Like many of you, I’ve always wanted a soul mate – that wonderful partner who in their presence makes me feel connected and whole. The one who really gets me and who’s there for me through thick and thin, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. That’s why I recently decided to be my own soul mate. I came to this decision because I realized that no one else can understand me all the time, tune in to my unique experiences physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually nor be there for me at every turn. I can do this best. Also, to love others the way I want, I must first master this with me!
As soon as I committed to being my own soul mate I realized how much I have NOT been. I noticed I’m critical, harsh and expect perfection in myself much more than with others. I scare myself with disapproval and dire predictions, “You blew that and now you don’t have a chance!” Comparison, “Why can’t you be more like…?!” And judgment, “You’re not a good … (fill in the blank) to name just a few. So, I decided to take a few lessons from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who teaches four aspects of true love. He goes on to offer mantra and mindfulness practices for generating love expressing four key statements as intentions in perfect concentration. I’m using what I’m learning to get better at loving me.
In order to love in a real way, Thich Nhat Hanh explains, we need to learn how to be fully present in our lives, and how to use conscious breathing and deep looking as methods for synchronizing the mind and body to establish the conditions of love.
The first aspect is loving-kindness. The mantra is “Darling I’m here for you.” The practice is slowing down, paying attention to my breath, body sensations, thoughts, feelings and actions so I’m fully attentive. Just as an ideal soul mate and lover is attentive and present with affection, understanding and consideration, I give the same to myself. Rather than judgment and harshness, I combine and extend intense presence with kindness no matter what I find.
The second aspect is compassion (being with, from the heart). The mantra is, “Darling, I see you and I’m very happy.” The practice is slowing down, connecting and communing in a heartfelt way with all I encounter in me and around me. (Not just people – everything!) Just as an ideal soul mate and lover is attracted, open, and magnetized to be with his beloved, I give the same gift of being with to myself. Rather than remaining separate, disconnected, and unmoved, I cultivate conscious passionate union.
The third aspect is joy. The mantra is “Darling, I know you suffer and I’m here for you.” The practice is sensing pain, and allowing my heart to be moved; my desire to help and nurture is expressed and joy expands. I allow it to rise as it would in a relieved, supported child. Just as an ideal soul mate and lover responds to suffering and offers care, I extend compassion and relieve pain in me. I contribute and help. Rather than neglect or ignore, I respond to pain with presence, support and encouragement.
The fourth aspect is freedom. The mantra is “Darling, I suffer. Please help.” The practice is freedom from pride and protections, having faith in love, sharing my pain even when it feels like the other (person, circumstance or even God) is the cause. I’m vulnerable, non-defensive; receptive. Just as an ideal soul mate and lover is someone I turn to authentically, freely, who is there to understand, reassure, and heal me, I open to receive care and support. Rather than defend against my weakness, confusion or pain, or try to get by separate and alone, I express honestly and invite and accept care and contribution from others.
As I learn to practice true love as my soul mate, I learn to be that for others. Whether you are like me hoping to one day have this experience reflected in a sacred marriage in which love is so abundant it overflows to heal the world, or desire to experience soul mate connections with all people, animals, plants, places and things, I encourage you to join me in “being the change you want” as Gandhi suggested. For me, learning to be my own soul mate is bringing me growth, peace, joy and most of all – love.
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As published nationally in Women’s Journals, June 2010