I bought the book Radical Compassion by Tara Brach because I felt like I had lost a key part of myself – the part that cared so much about the world, about other people, and who looked for the good in everyone and every situation. I felt like the busy-ness of life and the stress of being a busy working mom of 2 young boys had pushed me into survival mode and while I love my family, I felt like I didn’t have that same positivity and compassion I had before.
So, I bought the book and committed to reading a chapter every 2-3 days. I did what I do with any book that I find to be life changing – I wrote in that book, highlighted it, took notes in my phone and in a notebook – books that I can tell will be impactful on my life get beat up a bit, all out of love, of course. And it has definitely been impactful, and helped me see that to open back up to the world with love will be a constant effort and process. What really shook me up was the method it taught me, and how much it really worked. I can show love and compassion to the world best by showing it to myself first.
This felt so selfish at first – the opposite of what I was going for in getting this book. I wanted to feel more love for the world – not focus on myself! I had plenty of other self-improvement books on my shelf to focus on myself. This was to help me be less self-centered and more involved in the world at large. I wanted to find this part of me again, as it’s something I want to pass on to my kids.
But, I am always willing to try something before I say “good for her, not for me.” I worked on RAIN (see the book for more details), especially focusing on the Allow and Nurture parts – two things I struggle with for myself. I took time to treat my inner self with love and kindness, to try and recognize the underlying need or hurt causing my negative reactions. All good things, and don’t get me wrong – something I truly believe everyone should work on for themselves. But I didn’t really think it would help me feel more love towards a very complex, often difficult world.
But it did. When I was more in tune with my own issues and showing some acceptance and love towards them, I could be less judgmental towards other people and the world at large. It was easier to take things less personally, and recognize that people react because of their own inner turmoil, and to feel compassion for that turmoil and wish them healing rather than feeling negatively towards them. Somehow, loving myself more made me love others more too. The meditative process Tara shares in her book really does lead to putting out more compassionate vibes into the world, which is exactly what I wanted to do.
So I decided to take it a little farther and try some other self-love approaches to see if they worked, too. I journaled every morning for 40 days and wrote down 3 things I was grateful for, and 1 good thing about myself. Finding something different to praise about myself every day started getting difficult about 10 days in. There are days I feel like I have screwed up as a mom, employee, and just been a not happy, not nice person – and it’s hard to find something I like about myself then. So sometimes it was something really small – like I like my ability to pick a good lipstick color. But the journaling worked – I started to change how I looked at myself, I started seeing more good in the world, and then feeling more compassion for it. This world can be really dark sometimes, and it’s messy and complicated and never quite right. It can be hard to keep feeling love for something that feels so wrong sometimes. But if I can do it for myself, I can certainly do it for others, or for something as big as the world. Maybe that’s the biggest lesson I took away from this: if I can be a little kinder to myself, a little more understanding, forgiving, and loving – then I can do it for other people, those I know and don’t. Then I can put that energy into the world at large, connecting to the bigger universe by sending real love and light to all.
So, if you want to make a difference by putting more love, compassion, and good energy out there for the world – start by loving yourself. Show yourself some grace, some kindness. Forgive yourself for messing up. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel, no judgement. Then it becomes easier to turn that love outward. It turns out, loving yourself is actually an unselfish thing to do.
Learn more about Tara Brach & her book HERE.