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“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply
good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift
I was put on earth to offer to others.”
~ Parker Palmer

“You can search throughout the entire universe for
someone who is more deserving of your love and
affection than you are yourself, and that person is not
to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as
anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love
and affection.”
~Buddha

Contrary to what many of us read or are led to
believe, we must completely love the self that we
have before we can ever consider losing it.
To realize the enlightened state of consciousness
that is often referred to as selflessness, each of us
must first come to love our “self” unconditionally.
Many of us on a spiritual path today aim to lose
ourselves through spiritual practices, or through
devoting ourselves to what we perceive to be
selfless service, because culturally, spiritually, and
religiously we’ve been taught that by helping
others, as opposed to helping ourselves, we are
living in an enlightened way.
Living a life of service to humanity is undoubtedly
an evolved way of life that we’re all ultimately
heading toward; however, too many of us
unconsciously try to lose ourselves in other
people’s needs, desires, and problems before we’ve
actually healed our own internal conflicts and
unresolved emotional pain.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that many
of us use spirituality and religion as a means to
escape or avoid what’s really going on in our own
lives. In many cases, we believe we’re helping other
people without self-interest when in reality we’re
unconsciously trying to lose ourselves in the
desires, needs, and troubles of other people just so
we don’t have to look at ourselves or our own lives
honestly.
For many devoted parents, teachers,
employees, health care practitioners, and
religious followers, selfless service, martyrdom,
or a fixation on selflessness, often becomes a
means of denial and repression rather than a
pure intention to help and serve other people.
In reaction to not loving all of who we are, many of
us unconsciously try to lose ourselves and distract
ourselves from the self, the past, and the life that
we do not love. We often try to be “selfless,”
“spiritual,” “religious,” “good,” or “holy” because
deep down we’re not at peace, happy, or satisfied,
and we mistakenly believe that our inner battles
will just go away if we simply divert ourselves from
them.
Viewing ourselves from this perspective, it
becomes very clear that selfishly cultivating
unconditional love, kindness, and compassion for
ourselves is the only way to meet the world and
serve the world consciously and genuinely,
essentially because we can only give what we
actually have to give.
If we do not have a conscious, kind, and self-aware
relationship with ourselves that is based on
unconditional love, then we cannot truly be loving,
kind, and compassionate toward other people
without resenting what we give or do for them.
When we unconsciously focus on other people’s
problems or needs in an attempt to avoid our own
struggles we not only cause ourselves and the
world more pain, but we also betray the purpose for
which we were born. As we selfishly heal our
psychological, emotional, and physical pain and
thus grow in love for ourselves, however, we truly
do become a pure source of selfless love in the
world.
As Mahatma Gandhi so beautifully expressed, “Be
the change you wish to see in the world.” And the
best way for each of us to be this change is to be
selfish enough and brave enough to master loving
ourselves unconditionally.
A person who seeks help for a friend, while
needy himself, will be answered first.
~ The Talmud
When we live without love for ourselves, we always
meet the world from a place of lack, inadequacy,
and insecurity, no matter how well we mask it by
our so-called selfless acts.
From this place of denial we can never truly feel
good about giving, because we always resent
ourselves and others for giving what we do not
truly have or want to give.
When we live with parts of ourselves, our lives, or
our past that we have not fully embraced, there’s
no amount of selfless action that will ever offset or
cancel out the unresolved guilt, shame, insecurity,
anger, or hurt that we’ve stored in our body and
which is now unconsciously driving our actions.
Regardless of how many “good deeds” we do in the
world, our soul will always call us back home to
heal and love what we do not love within us so we
can live in the world and give to the world from a
place of purity, wholeness, and authenticity.
The truth is we can only help other people or help
the world to the degree that we’ve already helped
ourselves. And the only way to help ourselves is by
loving ourselves enough to free ourselves from the
psychological and emotional suffering that most of
us prefer to deny and avoid.
If we genuinely want to love and care for the world,
each of us must (1) continually love and care for
ourselves and (2) keep our own reserves not only
full, but also full of pure intent.
Thus, the most selfless and most challenging goal
we can aim toward is to become a shining,
enlightened example to others of true inner peace,
health, happiness, and fulfillment, because in all
honesty, what good are we to anyone if we’re in
pain, poor, starving, unhealthy, or miserable?
***
At some stage in our spiritual awakening is
becomes crystal clear that loving ourselves
unconditionally is the path to the enlightened state
of consciousness that we term “selflessness,”
because as we liberate ourselves from our
suffering, we transcend the constricting boundaries
of our ego and we begin to experience our true self
as being united with the universal self and with
God.
Eventually, our old ideas about who we are and
what we are fall away, and our felt self-
awareness finally expands to include everyone
and everything that exists in the entire
universe.
In terms of spiritual liberation, loving ourselves
unconditionally is unquestionably the most direct
path to enlightenment, because as we come to love
ourselves at progressively deeper levels of our
being, we shed the limiting beliefs that separate us
from our true selves, from each other, and from all
life, and thus liberate our soul.
Simply through healing our psychological and
emotional wounds here in the present moment, our
perceived identity changes and expands until it
eventually includes more magnificence, wisdom,
and love than we could even begin to imagine.
Genuine selflessness naturally occurs when we’re
able to lose ourselves fully and purposefully in love,
in the here and now, without avoiding pain or fear.
Whether our love is directed toward ourselves,
toward another human being, toward nature,
toward the universe, or toward God, we eventually
experience freedom from the confines of a separate
self when our consciousness, attention, and energy
are focused solely on whom and what love.
However, in the same way that it is impossible
to have selflessness in the world without also
having selfishness, it is also impossible to have
unconditional love in the world without having
unconditional love for ourselves.
These seemingly contradictory opposites not only
define each other, they also exist purposefully to
wake us up and to illuminate our ever-present
wholeness. In fact, it’s the mysterious space
between these paradoxes that creates the most
direct path to our psychological, emotional,
physical, financial, and spiritual freedom.

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