Three Ways to Love Yourself This Valentine’s Day

valentines dayValentine’s Day can be difficult for many reasons. For some, it brings about loneliness, sadness, or self-aggression. When this happens, a powerful antidote can be the cultivation of self-love and self-appreciation. Here are a few ways to intimately connect with yourself this Saturday.

  1. Take your inner creative out on a date

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron offers the concept of the weekly “artist date,” as a crucial part of the creative life. Simply put, we take our inner artist, or our inner child, out on a date by setting some time aside, listening to his/her longings, following them, and having fun! On my first artist’s date, I felt nostalgic for my past home of Valparaiso, Chile. There, on free afternoons, I would often put on headphones and meander through the hilly city, letting my senses guide me to ocean overlooks or hidden pockets of street art. On my date, I decided to bring the ritual to Boulder, and aimlessly wandered the city for hours. I ended up back in front of old houses I had lived in during college—places I hadn’t revisited in many years. I let myself dance with old memories, while connecting with my gratitude for my current stage of life. It was a perfectly intimate and special day I could have only shared with myself. Try, for an afternoon, to touch into that intimacy you have with yourself—with the parts of you that only you can understand. If you are feeling nostalgic, revisit the past through old music, photos, or places. If you are feeling adventurous, try something you never envisioned yourself doing, just for kicks (it could be bungee jumping, but it could also be hanging out in a different part of town, test-driving fancy cars, or trying a spa treatment you’ve never heard of). If your soul is feeling hungry, take in inspiring art, or indulge your senses through a trip through a spice shop or a delicious meal. However you are feeling, have a special experience that only you will understand.

  1. Create a vision board

A vision board is a place for you to gather and clarify what you want to invite into your life. A simple way to start is by hanging up a corkboard (poster board can also work), and perusing magazines, books, or visual websites like Pinterest, paying attention to what images, words, or phrases stand out to you. From there, you cut/print them out and collage them onto your board. It can be difficult for us to know what we want with the next chapter in our lives, and a vision board is a great way to gain understanding of what your soul is longing for—what is to calling you. Vision-boarding is powerful because it puts you in touch with what you really want—a feat that can be difficult when noise from friends, family, and the media seem to want to tell you what you need and crave.

  1. Practice Maitri

Maitri, literally translated as “loving kindness,” is a Buddhist term that often refers to the practice of being unconditionally loving and friendly toward yourself in whatever experience you may be going through. This means that if you are feeling lonely, allow yourself to be lonely, remaining compassionate towards yourself as you have your experience. It means noticing when you want to be angry with yourself for feeling how you are feeling, and choosing to love yourself instead, acknowledging that your feelings are sometimes out of your control. There are times when we receive the message that to achieve happiness, we must transcend negative emotions like anger, jealousy, or fear. Practicing maitri teaches us that these emotions are normal and sane parts of ourselves, and we are whole and loveable, no matter what we feel. Here is a five-minute exercise to help cultivate maitri: Find a comfortable seat, and begin by closing your eyes and noticing your breath. Notice it just as it is, without any need to change it. If you notice your mind drifting away, simply come back to your breath compassionately, without judging yourself. Rest your attention here for a moment. Now scan your body from head to toe, noticing where you may be holding tension or emotion. Take a moment to acknowledge this part of yourself, again, without any need to change it. Let it be just as it is. Imagine that it is a physical mass of energy, and you are able to wrap your arms or a blanket around it to comfort and love it. Ask it if it needs anything else, and imagine yourself giving that thing to it.

Five New Year’s Resolutions for a More Passionate Life

IMG_3209We are all passionate, creative, and inspiring creatures; this is at the very heart of what it means to be a human being. We grow—as a species, as families, as individuals who yearn for meaning in both purpose and connection. We care about the nature of our existence, and feel a deep longing to see it evolve and thrive.

 

Yet, our existence is also riddled with distraction, confusion, and disempowerment. Sometimes, in the midst of the complex human experience, we disconnect. We disconnect from deeper intimacy—both with others and also with ourselves. We disconnect from both our playfulness and from our heartfelt longings, from spontaneity and from the joy we derive from meaningful personal evolution.

 

The resolutions that follow are not about changing ourselves. Rather, they intend to offer guidance in rediscovering what is already deep within us. They are about coming home to the passionate beings we already are.

 

  1. Start each day with an intention.

 

An intention is different from a goal. We set a goal to do something. Intentions are not so much about doing, but are rather about being. How do you want to be different? How would you like to feel at the end of the day? How will the world look differently to you if you are deeply satisfied?

 

Each morning, consider taking a moment to set an intention for your day. This aligns you with your power and helps connect to purpose. Note that an intention may be highly personal—a change only you can see.

 

For example, if yesterday didn’t go so well, you could say “I intend to allow the disappointment I feel to flow through me in its natural course,” or “I intend to catch myself wallowing on yesterday’s disappointments, and remind myself that today is a new day.”

 

If you are hoping to feel more present, some intentions may be, “I intend to pause in gratitude and appreciate the people and circumstances around me,” or “I intend to be fully honest with my emotions today, whatever they may be, and refrain from trying to change them.”

 

Revisit your intention throughout the day, continuing to align yourself to it.

 

  1. Get to know what true passion feels like in your body.

 

Passion does not always equal hard work. Sometimes, hard work can feel like you are attempting to swim against a current. You can barely move, and it feels like you are spending all your energy trying to simply stay on course. Surfing or body boarding feels much different. Your efforts collaborate with that of the waves; your movements become aligned with those of the greater ocean. You are still working hard in body and mind to stay on course, yet your efforts feel exciting, natural, and harmonized to the universe around you.

 

True passion feels much like this. There are times in both our work and in our relationships when it feels as though we are kicking against the current, and other times when we enjoy riding the waves. Take note of the moments you are truly enjoying what you do—whether it is in your career, in a conversation, exercising, or even making love—look for those moments when your effort somehow paradoxically feels effortless. When you find yourself energized rather than depleted.

 

Pay attention to what this feels like in your body. Do you feel a fullness in your chest? A sense of weightlessness? Make friends with these sensations, and let them help to be your compass, alerting you to your alignment with your own happiness.

 

  1. Absorb something inspiring each day.

 

Passion is a two-way exchange of yourself with the world around you. Open yourself to the inspiring life swirling about and enjoy soaking it in. Some days, this could mean reading a poem or admiring a work of art. Others, it could include attending a talk, listening to a podcast, or closing your eyes and enjoying your favorite song to the fullest.

 

There will be times when you feel exhausted, closed off, and only able to open your windows to the world the slightest crack. On these days, your inspiration may come from a short walk, where you notice one beautiful thing, perhaps a bird’s stamina to survive the snow, or the empathetic gaze of a stranger walking by. It may come from within—a simple acknowledgement of the strength it has taken you to get through this day. Believe that you, too, are inspiring.

 

  1. Make a list of adventures you would like to have, and challenge yourself to do as many of them as you can.

 

Adventures large and small are like yoga for your conception of what is possible. When you expand your comfort zone, you are stretching the limits of what your life can be.

 

Consider adding adventures of all sizes to this list, from visiting Patagonia to getting naughty with your wife in the library stacks to ice skating for the first time in your adult life.

 

What are things you have always wanted to do in your town? How about in the state? The country? And even abroad? It’s ok to plan big and let your imagination run wild. It is also ok if you don’t get to many of the things on your list. The point is that you are dreaming up all that is possible. You are opening to the reality that there is an infinity of experiences that the next year can hold.

 

  1. Create daily.

 

Just as it is important to soak in the world around you, it is just as vital to give of yourself. One of the most profound ways to share yourself is to create—to express an outward manifestation of what is inside that passionate soul of yours.

 

Look for ways to be creative in your work and in your relationships. Reinvent a system that is no longer working. Surprise your family with an adventure. Take a painting or pottery class so that you have many ways to express yourself.

 

Create anything! Create art or poetry, even if it is only five words, scribbled into your notebook. Cook a meal. Write a thoughtful letter to a friend. Create connection through a deep conversation or by making love. Build a shelf in the garage. Add some little bit of yourself to the world each day, and enjoy the momentum of passion snowballing around you.

 

Here’s to a beautiful and fulfilling new year!

 

 

Listen to the Younger Parts of Yourself.

Listen to yourself. Listen to all parts of yourself. Listen to your past self at every age. Read the notes. Scan the pictures. Don’t just see the wisdom in creative play and inspired bliss, but also in creative coping and inspired survival. Honor the wisdom in all the ways you made it to this point.

Honor your inner toddler and honor your inner teenager. Honor the choices you made—perhaps no one else ever has.  You need someone on your side. You did then, and you djournalso now. See how amazing you were at forging on against all odds. Find your resiliency and your growth: pink hair in the greyness of depression, lyrics strewn across your homework, a flower pressed in the pages of your story. Let your strength inspire you.

Honor your teenage inspirational forces, even if they seem silly now. Feel grateful that you were inspired. Be proud that you danced and sung and screamed along with the radio. It doesn’t matter who made you dance. You danced—perhaps against all odds. Be proud.

Growing up and into who you are, you loved. Everyone has loved someone. How much bravery that takes! Never be mad at yourself for loving; be mad at others for abusing it. But don’t be mad at yourself. Instead, love yourself. You know you can do it (after all, you’ve loved before). Trust yourself enough to love yourself.

Ask your younger self advice. Ask her opinion. She is dying to be heard. If you don’t agree with her, be curious as to why. Is there something she is afraid of? Inquire as to how she wants so desperately to protect you. Thank her. She loves you a lot.

Never forget how much your younger self loves you. She is your biggest fan. She will do anything to keep you from being hurt like she was hurt. She is your mama bear. And sometimes you may find her suggestions—escape, depression, drugs, obsession—no longer helpful. Don’t hate her for trying. As I said, she has gotten you to this point. Thank her, and tell her you are going to make new choices. You can say no to her ideas without saying no to her.  Keep her in the boat. She didn’t abandon you, so don’t abandon her.

Sometimes, it may be painful to acknowledge her—to let her in. That’s because you love her so much that you can’t stand to see her suffering. Her pain may be unbearable. It’s OK to wait until you are strong enough. But don’t wait forever. She is a part of you—the today you. She is a part of Now. And she has so much to give.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who chose abortion out of love.

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Mother’s day can be tough for women who are coping with a past abortion. While it is important to let oneself feel whatever feelings are arising—whether loss or guilt or sadness or relief—it is my most heartfelt desire to acknowledge the hundreds of mothers (or mothers at heart) with whom I have worked directly (and the millions more whom I have yet to meet) who made their choice out of love.

 I want to wish a happy Mother’s Day to the 61% of women who have an abortion after they have already had children. How many of them made their decision so that they could give the children they already had the best quality of life possible.

 And I want to wish a happy Mother’s Day to the childless women, many of whom may have yearned relentlessly to step into the maternal role, whose inner mothers did not want to bring a child into the world whom they could not care for. I honor the hundreds of women who made their choice because they knew that truly being a mother does not end at giving birth, but is a lifelong journey that they knew they were unable to take. They too made their decision out of love. 

 Happy Mother’s Day to all women—to the gatekeepers of life who call on their inner wisdom to bring new life into this world when they know they will be able to give it everything it needs to thrive.

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Rachael Uris, MA, LPC is the owner of Atacama Counseling, LLC, offering sex therapy as well as individual and couple's counseling for issues surrounding sexuality, love, and pregnancy. All services are located in downtown Boulder, Colorado, and are provided in English and Spanish.
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