“At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”- Che Guevara
It begins and ends with love. If there is one lesson, one key to being all you can be – and I don’t mean being a soldier, I mean being a warrior – it’s learning to love. But just what does that word, love, mean? It has become so fraught and loaded with double meanings and empty promises that many are justifiably cynical at the mere mention of love. I’m not talking sentimental love, I’m not talking hallmark love, I’m not talking ‘luv.’ I’m talking about a fierce love, a revolutionary love, a true love, a love beyond illusion, a love that is not afraid to freak you out with the truth, even when it hurts like hell. This Big Love is agape love, it’s a universal love, and it is, I believe infused in all of creation.
When I asked Archibishop Desmond Tutu one of my favourite questions, “what is the meaning of life”, he replied, “The God in whose image we are created, is a God of love. We are the result of a divine loving. Ultimately we’re meant for love…we’re meant as those who will communicate love and make this world more hospitable to love.”
You don’t need to believe in God to feel the power of this truth – somewhere deep inside us all, is a bonfire of love, that we are here to embody, to unleash, to liberate from captivity.
Take a moment and send your awareness down to your heart, and see if you can feel a little taste of this vast love which is hidden there, like a shining diamond – your diamond heart. Can you feel it burning within? Or do you find constriction? A little of both?
If you’re like most of us, there is a thick armour coating around the jewel of love at the heart of your heart. We create this shield in an attempt to keep the pain away, but what it really does is keep the pain in. If you could only release this fiery love from it’s hiding place onto the world, your every word, your every action, would be a blessing and boon to all you encounter. And all that love would come right back at you.
How do we unleash the vast reservoir of love from inside us? Little by little, day by day, step by step we can open the gates. Don’t expect it to happen all at once, but if you make a conscious decision to reverse the process – from building up that armour plating, to tearing it down – it will happen.
Sounds scary? Of course it is! What could be more frightening than loving and allowing love in! But, what could be more rewarding? Nothing on earth. The love I’m talking about is not dependent on others – it’s not something that anyone has to give you. It is already alive, inside each and every one of us. It is always there, just waiting for you to access it.
Opening your heart does not mean giving away your freedom, it does not mean surrendering to every person who comes along and demands a piece of you. The kind of love I’m talking about begins with loving yourself, and then radiates outwards. If you do not love yourself, you cannot love others effectively. And sometimes, the most effective and compassionate way to love another is to say ‘no’, especially when they are hurting you, the planet, or other people.
Do you love you? Really? Chances are, if you are like most of us, there’s at least a piece of yourself that you just do not Love. Maybe it’s even the whole package. You are not alone – there is an epidemic of self hatred in our society. Not all cultures have been trained to dislike themselves in quite the same way those of us in the west have, though the disease is spreading, with a global, all pervasive media campaign that teaches us that we lack…something. It doesn’t matter exactly what it is we are lacking, just a vague sense of lack is good enough to make us ripe for commercial exploitation. We might be lacking the right clothes, the right car, the right brand of cigarettes, we might be lacking youth, the right butt, a big enough penis, an HD TV. There’s always something that we need, and we’re never quite good enough. But we could be, if we only had the right appliances, the right deodorant, another hit of viagra.
There are many other sources for this pervasive sense that we are not good enough – or not good period. Parents, peers, friends and relatives can all be dampers, stomping out our spark. We each have our own personal moments when this feeling may have taken root, turning points in our life that become touchstones of self loathing. It’s important to recognize them, see them, bring them into the light of your conscious mind, and release yourself from their hold. Because you are worth it. You deserve to be loved, by the world, and by yourself. You deserve to be loved, simply because of who you are. Not because of what you do, what you have, what you look like, but simply, because of who you are. You don’t need to be anything more than yourself. Your true self.
Tibetan culture is one of the lucky ones – as a community, they’ve largely escaped the disease of self hatred. Some years ago an interviewer was explaining to the Dalai Lama how we in the north suffer so much from self worth issues. He was genuinely puzzled, “really? You hate yourself? How strange. Very very strange.” In Tibet, they love each other, and they love themselves.
It is very difficult to truly love others, if you do not first learn to love yourself. If we all loved ourselves, we would soon find that conflict would disappear in the world. If every tin pot dictator learned to truly love himself, if every general, every leader, every jailer, every gang member, every would be killer, were to learn self love, this would be a very different world. We project our self hatred outwards, onto others, and onto the planet herself. In the feature documentary, “The Age of Stupid”, a man from the future, looking back at the mess we made of this beautiful world, wonders how we could have let things go so wrong. Why did we fail to save ourselves? Perhaps, he suggests, the answer might be that we didn’t think we were worth saving.
But we are! We are so very worth saving, each and every one of us. We are part of an extraordinary wave of manifestation, an incredibly rare and precious pearl of self aware consciousness in a vast expanse of silent space, and we are so very beautiful. You are so very beautiful. This does not mean you are perfect. Neither am I. You’re not here to be perfect. You are here to be human. You are here to be perfectly imperfect. It’s how the light gets in. This doesn’t mean rest on your laurels – keep growing, at all costs, keep growing, but do it with self love, not out of self hate.
WARNING: self love does not equal narcissism. One of the major pitfalls on the road to true self love is the trap of narcissism. It’s an important but sometimes confusing distinction. Narcissism means seeing only yourself, loving only yourself, to the exclusion of all others. Perversely, many of us are self hating narcissists, obsessed with ourselves, and unable to truly see others. Hitler was a narcissist, and projected his extreme narcissism onto a public willing to be seduced by claims that they were the chosen ones, the Aryan race. This is not self love – this is hatred disguised as self love.
In order to distinguish between healthy love of the self, and unhealthy narcissism, ask yourself: am I loving myself from a place of ego, or from the authentic self? The authentic self is Love. It only Loves. It does not hate. To hate is to be inauthentic. At the same time, the authentic self Loves in an egoless manner, as it is by definition beyond the ego. This kind of self love is true, deep and sustaining, and will never draw you into the trap of self obsession, a sad and depressing addiction in our society. True self love is a window to loving others, not a doorway that shuts out the world.
To serve the world, to truly be of service, we need to be very very conscious. We need to look at old programs, and see if they are running the show, instead of our true heart. For women, in particular, the old models of serving others have been put in place and maintained by the patriarchy. All of us, men and women, have to take a good look at how we go about serving this planet. We are not meant to live on our knees, we are here to stand tall on our feet, to truly shine. We serve best from a place of power, not from a place of submission. Not patriarchal power, but true power, a more feminine power – a generous, compassionate, loving power, that has no desire to dominate, but refuses to be dominated.
This week we interviewed Shandra Alexandre, founder of the Sha’can Tradition, for the film Redvolution. She described how, in Hindu mythology, the goddess Kali is shown with four arms. On the one side, her arms hold gifts and boons. On the other, a sword and a severed head. The sword is for severing the head of the ego. Painful as this may be, it is also the path to true freedom. Terrifying as those Kali moments might be in our life, they also can be much more powerful and transformative than all the cuddling and coddling in the world. We tend to want the gifts and boons of life, and want to avoid the fierce rewards of truth, but we do so at the expense of our growth.
Fierce Self Love is not about denying our shadow, it’s not about being lazy and settling for less. It’s about loving your potential, and choosing to water that seed. Believing that no matter where you are right now, at the bottom of the barrel, or the top of the heap, inside is a divine spark that can never be extinguished, a glowing ember beyond the vagaries of fame and misfortune. A sense of fullness, of deep, radiating satisfaction. Beyond the power of lack. Love is indomitable, unquenchable, unstoppable. It can be hidden, but never destroyed. It is at the core of who you are.