Last week, I blogged about a really special kind of love and appreciation that isn’t tied to things that I do or say. It isn’t given on the condition that I’m in a good mood or recently showered or productive. It just is. I’ve been thinking a lot about this – how sweet unconditional love and acceptance is and how important it is for healing and change. I’ve also been wondering how to get there. How do I offer this love to myself and to others even when someone is being shitty and difficult? How do I do this for myself when I have a really strong samskara or habit of seeing myself through a different lens? How do I hold onto this kind of unconditional acceptance when a situation feels incredibly dark? All this has been swimming inside of me and then I came across something so relevant in the book I’m reading! The Humanistic American psychologist, Carl Rogers (1902-1987), believed that when we are accepted and appreciated for what we are rather than what we do or say, then we are more able to take risks, accept occasional failure, and be open with people. He calls this Unconditional positive regard. That’s it! That’s another, less sappy way, of talking about accepting ourself and others!!! Rogers says our sense of self-worth is related to receiving this kind of acceptance. Self-worth is key to facing challenges and achieving goals and it’s this special combo that allows us to become who we are meant to be. Unconditional positive regard is a key component of self-actualization. Yoga agrees.
Yoga says the ability to hold unconditional positive regard for others is a question of identity. If we identify ourselves and others as a beings that are, in essence, full of light, then all the other stuff that we do, think, feel, and say is something else. It is behavior, but not who we are. It’s thinking, but we aren’t our thoughts. It’s a feeling, and feelings change. When we have the perspective that each person is good, wise, and light-filled, even when their behavior sucks, we can connect to that. From this place, the efforts we make to improve ourselves become a way of removing the obstacles to clear perception. It isn’t about how horrible we are as a person, but about letting go or changing the things that are keeping us from perceiving or knowing the light within. Cultivating a perspective that lets us get to know this light inside, puruṣa, can make it easier to hold this unconditional positive regard for our self and each other.