Whether you think about the mind from the perspective of Western psychology or Eastern spirituality or common sense, it’s clear that the mind is wired to find order. Habits make us feel safe. Judgments of those who are different than us make us feel protected. The stories we tell ourselves, really, are part of the armor we build to keep this order intact. A traumatic thing, be it big or small, happens to us, and then might come with us for the rest of our lives. We see our story as something that keeps us safe. But it also limits us. And we have many, many stories. These stories impact the ways we understand and experience love.
My experience learning to meditate led me to examine and test the validity of the stories I had held as truth since childhood — stories about myself, about how to feel safe, about the insufficiency and unreliability of love. That process has informed how I teach meditation, how I connect with others and help them see that their stories, too, can be unstitched and rewoven — thousands of times …
… We must be willing to challenge the stories we have told ourselves and the stories others have told us, as these stories impact the ways we see ourselves and others. That willingness takes effort, just as it takes effort to be willing to examine and communicate the parts of a relationship that have been, and continue to be, nourishing. With these efforts, we stretch. Our stories can become more flexible, and each moment with ourselves and with others can offer a fresh opportunity to see aspects of our experiences that we may not otherwise notice.
Stretching our fixation to our stories is an act of love we can give ourselves each day, whether or not we consider it in the context of romantic relationships, or even close friendships. It is real love for ourselves to be able to notice a judgmental thought we’re having about ourselves. We don’t deny it’s there or try to convince ourselves of the opposite; but we watch its power decrease as we make the choice to see it as a story.
The love we can cultivate for ourselves, which can unfurl as we practice challenging our habits, judgments, and assumptions (our stories, in other words), can open up a more expansive capacity for more love to come in, and to be sent out. We feel more whole, and less fragmented. We see that we are worthy of happiness, and that others are, too. And believe it or not, we can still be authors, but through the lens of love, we may find that the new stories we come up with look a lot different.
— Sharon Salzberg (excerpt from The Conscious Effort Real Love Requires)