“If you’ve ever wished for a friend who would love you as you are, appreciate your genius, and make space for your foibles, welcome you when you’re funny and shiny and when you’re a complete mess—well, I can introduce you to this person. Rather, your meditation practice can. He or she has been there the whole time. You are the one you’ve been waiting for, as they say.” Susan Piver
In my own meditation practice this has been true, but it wasn’t at first. When I first began meditating, I was the furtherst thing from a friend to myself. When I was faced with things I felt embarrassed or humiliated by, I found that it took a lot of courage to be kind to myself.
I was lucky to be reading Pema Chodron at the time, who points out that practicing meditation can actually ramp up our habitual self-denigration. By sitting with ourselves and stabilizing the mind, we become more aware of the stuff in ourselves that we don’t like, whether it’s selfishness, impatience, jealousy. Pemas’ writings directed me to look deeper so that I could see what was actually going on.
When I looked more closely at my addictions, I was able to see the sadness behind getting lost online, the loneliness behind snacking at my computer. I really like Pemas’ idea of unconditional friendship with ourselves: “When you have a true friend, you stick together year after year, but you don’t put your friend up on a pedestal and think that they’re perfect. You two have had fights. You’ve seen them be really petty, you’ve seen them mean, and they’ve also seen you in all different states of mind. Yet you remain friends, and there’s even something about the fact that you know each other so well and still love each other that strengthens the friendship. Your friendship is based on knowing each other fully and still loving each other.”
Pema notes that it is only through unconditional friendship with yourself that your issues will budge. You’ll only stay stuck by shaming yourself, criticizing yourself, or repressing your tendencies.
Pema says that she isn’t talking about going from being a bad person to being a good person. Rather, it is a process of getting smarter about what helps and what hurts; what decreases suffering and increases it; what leads to happiness and what obscures it. Could you imagine loving yourself so much that you don’t want to make yourself suffer anymore? What would happen if, instead of rejecting yourself, you embraced all of yourself instead?