Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
The deepest feelings of human suffering are those of being unlovable—shame, fear, hopelessness, and isolation. When you become lost in suffering, a key question to ask yourself is, Can I let in love?
Let me explain. I began the practice of letting in love from a greater source years ago when I was at a meditation retreat. It was just after the holidays, and I was drowning in feelings of shame and self-recrimination because I hadn’t been very present with my family. I tried arousing mindfulness and self-compassion, but an angry, shameful voice dug in its heels: I’m not OK. I’m selfish and unloving, and I don’t want to be this way!
Once the anger turned to helplessness, I began to cry. A deep part of me felt unlovable. I asked myself what this sad, vulnerable part of me needed most. Suddenly, I whispered out loud, “Please love me.” Over and over, a heartbroken plea: “Please love me.”
In this moment, I became aware of an intimate presence—a field of sentience and light surrounding me—that was entirely tender and compassionate. I bowed my head slightly and sensed a kiss on my brow, a blessing of pure acceptance and care. Something in me opened. I felt bathed in loving light.
The more light I let in, the more any sense of separation fell away. Whatever arose—outside sounds, a memory of a friend who’d died, a wave of sorrow—was held in this luminous, open heart space. I remembered the words of one of my teachers: “Love is always loving you.” I rested in that truth.
Ever since, at times of difficulty, I’ve often called on this intimate presence and asked for love. I sense the blessing at my brow, and I feel myself soften and open up. But I’ve also learned not to wait for tough moments to reconnect with this ever-present compassionate awareness. Today—between emails, in the shower— I often pause, turn toward this presence, and let love in.
Love is always loving you. To realize this, allow yourself to long for love, ask for it, and let it surround you from the inside out. For me, the more I practice this, the more accessible the feelings of love and being loved by others becomes. Yes, old patterns (selfishness, self-judgments, and fears) arise, but increasingly they’re held in a heart space that is forgiving and tender.
Sit comfortably and take a few moments to breathe. Relax any obvious tension in your body.
Call to mind a situation where you were filled with self-judgment and feelings of deficiency. Visualize what was going on. Notice what most turns you against yourself. Where do your self-judgments and insecurities lie?
Allow yourself to identify and connect with the raw, vulnerable places in your body that feel you are unlovable or unworthy. Notice how much you long to be truly seen, loved, held. Then, either silently or in a whisper, express your yearning. You might say, “Please love me,” “Please hold me,” or “Please take care of me,” and repeat it softly a number of times.
Imagine that your vulnerability and longing are seen and felt by a larger, loving presence. Sense that this presence is close, infinitely tender, and caring. Like an absorbent sponge, allow that care to surround and soak into you. Sense it as a flow of golden nectar, penetrating, soothing, and healing the most wounded places inside you. As you let in this loving energy, sense the possibility of dissolving into, and becoming one with, the field of loving awareness.
Adapted from Radical Compassion by Tara Brach, published in December by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Tara Brach.