Today is Valentine’s day — a day meant for love and chocolate. But typically, that love is given to another person. So is the chocolate.
What if, instead of focusing so much love outward, you focused some of it inward?
Would that be wrong? Would it be selfish?
Nope. It would be wise. It would be healthy. I’ll explain why, and I’ll also explain how you can do it.
If you have trouble loving yourself, then you have an imbalance.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Millions of people suffer from the same imbalance, whether they realize it or not.
Yin and Yang
In Tai Chi terms, this imbalance is called a disharmony of Yin and Yang. Love is a form of energy, and like all forms of energy, it must be balanced. Otherwise problems arise.
Love that moves outward is considered Yang. Love that moves inward is considered Yin.
If too much energy moves outward, and not enough moves inward, then you have a Yang imbalance. If you want to be happier and healthier, if you want to have more fulfilling relationships, then you need to balance that out.
The Yang Personality
If you’ve read this far, then you’re probably the type of person who has too much Yang, and not enough Yin (in terms of love).
Chances are, you’re always trying to help people, even if it means sacrificing your own needs and desires. You probably don’t even think that your own needs and desires are important.
Am I right?
How do I know this? Because I’m specifically writing this article for you, not for the other type of imbalance (i.e. those with too much Yin).
Neither the Yin nor the Yang imbalance is better or worse than the other. Both are problematic. It’s the balance point in the middle that you want.
Like the Buddha said, we want the middle path. If we tighten the sitar string too much, it will break; if we make it too loose, it won’t play a song.
But this article is directed toward those who are more Yang, those who send too much energy outward.
Nurses, for example, often have this imbalance. When it comes to love, they tend to send it outward. Their love is more Yang.
And they neglect themselves in the process. Often, after 10-20 years in the field, their health deteriorates to a point where they can no longer ignore it. (And that’s typically when they join my classes.)
More Yin, Please
If you’re like this, then you want more Yin in your life. And perhaps a little less Yang. Ultimately, you want the harmony between the two. It’s this harmony that that leads to both happiness and fulfillment.
This is the secret behind Tai Chi. When Yin and Yang are in harmony, everything flows effortlessly. But when Yin and Yang are out of whack, then trouble starts. This secret holds true for martial arts, for health, for relationships, for the planet, and for the cosmos itself.
This concept of harmony is sorely lacking in our society. I suspect that, for many of you, the concept is totally foreign. You’re probably not used to thinking this way. And that’s okay. Now you’re learning to think differently!
Save Yourself, Save the World
What do flight attendants teach you before the airplane takes off?
They teach you to first put the oxygen mask on yourself. Why? Because if you don’t put it on yourself first, then you’re going to pass out before you even get a chance to help others.
Do you want to save the world? Do you want to help as many people as possible? I certainly do. That’s my mission. But people like us often make a critical mistake: We put the oxygen mask on others before ourselves.
This is exactly what we see with nurses and others who suffer from the Yang type of imbalance. They try to put the mask on everyone else first. Sure, it works for a little while. But in the end, this isn’t the best way to help people (or oneself).
The secret is to start with yourself. Transform yourself. That will be your gift to the world.
For example, if I had not started with myself, if I hadn’t healed my depression and my sick heart, I would not be able to do what I do today. I’m able to help so many people today because I put the oxygen mask on myself first.
Even today, even after all these years, I still have to be careful. I have a tendency to send my energy outward, to constantly try to help others. But if I do too much, then I have no energy for myself or my wife.
In fact, I made this mistake in 2012. I overextended myself, worked 80+ hours a week, and as a result, I began to burn out. Thankfully, I caught myself. I know that, if I want to help as many people as possible, and if I want to continue helping them for years and years, then I have to send some love inward.
How to Love Yourself
By now, I hope you see the importance of loving yourself. That’s the first step. And it’s a big one. Once you decide to fix this imbalance, once you commit to sending more love inward, things will start to change.
But how do you do it? How do you actually start sending love inward? I’m not going to give you a laundry list of tips for loving yourself. There are plenty of articles like that on the Internet. I’m not saying that any of those things, like journaling or daily affirmations, are bad. But to me, there’s one thing that you can do that is more important — and more effective — than anything else.
Start to meditate.
By meditating daily, you will automatically start to love yourself more. It’s a natural result of quieting the mind. The self-talk and self-doubt gradually disappear, and your natural self gradually appears. And when you start to see your natural self, it will be easy to love it simply because it is loveable
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
But sitting meditation probably isn’t for you. Unless you are lucky enough to find an amazing teacher, sitting meditation will be hard. You’ll do better with moving meditation, like Qigong and Tai Chi, or even Yoga. If you don’t have a teacher, then you can start with my free stuff, or Lifting The Sky (and keep an eye out for my upcoming book).
Make Yourself a Priority
For me, meditating daily (with Qigong and Tai Chi) is a priority. It’s even more important than teaching. If I don’t take care of myself, how am I going to take care of my students? So I make the time to practice every day.
A few weeks ago, a student from out of town wanted to schedule a private lesson with me in the morning. It was the only time that she had available. But I teach in the evenings, so the morning is my personal practice time.
Even though she offered to pay me $200 for my time, even though she needed my help — I said no to her.
It wasn’t easy. I truly wanted to help her.
But my personal practice time is sacred. It is precious to me. It is my way of sending some love inward, every single day.
(By the way, the student ended up rearranging her schedule and coming to class in the evenings. So in the end, everyone got what they needed.)
It’s precisely because I see my life as valuable and meaningful that I make the time to meditate every day. That’s one of my secrets to discipline. Meditating is a priority, every single day. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything I do in a day that is more important than practicing.
Do you see your own life as valuable and meaningful? Can you embrace this philosophy of sending love inward, of taking care of yourself first? I hope so because the world desperately needs people like you. And we need you to be happy, healthy, and balanced.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Did this post resonate with you? Do have any questions? Go ahead and post a comment below. It’s easy. Mindfully yours, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.