One of the first things you hear, when you come on spiritual path, is that you need to start with loving yourself - that everything starts here. You heard that many times, didn’t you? Guruji himself said it so many times, reminding us how important it is. Yet, it seems that pretty often we actually get it quite wrong.
Some people say, it is hard for them to love and accept themselves the way they are. It is hard for them to accept all this negativity within them, and yet rise above it. Others feel, as if self love is too egoistic and leads them to being too passive in overcoming their own negativities. Does any of those sound familiar?
So what exactly are we doing wrong with loving ourselves?
Perhaps to get the answer to this question, we actually firstly need to define, what does it even mean to love yourself. Let us think about one thing for a moment: when Guruji says, we should love ourselves, does he mean:
“love your Self”?
The problem with “loving ourselves” might be as simple as putting our identity in the wrong place. I remember how on recent silent retreat in Puri there was one lady, who said to Guruji that she finds it hard to accept herself and asked him for advice. And Gurudev’s answer was very simple, actually. He said that as long as you identify yourself with all the byproducts of your lower self, all its lower thoughts and emotions, it becomes hard to love and accept yourself truly - as in that case you identify yourself with all the negativity, which you are actually trying to overcome, which creates an inner conflict. But the moment you realise, that you are none of that and become a conscious Observer, fully aware that none of those thoughts and emotions define who you are, this is when you abandon the idea of seeking your identity in the lower self and start to seek it in the Self.
But to love your Self, you need to firstly know your Self.
And how do we even come in contact with our true Self? It is through being in silence and conscious observation of the mind. And it is through Atma Kriya Yoga itself, which gently shifts our focus from our lower self, to the higher Self, as the first step on our path towards God-realisation. Did you ever notice, how easy it is to love and accept yourself, when you sit in silent meditation after you finished your kriyas? It is because after your Atma Kriya Yoga practice your identification is with the Self, with this silent Observer, present secretly behind every thought and emotion. And this Self is full and complete in itself - because it is a particle of God himself.
So how to cultivate this inner connection with the Self and loving our Self? It is through reminding ourselves constantly, that we are none of the thoughts or emotions that appear in our inner space. It is through constant, conscious effort, to reestablish this lost connection with our Divine Self. Our japa kriya practice becomes extremely powerful help in that process, as it continously reminds us of the presence of the Divine within us and thus naturally shifts our focus from the limited to Unlimited. And in this rare moments, when we truly feel reconnected and fully indentified with our soul or our higher self, love becomes as natural as breathing, because full acceptance is instantly present there, as well.
So, know your Self. And love your Self.