Starting in Revolutionary Self-Love
I woke up this morning and thought, what we need is a soft opening.
It was a strange thought to wake up to. We did soft openings when I worked in the fine-dining restaurant biz-- they were these little nepotistic shindigs that came before more grand affairs.
I knew that I didn't mean that, but the thought wouldn't go away, so I let myself daydream into it a little more to see what came. The velvety petals of a pink rose. A mouth opening for a kiss. The sweetness of poet Adrienne Rich's "rose-wet cave."
I have been waiting years for you in my rose-wet cave
-- whatever happens, this is.
A "soft opening" may be a counter-intuitive way to begin something that's called a challenge. But today is Valentine's Day, which although now is a holiday steeped in pink plastic wrapped chocolates, white doilies, and hallmark cards, began as a story about revolutionary, subversive acts in the name of love.
Thinking about the real roots of Valentine's Day, I realized that where I wanted us to beginwas firmly grounded in the fertile, lush realm of self-love.
I used to be one of those people that would throw up in my mouth a little whenever someone around me would use the term "self-love" (to be totally honest, it still triggers a bit of nausea under certain circumstances). Self-love was something that I equated with a rationalization of personal indulgence -- at best-- and it absolutely didn't sit well with my activist, martyrdom nature and philosophy.
It was Joanna Macy, a buddhist scholar and world renowned teacher, that turned me around. In Joanna's teachings, the practice of gratitude (including gratitude for our selves) is a revolutionary act -- our souls' rejection of the central “I shop, therefore I am” dogma of the consumer society, which fills the world up with junk and tears us away from the wisdom and truth of our hearts. Authentic self-love teaches us that we are enough, and that we have enough. It whispers to us deep in the night that we don't need Botox, or a seven-figure income, or a collection of Christian Louboutinin heels in order to be okay.
As writers, self-love is important because our best work comes through when we are channeling something bigger and more beautiful than merely the voice of the small self, which is rooted in ego.
You know what I'm talking about: you sit down to write, maybe a blog post for your health coaching business, or a journal entry about a fight and reconciliation with your girlfriend, or an article about your experiences teaching English to kids in Costa Rica, and suddenly your fingers are tip-tapping across the keyboard and you are writing as quickly as you are thinking.
It feels like the words on the page are coming through you, but aren't necessarily of (only) you.
The creative spirit has taken over. The muse. Divine presence. Shakti. There are a thousand different names for Her, but they all come back to a feeling of flow, inspiration, and, yes, actual pleasure in the writing process.
If we think of ourselves as channels for inspiration and beauty and language -- yes, even on your sales pages and your blogs and maybe even email (although I'm not so sure about that one) -- than self-love has to be the sweet place that we begin. The negative, judgmental voices that tell us we suck, and that we don't have anything unique to say, and that we aren't good enough, smart enough, or capable of proper spelling distort the container that our creative spirits flow through to get onto the page.
Meaning, not only do those harsh, dismissive voices muzzle us, but even when we're able to push past their silencing, what comes through is still shaped and influenced by them. Which isn't to say that what our writing should always be happy happy joy joy -- only that we want our creative work to pour through us in a pure, unadulterated, authentic way, without being influenced by self-hate and inwardly directed anger and cruelty.
If that was all a bit much, here's the quickie version: starting your writing practice grounded in self-love will make you a better writer, and also help you develop a consistent writing practice you can devote yourself to -- aka, get more writing done.
Blog Your Heart Out Practice: Grounding Your Writing in Self-Love
- Take out your journal or a piece of paper, and set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Make a list of what you do (or would like to do) that is truly nourishing for your creative spirit, body, and heart.
- The timer is there to make it harder, but in a good way: it forces you keeping going, past the obvious answers floating on top, and look deeper.
- Once you've written your list of self-loving activities, go back over what you've written and choose 1-3 practices that you would like to commit to for the next two weeks of the challenge.
- Consider picking something that comes naturally for you, and one or two things that may not be as simple, but because of that extra effort, speak a little more loudly to that sweet, experimental, younger self where your creativity and flow lives.
- Extra Credit: if you really want to be a badass and get some extra accountability, post to the FB group what you're committing to do to nurture your most writerly self for the rest of the challenge.
- Extra Credit part 2: if these practices and ideas about self-love speak to you, how about writing something about it? It could be a blog post that tailored to your audience and focus, or a journal entry about something you discover while engaging in a self-love practice. I recently wrote about my number one self-loving prenatal practice, and the kind folks at Elephant Journal ended up publishing it!
PS. If all of this self-love and soft opening stuff has you a bit freaked out and thinking about running for the door, don't fear: after this weekend we'll start heating things up, promise.
PPS. Also, if all of this self-love and soft opening stuff has you freaked out and thinking about running for the door, that may be an indication that it would be an especially good idea to give it a try. Believe me, I know. Those of us who are the most resistant to self-love and self-care are often the ones that need to take it on as a practice the most.