"Set Out" - Daphne Kingma (excerpt) "Loving Yourself: Four Steps to a Happier You"
---“Self-Portrait" by Jay Lonewolf Morales
“You can never solve the problem at the level of the problem ...” —Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
There is really only one way to arrive at authentic self-love, and that is to realize that you can never be fully satisfied on a psychological level. The "terrible errors of childhood" as the poet William Stafford once called our psychological wounds, can never been entirely redressed in a single human lifetime. Although you can take many steps toward claiming yourself on a psychological level, the true reception of the miracle you are can only be perceived in a higher frame.
When you're stuck in a traffic jam—tires squealing, horns banging, people yelling at each other —the hostility of the whole world seems to be concentrated on a single street corner, and the world feels like an angry place. At other times you can be in an airplane and see the vast and beautiful expanse of the planet, where cars are ants, huge office buildings mere pinpoints of light, and the earth seems like a tranquil and beautiful place.
It's the same with loving ourselves. The picture always has two frames. On an emotional level, learning to yourself is an undertaking of the personality. It means that, just as you are, a person stumbling, bumbling, and celebrating your way through life, you desire the tranquility of feeling good enough to proceed, finding peace in your heart when you sleep at night, having confidence asyou move through the vicissitudes of your life. But on a higher, spiritual level loving yourself is loving your essence, and that is quite another matter.
If you have applied the teachings of the first three steps in this book, you've probably already found a greater sense of comfort in your life, as well as real moments of loving yourself. True self-love, however, the unshakable joy of recognizing the you I spoke of at the beginning of this book can never be attained simply by shoring up your broken-down psyche. In addition to the first three steps, which deal on the psychological level, you must somehow come to an awareness of a higher self, the you beyond the you, the self beyond your personal self, the eternal essence that stepped into life in the form of this you for a time.
This essence is beyond all the psychological dramas and traumas you have endured. It is beyond your heartaches and woes, beyond your achievements, and even beyond the legacy you'll leave behind. This you is nameless, faceless, radiant, and eternal. This you knows who you are and what you're doing here. This you understands that the whole wonderful, self-doubting, nerve-wracking trip of a single human life is all about love, is really only a teaching about the mystery and the majesty of the all-encompassing ocean of love that we have come from and to which we will return.
We are love, and everything we suffer and endure, go through or dream of is here to remind us of that single final fact. It's very hard to remember this. And because we can only occasionally remember this, because for a lot of us this concept is like some wild jungle animal roaming around in the vine-draped outskirts of our consciousness, we're usually trapped at the level of the relationship break-up, the traffic jam, the lost job, or the mother-in-law—stuck in our own little personal grade B movies with no concept whatsoever of the grand eternal Roxy Theater where all our little personal movies are playing—each one of them just a scene in the all time longest playing movie in the world; the one called love.
It's very hard to remember this.
Human life is simultaneously a path toward and a huge distraction from the grand and eternal truth that our lives are all about love. Indeed, the only way that we can really ever love ourselves is to somehow get in touch with this picture, to see that we're a part of the whole, to remember that we are love—and that we are loved.
To arrive at true self-compassion, you must see yourself as part of this whole, as deserving of belonging. In the eternal context, you do have a place, you are a being of infinite value, you have been chosen. Knowing this can bring great peace. But to arrive at this peace requires attention, a conscious turning. To arrive at a destination, you must set out.
You must set out on a new path, to a higher level, to what has greater meaning. You must to move on from what you've always done, and set out in the direction of something new. In order to set out, you must begin by acknowledging that there's someplace beyond where you are that's worth going to, that you don't know it all, that you haven't arrived, and that there's more to receive.
Setting out implies an unknown—you take the first step, but you can't see your destination. There's a distance between you and it. You don't know what you'll find on the way—whether there will be disappointments or revelations, sidetracks and detours, dangers or miracles, tigers or angels. Nevertheless you set out—with the sense that something more awaits you, with the commitment to discover what that is. And the deeper you go with this commitment, the more of yourself you will find.
Sometimes we feel that the more we focus on ourselves, the better we'll love ourselves, and when you're dealing with your psychological issues, this is certainly true. Engaging in a process of emotional healing can take a great deal of time and focus, and, as we have seen, it's very important to become aware of your psychological issues. It's also important to find your voice and speak out, to take action, to clear away what stands in your way, to create inner and outer space for yourself. But after you've done all that, it's even more important to set out on a path of surrendering yourself to something that can show you that you are a part of the whole —not the whole of yourself, but the whole of the universe.
It is only in that context that the petty horrors of your life will finally dissolve, that the truest beauty of your self will finally emerge. This process of discovery is beyond the psychological. It is a spiritual journey. When you set out on this path, you will find your true essence.
Which Path Should You Take?
In a way it doesn't really matter which path you set out on. Any path, deeply committed to and followed with intention, can lead you to your deepest essence. In one of his stories, the writer Andre Dubus speaks of people who have practiced the spiritual path of Alcoholics Anonymous for many years. 'You know that look they have," he says, "when they've been dry for years. Like there's a part of them that nothing in the world can touch." He's referring to that deep quality of self that is achieved when one has truly set out on a path. Similarly, when you're in an ashram in India, and you spend a day in deep meditation with thousands of others who are also meditating, you recognize among them the utterly beautiful and tranquil eyes of certain people who, clearly, have been meditating for years. It's obvious that these souls have moved beyond self- loathing, that they've surrendered to a larger purpose. It makes sense that they're not lying awake at night still trying to patch together the tattered quilts of their broken self-confidence. In some profound sense they love themselves; in the heart of their being, they know they're all right.
The same is true for you. When you set out on a path toward something higher, you will discover yourself. Not your personal self, but your holy beautiful self, the one whom you can't help but love. The you who can step out of yourself and give. That you will find joy in fulfilling your purpose. That you is willing to serve. That you can do nothing but love.
There are many paths that can take you to this deeper self. Physical disciplines, spiritual practices, skills developed to such a high level they take you out of yourself. There's a beautiful Korean physical and spiritual discipline called Dahn Hak which I have practiced for several years. It specifically instructs you to honor your body and yourself by, for example, touching your face and saying the words, "I love you, my beautiful face" or by putting your hand on your chest and saying, "I love you, my wonderful heart." It also provides the physical discipline by which these words become true on an energetic level in your body.
Any form of dance can also do this, whether a sufi dervish, an Argentine tango, a flowing fox trot, or a sensuous samba. When you dance you connect with your own transcendence. Meditating can also take you to this deep place in yourself. Swimming will do it. Surfing will do it. Walking miles with your dog can do it. But it isn't just one dance that will do it, a single night at an AA meeting, one morning of Dahn Hak practice, or an hour of meditation every other week or so. When you set out on a path you must walk it—with grace, with commitment, with steadfastness. For only if you set out on it again and again will it truly support you. Only if you walk it will it give you ... you.
Each time you deepen the journey of the path you have set out on, you deepen your relationship with yourself. That's because the deeper you go, the more obstructions to your true nature will fall away. The more the obstructions to your true nature fall away, the more you will see your true essence.
The more you see your true essence the more you will see that your true essence is love. The more you see that your essence is love, the more you will love and receive yourself. And the more you receive yourself, the less you will struggle with questions of self- love. This is the circle you start to draw the minute you set out on your path.
Dalphine Kingma's Website (Books)