Nurturing the Human Spirit

People who have endured catastrophic life experiences and emerged the victor, rather than the victim may inspire our lives. Helen Keller, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and Elie Weisel are some of the more familiar names, but many of us have personally known individuals who have come through the other side of a wrenching experience with grace and humility.

If we could ask each one, the famous and the familiar, “What got you through your crisis?” in all likelihood the responses would be similar. One by one, they would describe inner resources that enabled them to survive. Brian Luke Seaward, author of Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, calls those qualities “the muscles of the soul.” These encompass courage, faith, humour, patience, compassion, imagination, humbleness, forgiveness, intuition, creativity, optimism, honesty, and love.

It is in exercising those muscles that the health of the human spirit is maintained. And the fitness of the spirit is vital to our total well-being and ascension or evolution.

With the understanding that there is a definitive link between stress and disease, and a greater appreciation for the healing power of the human spirit (or Soul), practitioners in all areas of health are beginning to acknowledge that to be healthy, happy and content, one must acknowledge and nurture the human spirit. Thus “holistic” care, attention and alignment encompasses all elements of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual which is the fabric that makes up the very rich tapestry of human beings.

Following are seven suggestions Seaward offers to enhance the health of the human spirit. These have been extended on to suit the message of this article.

1. The Art of Self-Renewal

Self-renewal is a continual process. To be present and attentive to those around us and strong for others in times of need, we must first attend to our own capacity for strength and endurance. Typically this begins with some aspect of the centering process, going within to calm and replenish. This could be in the form of a daily meditation practice or “Mindfulness” technique, connecting with nature via a walk in the woods or feeling the lap of warm water while your feet caress the sands of time along a beach. We have many choices in the gifts available to us.

2. The Practice of Sacred Rituals

We attribute specific habits and various customs as more special than others, then gravitate toward those activities and make them routine so that we are reminded of life’s sacredness. Special readings or meditations in the morning, witnessing the sunset every night, regular meetings of certain groups to which we belong – all manner of activities can serve as a constant reminder that we are connected to something greater. Acknowledging milestones of life through Sacred Ritual is something that is of huge benefit to our evolving soul. For example celebrating or acknowledging birth, puberty, first love, marriage, divorce, death and so many other significant events, via Ritual.

3. Sweet Forgiveness

Every act of forgiveness is an act of unconditional love. For forgiveness to be unconditional, you must be willing to let go of all feelings of anger and resentment. We forgive others and we forgive ourselves. We can only forgive others by forgiving ourselves first.

4. Embracing the Shadow

Embracing the shadow means to acknowledge negative, judgmental thoughts, and send a message of acceptance and compassion to that part of ourselves where those thoughts and perceptions originate. Getting to know and love that part of us that we keep hidden from ourselves and others means giving light and love to that part and also means we can release that which has given us so much pain in the past.

5. Keep the Faith

The power of faith requires balance. It is good to remember “We are given no task too great to bear.” Faith is there to guide us through moments of turbulence. Faith in ourselves as part of the whole is a wonderful rock in our life.

6. Live Your Joy

Living your joy is seeking and appreciating life’s beautiful side. It reminds us to live in the present moment rather than become immobilized by that which is past or that which is yet to come. Living in the “now moment” gives us a fabulous appreciation and much joy. Looking outside of that could mean that we miss out on the wondrous life going on right under our nose.

7. Compassion in Action

Compassion in action can be explained in one word – “service”, and service offers a dividend of love to all parties involved.

Loving Yourself Unconditionally - If Not Now, When?

Many of us were taught some version of the Golden Rule such as “Love Your Neighbour as Yourself.” The question is… how well do we love ourselves?

Conditional Love

As children, we all seek the love and approval of our parents. Unfortunately, all too often the love and approval we receive comes with strings attached.
We are admonished not to be too loud and rambunctious, punished for not getting better grades, and compared to our siblings. Parents are often ill trained in child rearing and make the error of telling us “you’re a bad boy,” criticizing who we are rather than the action itself. Most parents come to the job of parenting with very little life experience. They’re hardly finished being parented themselves, are still looking for answers and have not discovered themselves yet, and they’re thrust into the act of defining others.

Over time, we internalise the critical voices we heard while growing up, often becoming much harsher critics of ourselves than of anyone else. Think about it – how often do you tell yourself something to the effect of: “That was so stupid of me!” or “You’re not good enough—who do you think you are?” Many of the things we say to ourselves we would never dare say to another person! And yet we dialogue with ourselves day and night in these harmful ways.

When self-love is conditional, it is often attached to some kind of achievement. For instance: “When I’m successful in my business, then I’ll feel good about myself.” “When I’m thinner, then I’ll really love myself.” “If so-and-so loves me, then I must really be a worthwhile person.” We wait for these outer signs of success only to come up with new criteria once we’ve achieved one of those goals.

Unconditional Love

Webster’s Dictionary defines unconditional love as “affection with no limits or conditions; complete love.” What would it be like to love yourself right now, warts and all? What if loving yourself were not based on your having to achieve, perform or live up to any kind of expectation? What if it didn’t matter at all how you compared to anyone else? Wouldn’t that be a relief?

The truth is we are all unique beings, worthy of love just because. Just because we are here. Imagine looking at a group of babies and saying, “Yes, this one deserves love; but no, that one doesn’t.” It would be absurd to make that kind of assessment! And yet, we spend so much energy in comparing ourselves to others, wondering if we measure up enough to deserve love, success or the other “goodies” of life.

Instead of judging your achievements, your body, your face, or your life path, what if you could wholeheartedly accept all of yourself, including all the experiences you’ve had on your journey—the good, the bad and the in-between? You absolutely can and it may take some practice.

Practicing Emotional Self-Love

If we haven’t had our great and unique value mirrored to us from early on in life, learning to love ourselves unconditionally needs to be practiced, just as anything else we want to learn. Here are some ideas for loving ourselves better.

Take Time to Listen Deeply

On a daily or weekly basis, spend some time alone listening deeply to your true self—what does she or he really feel, think, and want? Learn to distinguish all other internal voices from your own true voice. Journaling about what you’ve discovered helps to keep you focused and aware.

Learn to Recognize the Critical, Unloving Voices

We all have a whole array of “gremlins,” little voices inside us that mirror critical voices we’ve heard in our past. The more you can quickly spot them and dismiss their influence, the better. For instance, when you hear the voice that compares you to someone else, choose to recognize it as a gremlin and let it go. The more you can bring a sense of curiosity and lightness to this practice, the easier it will be.

Give Yourself the Loving Care You’ve Always Wanted

Create practices that help you feel loved and cherished, as you deserve to be. Perhaps a hot bath by candlelight with music and burning oils will feel wonderful to you. Maybe wearing your favourite clothes, or a hike to the top of the mountain ridge with its clear, astounding view will have you feeling nurtured internally. Who knows? It’s only for you to decide what makes you feel good about you. Do not wait for something or someone outside of yourself, to receive this gift of giving.

The Mirror Exercise

Every day look into your eyes in the mirror and tell yourself you love yourself unconditionally. Really connect with yourself through your eyes. It’s not a time to evaluate how you look or fix your hair. This is about really seeing into the depth of who you are and giving yourself the love and appreciation you deserve. Tell yourself what you appreciate about you. This can be a very deep and moving practice. You can also use the mirror to bring loving attention to other parts of your body. For example, if you are often critical about your belly or your thighs, choose to spend some time really looking at that part of you and bring some love and appreciation to it.

These practices can help you transform your relationship with yourself. What’s more, practicing emotional self-love will teach you to be more compassionate and loving with all those around you. And until we truly love ourselves, loving our neighbour will be conditional at best.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications