Hello! Welcome back to my blog, the second last one of the year. It’s a very busy period for many so I appreciate you taking the time to be here today. If you’d prefer to listen as you go then here’s a link to the audio version.
Singing with thanks
Since last writing, I’ve been on a massive high. I couldn’t believe that I managed to escape COVID even though it was in my house. Thanks to those of you who took the time to wish us well. My son tested negative after about a week and recovered well. Despite my worries that the dreaded virus would get me, I made it to the big concert with my choir where I sang with much gratitude in my heart for the chance to be with my tribe at such a brilliant event. I’m waiting for the official recording to become available which, if allowed, I will share it with you should you who wish to watch it. The audiences for both performances went mad with excitement after we presented our full repertoire that included some phenomenal solos by a few extremely talented members of the choir. I had to sing a one-line solo… yes, just the one, yet I was shaking in my shoes. So much so, that when it came to doing my two-minute talk on why I sing with the Perth Pride Choir it felt as though I was chatting to friends in my living room rather being in front of hundreds of people who had paid good money to be entertained. Crazy as it seems, I’d happily talk about my vulnerability to an audience of strangers any day than sing one line of a song to them. We are all wonderfully complex, aren’t we!
The presence of love
So, onto the focus of this week’s blog. Every year, without fail, I feel uncomfortable as I witness all around me the massive rush to spend, consume and go to great lengths to make Christmas unnaturally perfect. It’s no wonder it causes intense stress and leads to anger, conflict, distress, loneliness, and sadness, not to mention the whole load of unwanted gifts that are bought for the sake of it and end up contributing to the mountains of waste going to landfill. So, I thought it would be a timely reminder to myself and others to reflect on the true essence of Christmas given it is in fact meant to be the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He gave the world his legacy of love that has lasted for more than two thousand years. Now, I’m not attached to a particular church and am by no means a hugely religious person, however, I consider myself to be deeply spiritual. My spirituality is personal, but it has evolved over time thanks to the insights of sages, philosophers, monks, pastors, rectors, priests, and other spiritual leaders who have inspired me by their ability to forgive, by the compassion they show to people and by the love they have for themselves and humanity. I can therefore acknowledge what Jesus stood for and am grateful for the example he set during his life. He embodied pure love and showed us that love is the absence of judgement.
‘Would you take a look at your one, who does she think she is? Doesn’t she just love herself!’ said by any number of people in a derogatory, judgemental tone of voice. Anyone else remember hearing this growing up in Ireland? Or in other countries for that matter? I’d love to hear from you if you have. This vicious criticism was quite pervasive throughout my formative years. It embedded itself in my unconscious mind and served as a constant reminder of how wrong it is to love yourself. It led to great confusion, especially when, in later years, I was told that ‘you can’t love others if you don’t love yourself’.
Well, I have some wonderful news for you. After years of soul-searching, counselling, and sober living, I have discovered that to love yourself is the greatest act of love of them all. For it is in loving ourselves, that yes, we learn to love others. Many of you know my story already. My self-loathing was part and parcel of my addictive behaviour. When I found the courage to deal with the self-destructive thoughts that underpinned my drinking, I also found the ability to accept myself with my flaws and my strengths. Slowly, with the help of counselling, I began to love myself. I discovered the powerful healing of forgiveness – of myself for the mistakes I made, and for the mean way in which I treated myself and others. If I could forgive myself, then I could forgive others. And I did. I cannot tell you how liberating this is. It was as though somebody took the weighted barbell off my shoulders that I had been carrying for decades. With self-love comes self-care and so I began to treat my body, mind and spirit to all the things that serve us well such as meditation, good sleep, eating a healthier diet, yoga practice, reading, singing in harmony with others, and daily exercise outdoors in nature. This act of self-love has huge ramifications for those around me too. There is an abundance of love and harmony where once there was strife and sadness.
It is the very act of loving ourselves that heals a heart that is hurting. Somebody who is not in a relationship or who doesn’t have children might think that they have no love in their life, but they are wrong. We each have the capacity to feel deep, long-lasting love for ourselves if we could only see that we are just as good and worthy as anybody else. We all have the same lovability within us because we are all made of the same essence. I came across this lovely analogy recently which makes a lot of sense to me. If you imagine, for a moment, that each of us is like an individual bucket of water open to the universe. The sun is shining and reflecting off all the water in every bucket. Yet there is no sun in each bucket. There is just one sun reflecting everywhere. The sun represents the essence of our being. When we love another, we are loving the same essence in them that is in us. This concept of essence might be hard to grasp because it isn’t about the body or the mind. It goes beyond that. I don’t love myself because of my hair, or my body shape or my incredible intelligence (just dropping that in as a joke!!), I love myself because I am a miracle, I am a child of the universe just like you are. Even if I had a scrunched-up face and three strands of hair left on my head, I would still love me because I am. Because I exist. I place no conditions on my love for myself and others. Just like I do with my kids, I love others no matter what. We are not our mistakes. We are much greater than that. And just in case you’re thinking why we should love somebody who has acted badly, then here’s something to ponder. The opposite of love is hate, right? If we feel hate in our hearts, then who is that hate hurting the most? We don’t need to withhold our love from someone in order to punish them – we are not their judge. If you believe in karma, then you will understand this. But even if you don’t, then just believe that unless somebody is very ill in their brain, they will have their own conscience to deal with and they will suffer for their wrongdoings. It’s the law of nature.
So, in the spirit of Christmas, I wish you all more love. Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and remembering that Christ’s love came with no conditions. He loved everybody equally. We are told by the bible to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’. When we can learn to stop putting conditions on who we love and why, then we will have so much more love in our lives. Love is limitless. It is everywhere, yet people travel the world in search of it because they have set conditions on how, who, why, where and when love belongs. I’ve been there. I’ve been around the world and all along my capacity to love was within me. It is the giving of love to ourselves and others that fills us up, whether it is reciprocated or not. The act of loving stimulates the release of chemicals that heal us and give us a zest for life. And a very interesting thing about love which transcends any other gift we might give to a person, is that the more we give love away the more it grows within us. My gift to myself and others this Christmas is to be present, in a state of non-judgement, with an open loving heart that connects with the essence of what it is to be human and to remember that when I am in a state of loving I am healing, I am calm, and I am content.
May you love yourself and others more during this festive season and know that you have the power to make the world a more loving place. My gift to you is this quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama; ‘Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries, because without them humanity cannot survive. Wishing you self-love, self-compassion, and much joy this Christmas and beyond. Love, Gill x