In many of the groups I belong to, on social media, there are plenty of people who post inspirational quotes every day. Normally they are about topics like spirituality, being human, being happier, and the likes.
Every now and then, these quotes are about self love. Personally I find most of those quotes more harmful than beneficial. It seems to me that often the message they convey is along the lines of "you're amazing, so love yourself", or "you're perfect the way you are, so love yourself", and so on, and I have a concern about it.
Now, before going any further, let me give you a brief perspective on my current understanding of human nature.
On one level, there is this body that I call Fabrizio. It seems to me that this body is separate from everyone else, it has some well defined characteristics, and also there is life inside, and a mind, that drives the whole thing. There are thoughts and emotions going around, day and night.
For many people, this is the only reality they ever experience. We will call this level, the level of the ego, the False Self.
That is because there is another level, which we can start experiencing when we practice meditation, or any other activity that helps us work in a similar direction. On this level, we realise that this body and this brain aren't the end of the story. There is something more there. Something that is not separate from the rest, something whose essence is that of light, pure, perfect and complete.
We call this our Original nature. Some might call it Buddha nature, True Self, our Essence, but these are just different ways to express the same concept. When we start experiencing non-duality, when we move away from "there is me, and there are the others" on an experiential level, this is what we recognise.
So we have our original nature on one side, perfect, complete, pure. And the ego on the other side, with all the problems, the flaws, the issues.
And here's the problem: without a proper understanding of human nature, we might misunderstand those quotes, and start thinking that this person, this False Self, is perfect as it is. It doesn't matter all the flaws, the issues, the difficult character: this is perfect.
And of course, it's not true. We are a mixture of qualities, both good and bad.
If we were perfect, we wouldn't have to work on our anger, our worry, our fears. We wouldn't have to develop gratitude, to practice diligently and to nurture a kind and compassionate attitude towards ourselves and others.
But Mikao Usui, the founder of the system of Reiki, did put those instructions at the very core of the system he created. A system that over and over points at the fact that our original nature is non-dual, it is luminous, pure, and perfect as it is. However, at the same time, it recognises that we are in a state of confusion, and our mind is clouded. Hence, the precepts.
So, when we aren't aware of that, when all we know and experience is the False Self, then being led to think we are perfect and awesome can be the source of great pain.
Believing that we're awesome, we might stop all the criticising, yes, but we won't do anything to stop watering all those seeds of anger, fear, envy, etc. As a result, we get even more confused because life will present us with events that will challenge all these issues we have, and we won't be able to cope with the contrast between our own conviction - that we are perfect - and reality, which tells us that maybe in this or that situation we were wrong and didn't behave so well.
So, maybe, instead of sharing quotes about how awesome we are, we could take a look at the world outside, at how we have destroyed almost all of it, how our lifestyle is not only very disrespectful towards ourselves, but it is also endangering all life on the planet.
Maybe we're not as awesome as we think.
It might be much more productive, then, to avoid sharing quotes, and maybe share links of interesting books, or maybe documentary movies, or whatever type of resources that would help people, especially young people, get acquainted with concepts such as non-duality. Resources that would help people become curious about their very nature.
This way, those of us who are still under the spell of believing that what we perceive in this very dual world is all that there is, will find the help they need in order to clarify the confusion and adopt a much better approach to practicing self-love.
The system of Reiki is perfect to do this work. Not only it teaches us how to become aware of, and work on our shortcomings, but it slowly guides us to the realisation of our Original nature, our True Self, our Essence. And it does so firmly but gently. It allows us to walk this path at our own pace.
Many students of mine come to me asking advice on how to work with their minds. Almost always, they describe their minds using harsh, negative words. My mind is so bad! My mind is so chaotic! How do I tame it? I do I win over it?
I used to answer these questions by trying to help them realise that walking a spiritual path isn't the same as going to war with our minds. Our poor, confused mind is not the enemy. We need to make friends with our mind. We need to turn our awareness within, but we need to do this from a space of acceptance, and non-judgmental attitude.
If we go in to annihilate whatever we think is negative, we're missing a very important point. A point that Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh stresses in many of his books. We have all the seeds inside, good and bad. Practicing a spiritual path is not done to eradicate the bad ones. It is done to be able to accept the fact that we have both good and bad, and at the same time to develop the clarity and wisdom to decide which of them we want to water and nurture, and which we don't.
To help my students, I have started to add one more piece of advice, when they ask me how to work with their minds. I suggest them to meditate, but also to practice hands-on healing on the self. I find that when we place our hands on the body, it is a little bit easier to develop the right attitude.
When we perform hands-on healing on ourselves, we do something similar to hugging ourselves. I find that this very simple act can be quite useful in stopping the warfare attitude, and instead develop a non-judgmental, kinder one. Not only that, but placing the hands on ourselves blurs the lines between the giver, the receiver, and the action of giving, which might help experience a glimpse of non-duality. A glimpse of a reality where there is no giver, no receiver, nothing to give.
We do need to love ourselves, but at the same time we need to do it while being aware that we're confused. So the work to improve ourselves can be done from a totally different space. Instead of criticising ourselves all the time, or worse, fooling ourselves into thinking there is nothing to criticise, we accept what we find and we work to do our best. To nurture qualities like kindness, compassion and love, and to stop nurturing qualities like anger, fear, judgment.
This type of self-love will support us through difficult times, and will slowly teach us how to better love others, and the world too. When we realise we're all one, loving ourselves is the same as loving others. When we realise we are nature and nature is us, loving ourselves becomes loving nature, and vice versa.
Maybe, if we learn how to truly love ourselves, we will be able to leave a better world to the future generations. This is what I hope, and it is one of the many reasons why I teach the system of Reiki.