The epidemic of negative self-perception in our culture has led to the creation of counter-measures that counteract negative thoughts and self-perception with positive thoughts and self-perception. This is a top-down approach that targets the level of thought. Instead of thinking “I am unworthy” I think “I am worthy”. Instead of thinking “I am ugly” I think “I am beautiful”. My conceptual issue with this method is that it works within the same framework that creates it. In either case I am caught up in the world of polarization. And in using this kind of method I am simply trying to move from one end of the spectrum to the other.
An alternate solution is to leave this way of thinking entirely. I propose a radical alternative: it doesn’t matter one way or the other as they are both trappings. One trapping may be more socially desirable than other, but it is still a trapping. Take the realm of beauty for example. I will discuss below what I think beauty really is, but for the moment let’s just think of it a as a social assessment. What if it simply doesn’t matter if I think I’m beautiful or not? What if I take all of the meaning out the question of beauty? What if you could drop the entire question and its associated fears and beliefs and attributed meaning?
One reason to shift approaches is because the polarized approach keeps the notion alive that I can be anything but beautiful, valuable, etc. It supports the notion that I can be not that. When in fact ultimate beauty and value are inherent qualities of the soul. They have absolutely nothing to do with the outside world, the opinions of others, or even my own opinions. Our opinions don’t change the fundamental nature of who we are. So what if we stop trying to change opinions, including our own, and instead focus on our connection to our fundamental nature?
This is an inside-out approach. The end result is that the question “Am I beautiful?” becomes irrelevant. It no longer matters if I’m beautiful because I can also be ugly, and neither one of those perspectives changes the fundamental nature of who I am. I can feel valuable and I can feel worthless and neither of those perspectives changes the fundamental nature of who I am. My fundamental nature is not touched by opinion, perspective, or thought. I don’t have to do battle with my opinions, perspectives, or thoughts. I can just let them be. It is a place of true freedom. It is a place where we can access an internal source of unconditional love. This is what self-love is: love that arises from the core self.
This way of being is reflected in “The Thunder, Perfect Mind” from the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels. This excerpt is the voice of the divine feminine transcending the notions of polarization by claiming a state of all-encompassing being:
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am modesty and boldness.
I am shameless, I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and I am peace.
Our fundamental nature is outside the realm of polarization. So how do you connect to your fundamental nature? There are many ways, here are some suggestions:
Objective witness, centering meditations. These meditation methods change the orientation of our conscious awareness from what I call “the marine layer” of consciousness, that surface layer that can go all over the place depending on external circumstances, to the inner, core self that is constant and not susceptible to marine layer volatility. The Christian contemplative tradition has a method called Centering Prayer that works well, see Cynthia Bourgeault’s work for further reading. There are several options for this kind of meditative work, and finding the one that you want to do is essential. I suggest reading the methods to get the idea of the practice and then adapting them as needed.
Tom Kenyon’s sound work and meditation are excellent. See his website for more information: www.tomkenyon.com. In particular I recommend his method of using gratitude to open the heart, and the Aethos meditation.
Healing work of any type. The question here is what is in the way of you accessing your core self? Physical problems? Psychological issues? Ancestral patterns? Sometimes a certain amount of healing work and clearing is needed before that access becomes a perceptual reality. Meditation techniques can also provide this clearing over time.
Creative expression. How do you create? What is your way of expression yourself in the world?
Do what you love. Doing what you love connects you to your core self, it doesn’t matter what it is, just that you love it.
Connect to nature. Nature doesn’t care how you look or what you think. It helps us get in touch with our “natural selves”.