What it Means to Be With Myself — Getting There but Not Quite

Parag Shah
6 min readMay 27, 2018
Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

After trying and failing to align myself with a spiritual tradition for a rather long time, I decided to do a simple practice of connecting with my inner self to understand myself better, and in the process also figure out my spiritual path.

I sat down — with determination — and tried to connect with myself. I tried. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. Again nothing. And then I realized that I was totally clueless about what it meant to connect with myself. Seriously, I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to connect with myself.

I have had this tendency to help others. To think about what others need. To connect with others. But I have never connected with myself. It never occurred to me. After all, we are taught not to think too much about our small self, isn’t it? Don’t think too much of yourself! Think about others! Help others! Connect with a purpose larger than yourself! Perhaps, all good advice. But as I write this, my small self thinks that it would have been better advice if i had picked it up after I had built a foundation of being connected with myself.

Clueless about what to do, I sat down and wrote in my journal:

I need to connect with myself, but I don’t know how. Let’s work this backwards. I know how to connect with others. How do I connect with others? Maybe, I can do the same with myself.

When I connect with others, I feel empathy for them. Perhaps I needed to feel empathy for myself. So I sat down and tried feeling empathy for myself.

Empathy. For. Myself. !!!

1–800 MYSELF!

Hello, I feel empathy for myself. Anyone there?

Nope. No one’s answering. Not as easy as it sounds.

I couldn’t feel empathy for myself. It felt forced. I could feel empathy for others but I couldn’t feel empathy for myself. However, I could feel a void inside of me. This wasn’t the emptiness kind of void that Zen speaks of. The Zen void is a good void. This did not feel good.

Even though I can‘’t describe the void, I could feel it’s energy. The energy was pulling in… cringing. There was a neediness. There was helplessness. There was desperation. It felt horrible. It was so strong that it surprised me — how could I have not noticed such a strong feeling for so many years? Maybe that’s why it was hitting me so hard now. Because I had pushed it under the rug for all these years.

The void was screaming — self neglect. It was possibly the result of not spending time with myself. Not understanding my needs. Not honoring the simple needs of my small self. I am not enlightened, but I do know — through firsthand experience — that an out-of-context advice like don’t think about your small self is asking for serious trouble. As I write this article, I am stopping and wondering: who gave me this mistimed advice?…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. No one. I just picked it from the airwaves. I don’t know when and I don’t know why, but I picked it up sometime along the journey of life. So I can’t really blame anyone. All sorts of thoughts are flying around on the airwaves. A person’s got to discern if a thought is serving his highest purpose or not. I did not discern because I had picked up another wrong thought before I picked this one — do not judge anything as good or bad. I am learning quite late in life that discerning is not the same as judging and even though I cannot judge anyone else for what they are, I can and should judge and discern what influence someone or something has on me and whether I am growing or contracting as a result.

Context is everything. Something that might help one person grow may be harmful to another person. Or something that might help you grow today, may not have helped you two years back and may actually be harmful two years from now. Your gut feeling about how a situation is impacting you is probably the only reliable guide.

Many spiritual/religious scriptures speak of feelings as impermanent. Feelings are indeed impermanent, but they are also messages from your inner guide that help you navigate this life. Feelings that come from your inner source of guidance are not the same as feelings that come from greed. You have to discern. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

“Do you know anything on earth which has not a dangerous side if it is mishandled and exaggerated? “ ~ The Land of Mist by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

No, I don’t, Sir Conan Doyle! I wish I had met your books earlier.

Sorry for the rant… coming back to connecting with myself!

Trying to feel empathy for myself felt fake. The void felt horrible. I felt stuck and helpless. Fortunately, my attempts to feel empathy for myself were supported by synchronicity when I came across this small but interesting book by Kamal Ravikant called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It.

The book’s author, at a very difficult time in his life, started repeated a simple mantra: I love myself. He did it for a month, and his life changed in extraordinary ways.

So I tried working with this mantra.

I love myself. It felt good. I love myself. For the next 5 minutes, I repeated in my mind: I love myself. It felt nice but the void within me was stubborn and resisted my attempts to fill it.

I continued with the mantra. Gradually, I could feel more of my energy being pulled into my body. Earlier, I was exhausted a lot of the time. Now, I could feel my energy gradually returning to me. As the energy returned, I could sense a feeling of increased well-being.

Repeating the mantra felt good and it was helping me, but there was a small problem. It felt a bit silly. I questioned myself. What serious spiritual seeker has a mantra like I love myself? Shouldn’t I work with a mantra like OM, or the Gayatri Mantra, or Sohum, or a mantra that spiritual adepts have worked with for centuries? Consequently, I stopped the mantra and tried to work with OM. No doubt, OM is a beautiful and powerful mantra, but it did not help me fill the void. In some time, I began feeling the void once again.

As I felt the energy of the void, it felt like the energy of a small neglected child crying for attention and love. I have heard about inner child work but I don’t really know what it is. I wonder if it has anything to do with filling this kind of a void. Conversely, I also wonder if repeating this simple mantra — I love myself — can heal the inner child. Maybe.

I went back to the mantra.

I love myself. I love myself. I love myself.

“My mind is wandering. I love myself. I am not feeling good about myself. I love myself. I am feeling tired. I love myself. My life is going to amount to nothing. I love myself.”

I put my attention on my heart center. I love myself. I put my attention on the surface of my body. I love myself. I put my attention on the energy around me. I love myself. Many more times, I love myself. The energy felt better. I could feel a slight shift in my energy. My vibration felt different. Better. I love myself.

So this is what it means to raise my vibration. Nice. I love myself.

Little by little, the void started to ease out. It felt like I was being more with myself. My attention was less scattered than before. Earlier, I had attributed my scattered attention to my monkey mind. I realized the fallacy of that assumption. My attention was not scattered because of a monkey mind. It was scattered because there was a void in me which was neglected and was crying out to me.

The energy of all trauma, including the trauma of self-neglect, gets stored in the body. It’s virtually impossible to stabilize the mind if the stored energy have gone beyond the tipping point. At this point, no amount of mind training is going to work. You have to release the energy of the trauma. One (out of many, I am sure) way to release this energy is by loving yourself. I THINK THIS IS HUGE! I wish I had known it earlier.

Thank you Kamal Ravikant, for introducing me to the concept of self-love.

“Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, As self-neglecting.” ~ Henry V by William Shakespeare