It’s interesting to note how we tend to value human life intrinsically when it is brand new – babies being born into this world – or when it is almost over – people on their death beds. In these two instances, as babies and on the brink of death, we are the closest to an existence beyond this one. From all accounts of those who have had near death experiences, who have visited the existence beyond the one we know so well, it is understood that all of us have great value. This value is experienced in the form of a love so profound and permeating that no one wants to leave that loving existence and return to this one. So how do we as human beings, lose our sense of self-value and love? It happens in so many ways on an individual and societal level, and I think it starts when we place value on what a person does or doesn’t do above who they are. As children, the focus on our accomplishments is rather high, beginning with when we begin to talk and walk and then school, lessons and measurements of all sorts. It’s possible to lose our sense of self-value in focusing so much on what we’re ‘good at’ or ‘not good at’ and how we measure up to others – the comparisons can be disturbing and relentless. There is also valuing ourselves based on what we do for others – how we benefit others as a measurement of self-worth as though our only value is in what we offer to others apart from the simple, intrinsic value of who we are. Children pick up on all of these signals related to value, which is often focused on appearance, abilities and certain kinds of accomplishments. It’s how things have been for so many years, generation after generation. Perhaps we can change that now.
I have been focusing inward a great deal over the past 10 years after my initial foray into shamanic healing and I have learned that self-love is a fundamental aspect of well-being. More and more people are becoming aware of this profound truth, which is a sign of positive change and hopefully it signals a generational shift that bodes well for the future of humanity. There is a refreshing wave of interest in self-love and yet, many still struggle with this concept because of the influence of the past and the continuing and residual attitudes that permeate our society. I think that for many of us, self-love is a concept that takes some effort and consideration to embrace let alone to embody. After all, many of us have come from backgrounds filled with praise for being ‘selfless’. It was quite a revelation to me to begin to operate from a position of ‘self-service’, which has been an essential theme throughout my shamanic healing journey. I found it surprising and ultimately liberating to embrace ‘what serves me’ realizing that some things that I had considered to be self-serving in the past, were not truly serving me at all. However, at the heart of this, if I am to truly master it, is self-love, which requires an appreciation for our intrinsic value – my intrinsic value. I’ve sat with it and considered it and just allowed the lessons to come realizing that like many of the shifts I’ve experienced on this journey, it takes time to make the big changes in perspective – to own them, apply them and embody them.
I think the greatest opportunity for me to truly come to terms with the idea of our intrinsic value came when my dad was at the end of his life. He had been in long term care for years before the end came and when it did, I had a deeply moving dream about a month beforehand. My dreams have become important healing and teaching tools since my earliest involvement in shamanism and some stand out more than others. This dream woke me up in the middle of the night and inspired me to record the message that came with it because it was so important. In fact, it was my father’s eulogy and I was giving it in my dream with the guidance of this wise voice that I have been hearing ever since my first journey with Ayahuasca in Peru. During this eulogy, there were accounts of some of my dad’s finer attributes but it became clear that these descriptions: kind, handsome, funny & gentle could be attributed to many other people. So what was it about my dad that made him so valuable and lovable? It was quite simply who he was. That unmistakable and unique essence of the man we knew and loved so well. There was a clear recognition of his intrinsic value. We knew this without question as we grieved and thought about his life and the time we shared with him. Could we know this without question about ourselves too? This ultimate truth about all of us that others will experience when we pass? Through this dream and the eulogy that I actually gave at his funeral, my father offered me a most valuable lesson that I’m passing onto you.
This is a powerful lesson and recognizing the power of it and the simple truth of it is important. One of the deepest truths that I have learned through this ever-present guiding voice and through many shamanic ceremonies and experiences is that who we are and how we regard ourselves is felt by others without us even saying a word. Our self regard is felt and it’s a signal that we send out into the world that is being responded to all the time. So, if we regard ourselves with love, we are creating the best possible experience for ourselves in this life. Once we become accustomed to experiencing self-love and valuing ourselves in this way, we can cultivate a society that recognizes the intrinsic value of humanity which will be reflected in all kinds of positive ways that will begin to change how we exist – how we educate children for example which can change everything. After all, if we place such value and importance on ourselves then we will place importance on learning about ourselves in the earliest stages of our lives – something that has been a giant gap in our education so far. I think we have a lot of work to do to bring this great shift about but I do believe it’s underway and it’s a sort of progressive, intentional evolution – one that must begin on an individual level. It all begins with self-love. Who knew that this could be such a learning curve? But it is and once we face this and intentionally take it on, we can begin to learn and embrace what it means to recognize our own intrinsic value, knowing the profound impact it can have on our own lives, on the next generation and on our world. Just think of how many aspects of our society would change if self-love was a core value that had to be considered and adhered to – before making any policy or product or program. Make no mistake, loving yourself and recognizing your intrinsic value is important work. I hope you begin this work today and open up to all of the wondrous possibilities that come with it.