No, this isn't a Valentine's Day Special of a post.
Now that issue has been cleared up, this is a great time to talk about love. We have spent the last few weeks seeing every possible visual representation of love marketing gurus can cook up. I even saw an add for a cat food involving a marriage proposal (the cat food had nothing to do with the rest of the add). My realization after watching something like this, well, maybe a few hours after watching this: love has been co-opted by consumerism to breed discontent.
I mentioned a few posts ago I was charged with a purpose of loving people, which I'm shortening to simply loving. Once you get past the corny sound of such a purpose, the value of existing in a state of love becomes apparent pretty quickly, but the actions for actually living it are a little more challenging. I'm not inclined to skip around the city, handing out flowers to people and saying "I love you". I've been looking for something a little more meaningful.
As it turns out, there is this great mechanism called the internet that allows us to learn things that aren't always readily apparent. Through the internet, I found out about a teleconference about wellness that was free, and I decided to start listening to some of the calls. I stumbled on a call interviewing the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" author Marci Shimoff. My initial reaction: groan, but something about the title of the call, and her newest book, made me listen. Ms. Shimoff wrote a book called "Love for No Reason", and this was the base of her talk about wellness.
I took two really interesting ideas away from the call. The first was forgiveness, which can be really hard to do. The second was a physical action for increasing the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters for you science geeks) linked to feelings of love. Let's talk about forgiveness first.
Forgiveness is one of those things we have to mean. People know when we say "I forgive you" and we don't really mean it. The funny thing about saying something out loud: it sparks a small change in our thinking, and if we repeat something enough times, we eventually believe it. Even repeating the phrase to ourselves can spark that change. If you want to look at the opposite of forgiveness to understand this, take a look at self-loathing. How many times today have I told myself how unacceptable my appearance is, and it isn't even 7:00am (first thing I did this morning was check the circumference of my thighs. No joke).
What would happen if I forgave myself for eating too much chocolate this week, and let myself return naturally to a state of balance, instead of beating the snot out of myself emotionally for being imperfect? I guess I would start living my purpose.
The second idea is more of an activity. Have you noticed we are supposed to put our hands to our hearts when taking an oath of some sort? That simple act of placing a hand over heart increases levels oxcytocin, a neurotransmitter connected with feeling good and love. If you haven't already, put your hand over your heart and see how you feel. The exercise gets a little goofy after this, but try it. With your hand over your heart, breath in, and imagine the center of your heart is the entrance and exit for the breath. Got it? Okay. Now imagine you are breathing love in to your heart center. I bet you feel a little more love (Want more like this? www.heartmath.com).
This week I am going to work a little harder on forgiving myself. I tell people all the time to be gentle with themselves, but rarely do I follow my own advice. When I start to get all self-loathy, I'm going to use the love exercise and see if it tempers my tirade.