start to be more forgiving of your own flaws.  You might even find that as you progress, things you used to dislike about yourself become things you are proud of and appreciative of.

A lot of spiritual practices involve working on your Self.  But many often look at this process as a sort of self-improvement project.  The Self becomes something to be made better, more perfect, to smooth away all the rough edges and forge into something more evolved.  I think it can be helpful to twist this perspective and to think of it as if we were building a relationship with our Self.  We are coming to know, understand, and in many ways woo our Self.  We are going to do things that we know our Self likes, and we are going to do things to make our Self feel special.  It becomes a very different process, one that is more love centered and less judgemental.

So, take some time to get to know your Self!  Don't be afraid to peek into those dark corners, because the more you know about your Self, the more ways you have to approach this relationship building.  Find ways to improve your relationship with your Self, and make time to be alone with your Self.  Your relationship with your Self is going to be at the core of your life, the center spoke of all the other relationships you will have throughout the course of your life.  Why not make it the best relationship it can be!

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