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A Balanced Way; Daoist Tips For The 21st Century: A Balanced Way of Loving

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 278 - May 2022

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.
  Lao-Tzu

Love Heals

Worldwide, during the recent pandemic, so many of us had to deal with the trauma of loss through the death of a loved one or because we were isolating from family and friends. And in that time the world became increasingly fractured with polarizations of opinion over matters such as mask-wearing, lock-downs and vaccine mandates. It now feels as if, collectively we are deeply wounded; grieving, angry, fearful, intolerant and lacking in trust. Perhaps it is time to let go of our pain and by connecting with love, heal our collective trauma. But to fully love others we first need to love ourselves -- it is only through self-love that we can truly care for others.

Self-love is often associated with focusing on our own needs and can seem to some to be a selfish, self-centred state. This is a misconception. Loving yourself is essential for good health of body, mind and spirit and Daoists explain that love in its truest sense is a state of unconditional acceptance of ourselves – having “faith in the way things are”. This means accepting unconditionally the light and the shadow aspects of our being – the things we like and the aspects of ourselves we shy away from. Furthermore, to truly love ourselves we need to care for and respect our precious Chi energy and cultivate it daily. Through unconditional self-acceptance and self-nurturance, we come to heal ourselves and can then genuinely accept and nurture others.

Love is Acceptance

We are born into this world fully accepting ourselves as we are. However, most of us do not learn of the importance of self-love and instead huge value is placed on pleasing others. As we develop we cling more and more to the opinions of others, strive to “fit in” and neglect our own needs. The result of this widespread type of conditioning is the epidemic of low self-esteem seen today. And the influence of social media contributes to this negative conditioning–particularly for young people at a crucial stage of their development. A survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health asked 14-24 year olds in the UK how social media platforms impacted their health and well-being.[1]. The survey results found that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness. The survey tells us that peer acceptance is important to young people, and social media platforms such as Facebook are designed to give actual polling data on how much people like them or their appearance via “likes.” Here teenage girls tend to project an idealized image of themselves whereas boys on these platforms tend to compete with each other for attention via extreme behaviours. Unhappy with their authentic selves, competing with each other, teens online often feel a lack of confidence, and fall into states of despair.

True self-esteem can only come from accepting ourselves as we are. The more time spent rejecting our authentic selves in a desperate attempt to “fit in” and find acceptance from others the less likely we are to develop inner confidence and healthy self-esteem. When we accept our mistakes and imperfections, give ourselves space from people and situations that negatively affect us we start to increase our self-love. And as we increase our self-love so we develop our compassion and understanding towards others.

Accepting ourselves as we are, involves connecting with our emotional states – the authentic feelings of grief, anger and fear that we may have pushed below the surface in order to be “acceptable” to others. These emotions need to be recognized if we are to truly love and care for ourselves. It is helpful to realize that emotions are simply changing states of energy. Change is a constant certainty – this is a central concept of Daoism and in the Dao De Ching Lao Tzu depicts the “path of life” as in constant motion and flux. Nothing remains the same in life – all emotional states are prone to change otherwise we are stuck and stagnate. Daoists describe the acceptance of the flow and movement of energy as the way of Wu Wei – going with the flow, acting in alignment with what is. By accepting the way we feel, accepting anger, grief, fear, we go with the flow and movement of energy and thus learn that these are energetic states that come into being and then pass away. Once mindfully accepting our feelings we let them go to connect with our loving and sensitive core – the true nature of our being. This Daoist exercise will help to connect with that centre.

 

Inner Smile

The Inner Smile –the Author’s daughter Rowena Warren – the Wee Yoga Room

 

The Inner Smile

Create a wiring of self-acceptance, self-love in the brain by practising the Daoist inner smile exercise daily...

  • Sit comfortably either on the floor or on a chair with straightened spine and closed eyes.
  • Firstly take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. As you breathe in feel your lower abdomen expanding. Let that breath enter your lower abdomen then exhale through your mouth. Breathe in and out several times....
  • Now smile into your lower Dan Tien, the energy centre just below the navel and then bring your awareness up into your Heart area.
  • Feel the flame of love deep within your Heart – a warm light that is your deepest, most real Self. Smile into your Heart centre and feel the healing light radiating out to all the cells of your Heart.
  • Now turn your awareness to each of your organs in turn – Stomach and Spleen, Lungs and Intestines, Kidneys and Bladder, Gall Bladder and Liver and smile into each organ whilst breathing deeply and feeling calm and peaceful.
  • Come back to the Heart and rest there fully aware of your worthiness and affirm “I love and accept myself”.

Love is Nurturance

Loving, accepting ourselves involves nurturing our precious energy – this enables us to extend it out to others to love and nurture them. We are of no use to anyone if we fail to nurture ourselves. The essential nature of everything in the universe is composed of Chi – the energy that drives all changes. To nurture our personal Chi in body, mind and spirit we need to cultivate it daily by keeping it flowing – water stagnates if it stays still for too long and likewise Chi will become stagnant if we fail to keep it moving. Practise this exercise daily to keep Chi moving – by drawing it down we will feel nourished and energized – able to radiate our energy out to others.

Drawing down Chi

With this visualization exercise, you will gather the Chi of the heavens and move it down through your crown energy point and through your body to nurture and energize yourself in body, mind and spirit. Stand in a relaxed comfortable position with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms hanging loosely. Firstly take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. As you breathe in feel your lower abdomen expanding. Let that breath enter your lower abdomen then exhale through your mouth. Now place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth and visualise Chi as a brilliant white light flooding down through the crown of your head into your lower abdominal area – your lower Dan Tien. Now visualize the Chi moving from your lower Dan Tien up into your chest, connecting with your Heart and then radiating out to all the world. Do this for several minutes every day and whenever you feel at a low ebb.

Self-love is essential for good health. Accept yourself, nurture yourself and thus connect with your fundamental loving and sensitive core by practising the Chi Gung exercises of the Inner Smile and Drawing Down Chi as above and some or all of the following activities daily....

  • Choose daily affirmations for self-acceptance and nurturance. For example, simply affirm “I love and accept myself”;
  • Keep a journal daily and process your deepest feelings –no censorship here –be honest and open to allow full acceptance of how you feel. Also, use this space to note the things you enjoy doing and the traits you like about yourself;
  • Surround yourself with friends who encourage you, accept you and see the best in you. Get some distance from people who negatively affect your confidence – self-acceptance involves setting healthy boundaries. Know your limits and protect yourself. Say no when it is necessary;
  • Give yourself alone time to meditate, reflect and be still;
  • Take time daily to absorb the natural world –the energy of plants, the earth beneath your feet – the rain, wind and sunshine –these are all nurturing energies;
  • Make your home a safe, cosy, comfortable space....;
  • Enjoy sensuous activities such as warm oil scented baths with candlelight and music.….;
  • Eat a well-balanced enjoyably nourishing diet....;
  • Exercise regularly and gently.....;
  • Give yourself time to be involved in creative projects....;
  • Ensure time to rest, sleep and dream.....

Hug and cuddle your partner or pet and tell the people and animals that you are close to that you love them. We are all one force of Chi and the energy, the love we give out will return back to us.

References

  1. https://www.rsph.org.uk/static/uploaded/d125b27c-0b62-41c5-a2c0155a8887cd01.pdf

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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984. She practised acupuncture in Scotland until the pandemic when she retired. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living is an ‘inside out’ way of thinking about and managing Post Polio Syndrome (PPS). To purchase A Balanced Way Of Living please visit  www.postpolioinfo.com/balanced_way.php  Vicki may be contacted via vickimckenna51@hotmail.co.uk   

 

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