Salon Chair Enlightenment and the Magical Mystery Gift

Honoring yourself and others through balance and acceptance

self acceptance

I’m still on this love kick. When you love yourself then you’re more open to loving others. It can change the world. I know it can. I feel it in my bones.

Some say that it’s more about accepting yourself than loving yourself (see articles listed at the bottom of this post). For me love and acceptance are the same. Well, more accurately, love is dependent on acceptance, but not vice versa. You can’t love without accepting, but you can accept and not love. I say acceptance in terms of understanding, not necessarily agreeing with it.

If you don’t accept someone for who they are, then you can’t love them. Not really. The same is true for yourself. That’s why I talk about balance, understanding your shadows, and all of that. It’s rolled up into one big package.

I have a temper, for example. I know that. I understand it and accept it from the perspective that it is part of who I am. Do I agree with it? Do I think it’s beneficial? Most of the time, no. It has it moments of usefulness but in general it is more of a deterrent to growth and inner peace than helpful. By understanding and accepting it as part of myself, however, then I can better address it when it raises it’s ugly head.

When you accept and love yourself, then you are more open to others. More importantly, you have such a good sense of self that you can accept others despite your differences. If you can accept your own flaws, then you can at least see past other’s flaws. You also open yourself up to other’s opinions.

Lesson No. 1: Love depends on acceptance — whether it’s yourself or others.

We need a little of that right now — we are too polarized as a society at the moment. We need to move a little more toward acceptance of others.

My recent visit to the hair salon prompted this train of thought and this post. My stylist and I have long visits. We talk about politics and societal woes. It’s a special stylist-customer relationship like that.

The funny thing is that we are on opposite ends of the spectrum politically. Opp-o-site. My last few visits kind of irked me. I just didn’t want to hear what she had to say. Like I said, I’m not a perfect example of wisdom and enlightenment. I’m working on it … that’s all I can do.

So, last night, I listened more. I usually listen, but I voice my side of things. This time I listened more instead of automatically reacting. See, the enlightenment is coming round.

As I listened, I could see holes in my own line of thinking. She made legitimate points that I had not considered. I knew I didn’t have all the answers, but I had always felt like I was morally right. Although I may still feel that I’m morally right to some degree (again, no perfection here), there are some practicalities that have to be dealt with when you are trying to come to a solution. That’s where listening and understanding other’s points of view are critical.

None of us have all the answers. Even when we think we do. We can all learn from one another — see things from a different perspective. We’re not going to be able to make the world better, to heal our wounds, if we can’t listen to other people’s perspectives. Answers are almost always in the middle. Everything really is about balance. It may sound hokey, but it’s pretty true.

Lesson No. 2: Loving and accepting yourself allows you to listen and hear other people’s perspectives. Sometimes we even learn from them.

To get there, though, to see other people’s perspectives, as crazy as it sounds, we have to love and accept ourselves first. Unfortunately, we live in a society dead set on striving for perfection and not accepting our flaws. Therefore, it is difficult for us to love ourselves fully. We may take care of ourselves. We may eat right and exercise, meditate. But we have to accept ourselves. Be comfortable with who we are, so we can fully embrace and love ourselves.

Stepping away from the things that make society go around right now, can help. Abstain from the phone, the tv, shopping, going out — all of it for a little while here and there. Get to know yourself. Take care of yourself. Accept and love yourself.

These things are best achieved in quiet moments. At some point you will be able to master them most of the time, but you have to start from scratch. Make it easy on yourself. Give yourself a break. Take some quiet time for yourself. It takes the pressure off. It truly does.

Lesson No. 3: Give yourself a break from technology and “doing” in order to get to know yourself.

I keep coming back to this idea that romantic love is a stepping stone in developing your love skills. We look at childhood development in phases — you learn these things from birth to age x, and at age y you start to develop these things.

I feel that we go through development phases in love as well. In our early years, we learn to love family, friends, pets, and that sort of thing. The basics. Then we learn to love others romantically, which requires more acceptance of others that we choose rather than inherit. We get there because it fulfills a need in us that happens to become more pronounced as we hit puberty. Just saying.

If we then take those love skills that we learned in our early years and as we developed relationships, then we can build on them and start looking externally. How can I share that love without looking for something back?

Now ain’t that the magical mystery gift? That’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a gift you give to the world, and I truly believe good comes back to you. You may not see it. It may not be obvious. It may be as simple as the lack of bad — it could be that subtle. But when your mindful, conscious and aware, universal subtlety is not so hard to notice either.

I felt like I kind of loosened the tape the end of the gift and got a sneak peak inside last night. I can’t be the only one who did that with gifts from family, right?

I listened. I heard what she had to say and could even accept some of it as legitimate concerns.

Even better, I noticed that she didn’t get as upset either. In the end, most of us just want to be heard. Once we’re heard, we can move forward.

The last few times we’ve visited, my stylist had gotten a little frustrated. I could see it and feel it. But last night was a peaceful night. Good conversation. A learning experience … for me at least.

Lesson No. 4: Listening and trying to understand others is an expression of love — even if you don’t agree with them.

Now when I think about Immigration policy, for example, I have a fuller picture of the topic. When I develop my ideas or solutions, then I try to incorporate solutions from the other side’s point of view.

And yes, that’s how I spend my free time. Call me a dork. It’s OK.

In the end, this is the only way we’re ever going to find answers. It’s the only way we’re going to learn to live together again. Right now, we’re not living together peacefully — not in the US, and not throughout the world.

Lesson No. 5: Build on your love skills to go beyond the self and fulfill something greater. Good always comes back to you.

I know there will be parties on both sides of the political spectrum that will disagree with me on this. That’s OK. Maybe, like me in my stylist’s salon chair, both sides can see something legitimate in my argument — even if they don’t agree with it entirely. A nugget, a seed planted is a start, and that’s all I’m looking for.


Related articles:

Why You Have to Love Yourself First

To Love Someone, Do You Really Need to Love Yourself First?

Therapists Spill: 12 Ways to Accept Yourself

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A Bagful of Diamonds

Opening your heart as a form of self-care

love

Love. In the grand scheme of things that’s what this blog is all about. If you love yourself, you’ll love your neighbor and they’ll love another neighbor until the world is one big lovefest. To me, love is everything. But I’m kind of sappy that way.

It’s funny when you think about love, though. Saying I love you is a big deal. You open your heart and soul to someone when you say those words. You become utterly vulnerable — no matter the context.

So we hold onto it. Keep it for those who mean the most to us or the ones who earn it. It’s a coveted phrase. It should be coveted. It’s precious and perfect — just like a diamond.

But does a diamond become less valuable or less beautiful if it’s dropped into a bagful of other diamonds? I don’t think so.

Pour the bagful of diamonds onto a table and you see a sparkling mass of beautiful. Radiant and glorious. Could society be that sparkling mass? What if we told each other on a regular basis that we loved one another? It could be a beautiful thing.

Lesson 1: The phrase “I love you” doesn’t lose value if you say it more often to more people.

Say a friend or a coworker helps you with a project. Of course, you’re grateful and thankful and hopefully we all express that. But somewhere deep down is there a part of you, the grateful, thankful part of you, that loves that person for being who they are? For helping? For being a kind human being? I think if we took a moment to think about it, be mindful of the interaction, we would find that we love them.

So what if we told people we love them a little more often than we do? We should.

How nice does it feel to be told I love you? No matter the context — friends, partners, family, people you haven’t spoken to in 20 years? It doesn’t matter who says it, hearing those words changes everything. It changes your constitution. It breaks down any barriers, melts any frozen spots in your heart. Nothing feels like hearing those words.

What if we told a stranger on the street that we loved them? Yeah, they would look at us weird. It’s not the norm or expected. But in my head, I think it would be nice. I haven’t put it into practice yet, but I can dream.

Is it possible to love someone you don’t know? Absolutely. We’ve all seen someone at some point in our life and our heart ached for them. Be it the homeless. The bed ridden. The addict. The stripper or prostitute. We have all done that at least once. I refuse to believe otherwise.

That, in my opinion, is a form of love. That ache in your heart. The urge to reach out to them, help them — that’s love. That is the greatest human emotion there is. Pure and simple. It’s selfless. It’s beautiful. It’s the essence of being human.

Lesson 2: Yes, you can love a stranger.

But if we remove our brains a bit, we could move beyond having that urge for only the needy. We could have that urge toward everyone we meet. Imagine what your life would be like if you were filled with love all the time.

What if the whole world felt that way at one time? You kind of get that feeling in a stadium full of people singing along to their favorite band. It’s magical. I love it.

I’m realistic, though. Practical. I don’t always embrace that aspect of myself, but it’s there. Still, I know we don’t all feel love all the time toward every single person. I get it.

But we could try to feel that way a little more often. Say it a little more often. It would be a step in a better direction, don’t you think? Appreciate someone for just being a human being.

I’ll be honest. I am one who covets the phrase I love you. I say those words to very few people. I hold onto it for dear life.

Something happened to me recently. An epiphany I was unaware of, I believe. I said those words to someone unexpectedly. I meant it wholeheartedly. And this was in that romantic love kind of way. I said it with no expectations. None whatsoever.

This person has motivated me. Helped me. Encouraged me. So I said it. I meant it. And it felt good.

The reaction, I won’t go into. The reaction, you see, doesn’t matter. Well, of course, it matters a little, but the point is that I had struggled with the feelings because I didn’t know what the reaction would be. That struggle caused turmoil in myself. I became frustrated, angry at times. Sad and depressed other times.

Then I said it, “I love you,” and every other feeling that had built up around it disappeared. All I felt was the love I had wanted to express but was afraid to.

So, I should say that I’ve been learning about detachment, non-attachment. Whatever you want to call it. There’s an interesting little podcast on this topic on the Secular Buddha. The host mentions Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote, “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

But if you are the one who is loving, that emotion, love, can also become an attachment. You covet it. You hold onto it and don’t let it out for fear of not hearing back what you want to hear.

In that sense, that emotion then owns you because you start building up things around it to protect yourself, to force the situation, or whatever. That emotion owns you. Sometimes you have to free yourself in love, as well.

Yes, I always skew these philosophies a little. Put them in my own personal context. That’s how I think. But my feelings for the person was owning me. Letting that love out, freeing it, without expectation from the other person, I opened myself up. I felt better because of it.

Lesson 3: Becoming “non-attached” to your emotions frees you and opens your heart.

It may sound odd, but by letting go of all the BS that surrounds romantic love, and just saying we love someone when we love them regardless of their reaction, we honor ourselves. We honor our emotions. We honor our hearts. We also honor the other person because we don’t put them through all of that angst that we tend to build up around it.

My philosophy is that we know pretty early on if we love someone in a romantic way. Maybe not consciously but subconsciously. If we are in touch with ourselves, our feelings and our thoughts, we’ll recognize this earlier too. Pull it up to the conscious level. It saves a lot of frustration to be conscious of it.

If we can learn to express those feelings without expectations (or at least regardless of expectations), we can save ourselves a lot of suffering. A lot of suffering.

We’re not robots. Humans have expectations. I have a lot of expectations. When you’re born with an irrepressible, unbreakable hope in your heart — and trust me, I have tried to break it — you are also cursed (or blessed) with expectations. So, for me, non-attachment means that I may have expectations but I am learning that I’m not going to die if my expectations aren’t met. I’ll pick myself up and go on as I always do.

Lesson 4: Don’t let expectations keep you from honoring your emotions and yourself.

Most of the time that is easy for me — doing something and coping with the results (good or bad) afterwards. Love is a little trickier for me, the romantic kind. So that’s why I covet it and covet the phrase.

But I’m learning to release it. Not let it own me any more. And it feels amazing, including this specific incident — even before I knew the results. I felt relieved and happy.

And, by the way, saying those words feels as good as hearing them. Now that I’m learning to detach from that emotion a bit so that it doesn’t own me, I hope that I say it more often — whether it’s romantic or not. I want to honor myself and my feelings more. I recommend giving it a try.

And maybe one day we will be one big hippie commune. That’s kind of a secondary goal.

Peace, ya’ll, and I love you!

When the Hot Mess of Life Trips You Up

Using self-care, mindfulness and yoga to stay on track with your goals

Warrior pose

Whether it’s a resolution or you’re just getting back into your routine after a bit of break, we all have that moment that throws us off track. It usually happens early on, too. You get stuck in a traffic jam on your way to an important meeting. Or that guy who you were certain liked you and flirted with you just posted a picture of himself with a pretty girl on Facebook.

Yeah, you know how life goes. Some stupid something throws your whole day off. Then your whole routine. Before you know it, you’re eating Ben & Jerry’s and watching reruns of Friends for three days straight.

I would like to say that being mindful, doing yoga, and taking care of yourself eliminates those bad moments in your life. That you’ll never have detractors from the goodness of self love. But, I hate to break it to you, shiz still happens no matter how much you love yourself.

It’s the way of the universe, I’m afraid to say. Checks and balances — that’s what it’s all about.

But, we don’t have to let those things screw us over. Of course, I can say the positive thing here, “Use it as motivation.” Let’s be honest, though, when you see the photo of the guy you liked with another girl, motivation and happiness kind of go down the drain.

Let me say, it’s perfectly OK to feel that way. In fact, you should feel that way … or at least you should feel something. Don’t push your emotions down. Don’t ignore them. Feel them. Experience them. Breath through them and then let them go.

Otherwise, they’re just going to eat at you. Then you’re going to wake up at 3 a.m. sad or angry and wonder why you’re not sleeping. It ain’t caffeine, my friend. It’s unresolved emotions. That will throw you off track more than anything.

Lesson 1: Believe it or not, when bad things happen, acknowledge them. Feel them. Experience them. It helps more than it hurts.

Breathing through the emotions is sometimes easier said that done. I know that to be true myself. Letting things roll off my back isn’t exactly my strong suit. I’m working on it, though.

In fact, if you have trouble with that initial knee-jerk reaction, I highly recommend checking out Pema Chodron’s Udemy course, Sounds True’s Freedom to Choose Something Different.

She’s funny. She’s down to earth. She’s struggles with the same things we all do. I thoroughly enjoyed this course. The last section with one of her students wasn’t as great. If you don’t care about the certificate, you could skip that part. I wanted the certificate, so I listened.

In this series, she talks about shenpa, a Tibetan term. For anyone who has taken an Emotional Intelligence course, shenpa is your trigger. Or for anyone who hasn’t taken one of those courses, shenpa is that moment or that thing that sets you off and you lose your cool. Or at least you start down the path of being bitter and angry for few hours.

Really it’s all about acknowledging these triggers when they happen and choosing to not go down that same path you always go down. It’s hard as hell not to go down that path, though. I’m not gonna lie. But Pema says the same thing, so I’m in good company.

The course can help you recognize it, though. Makes you more conscious of it, and helps you “breath through it,” rather than breathing fire.

Of course, you can also meditate when someone or something triggers you. If you can’t do it in that moment, then do it before you go to bed. Just like a marriage, if you shouldn’t go to bed angry at a spouse, you probably shouldn’t go to bed angry at someone else or upset that you let some tiny insignificance throw you off your game.

Meditate. Or journal about it. Or both. Think about why it made you angry. Why it made you sad. Why you wanted to smack that smarmy smile off his face. Get in touch with the reasons the trigger upset you and then ask yourself if it is really worth being that upset. Is it worth not taking care of yourself?

It usually isn’t. And if it’s not, why lose a good night’s sleep over something that doesn’t really matter in the long run? Or stop exercising or eating right? If you can let it go before going to bed, I will guarantee that you’ll wake up more motivated to renew your efforts the next day.

Lesson 2: Don’t go to bed angry at your spouse, partner or anyone else, including yourself. Resolving something and getting a good night’s sleep helps motivate you.

For me, the thing that really works to get me back on track is yoga. I do the other stuff, too. It’s all good. It takes a whole caboose of self-care tricks to keep this train wreck on the rails.

Specifically, though, the warrior poses. I love those poses. They’re pretty basic. Simple. But I feel like I can kick some butt when I do those. If you stand low enough and strong enough, you’re going to feel them.

And boy do you feel grounded and strong. And suddenly, you realize that thing that upset you has got nothing on you. You can take anything. You’re a friggin’ warrior.

I recently read an article from The Path Magazine that explains the story behind the three warrior poses. It’s a little violent — revenge and all that juicy stuff. Then it comes around to something that fits exactly what I’m talking about here. The poses and the story, (which you can read in full detail here) signify “our posture as fallible souls who all engender completely natural human responses to emotions. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, life gets confusing. There is often an innate urge to overlook natural human emotions like anger, jealousy, and bitterness in spiritual pursuits like yoga. At times, we think that in the interest of becoming a true yogi, we must be devoid of all negativity. But, we’re all human. Things happen. Eliminating all hardship from our lives just isn’t feasible.”

Amen to that. That’s exactly why these poses work for me. Yes, I let stupid things upset me. Yes, I let them mess up my day and tweak my peace of mind. I may even forget about my self-care routine for a moment.

Knowing this story makes these poses even more powerful for me. But even before I read this, there is just something about these poses that connects me to something greater. Something within me and within the universe. It makes me feel stronger, bolder, quieter. And when I feel that way, that stupid stuff rolls right off my back.

Lesson 3: We’re all human and we all get upset. Strike a pose — a warrior pose — to help you cope, refocus and strengthen your resolve.

Some days the world is a hot mess. Or maybe we’re the hot mess. But if we take a few simple steps to acknowledge what’s bothering us. Understand it. Face it. Then we can find our way back to our path of consciousness, mindfulness and self-love.