Love is a curious thing. I don’t know if it’s an element of life, a force of nature, a psychological delusion, or a hormonal mania. There are times where I would swear it is essential for life, and other times I have declared that it’s a trivial thing for the naïve and the birds. What I do know, is that it is like energy: stored until we release it, and once it’s in motion, it continues with its own momentum.
There are days when I do my morning sensory check-in that I feel a deficiency, where I’m lacking love. It’s similar to the feeling of being stranded inside because of several days of rain, where your body knows it just needs to be in the sun to recharge. The feeling that my internal reserves of love – be that compassion, altruism, or belonging – are low, where the lights in my eyes and in my outlook are dimmed or fogged.
If unaddressed, this love deficiency could lead to depression and withdrawing, exacerbating the deficit. But at the root of the deficiency is the necessary nutrient; all I need to do is access it. Love is like a bad haircut: you can give it yourself as easily as you can give it someone else. Self-love isn’t the activity that we were playfully warned would make us blind if we overindulge in it (“I’m over here, Rob,” heckling coming from the back). Rather, self-love is our ability to direct our compassion and acceptance to our inner self. And like giving myself a haircut, it sounds easy on paper but it’s rather hard for me.
My inner critic is an austere bully, so my efforts to conjure up love for myself can be stonewalled and beat back. But like other obstacles in my path, I found a work-around that is more effective, more powerful, and more beneficial to others. I practice self-love like throwing a stone into a pond.
When I’m low on love, I look inward to find the last drops of compassion or belonging, and instead of directing them at myself, I find someone else in my life to be the beneficiary. I specifically do not direct my love to someone close to me, like my sons or my parents. I usually identify someone I haven’t communicated with in a while, or someone I admire or respect from afar. To use the pond metaphor, my love is the stone and I want the beneficiary to be the spot in the pond where the stone ultimately lands after I throw it. I want it as far from me as possible. Firstly, this keeps my inner critic from sabotaging my efforts. Secondly, this provides the effect that will be most revitalizing to me.
I share this sense of love via a phone call, a message (e-mail or text), or simply a conscious intention sent into the universe. It’s usually a “thinking of you,” or an affirmation of their positive attributes, or how they’ve contributed to my life. It’s heartfelt, succinct, and purely focused on acknowledging their intrinsic value in this world. When this modest “love stone” lands, it has an immediate impact on the beneficiary, and like a stone cast into a pond, it sends out ripples in many directions. These successive ripples represent the love that is passed on from the beneficiary to others.
Yes, a ripple might reach back to me, but it also might not. If the love comes back, great, but the primary intention is to send a burst of love into circulation in the universe, thereby increasing the amount of love in the atmosphere from which I draw my nutrients. The more I love stones I can cast out into my pond, the more likely that the love bouncing around will come back.
Each ripple that reaches me, slips past my inner critic because it’s not of my own making – thus, my inner critic does not view it as inherently flawed or disingenuous. My inner critic is like an eagle-eyed bouncer guarding the door at an exclusive club. If a compliment from out in the universe shows up like an attractive socialite, it will be seen as authentic and granted permission in, but if my self-love shows up like a poser, it won’t so much as smell the aroma from the doorway before being jettisoned into the alley. Self-love slips in disguised as the socialite.
This process of tossing love stones into the universe is essentially the same principle as lighting many candles off one candle; love, like happiness, can easily be shared widely, but it needs to begin someplace.
As we move into this time often associated with love, we can recharge our love reserve and nourish ourselves by spreading little bits of love among those in our larger circle of relationships.