What would your life look like if you treated yourself with the same kindness you showed to others? As Valentine's Day rolls around again, there tends to be a lot of emphasis on romantic relationships. While partnership is beautiful and serves as a profound teacher in this life, too often, we neglect to nourish the most important relationship of all – the one we have with ourselves. 

As we maneuver through the dance of life, our minds can easily become entranced with external happenings, and we forget to direct our gaze inward. How often do you notice your breath? Or bring your full attention to the senses? The mind is powerful, and if not monitored, can sweep us continuously away from the present moment. While lost at sea in the ocean of the mind, we forget to pause and feel our feet against the Earth, to notice the sunshine warm our face, and to feel complete contentment right here, right now. When you soften into presence, sensations of love, peace, and connection can flower.

There are tons of books, articles, and information out there talking about self-love. “Self-love” has become more than just a phrase – it's a buzzword. We live in an era where self-love is both exalted and commodified, packaged neatly into self-care routines, bath bombs, and affirmations. But amidst the sea of self-help guides and wellness trends, it's easy to lose sight of the fundamental question: what does self-love really mean? It is something that goes far deeper than just appreciating certain aspects of yourself. Despite its popularity, self-love remains a vague concept, often misunderstood and oversimplified.

Self-love isn't just about self-care; it's about cultivating an unconditional sense of compassion toward ourselves – embracing ourselves fully and unapologetically, flaws and all. In this blog, we will peel back the layers of self-love and explore greater self-awareness and acceptance as we redefine what it truly means to love yourself in a world that often tells you otherwise. Because self-love isn't just a buzzword – it's a radical act of defiance against everything that seeks to diminish your worth. Discover what it truly means to explore the art of self-love and learn a few simple plant-inspired rituals that can connect you with your heart.

Meditation and Self Love

Meditation practice is one of the most important things a person can do to open to unconditional love. Love is always available, it is limitless, undying, and it is always within you. 

We stray from the feeling of love when we are clouded by identifications of the thinking mind. We lose love when we feel separate or isolated. We forget love when we are judging, evaluating, planning, or ruminating. But love is the clear, blue, open sky behind the processes of mind.

Without realizing it, we spend a great deal of time in the realms of judgment, criticism, opinion, and desire, wanting things to be different than they are. When we are not fully aware of the moment, we filter the world through colored glasses and react from the past, rather than respond to the present. The practice of meditation or mindfulness teaches us to zoom out from our thoughts and watch our experiences passively. The more you can reside in the space of a passive observer, the more welcoming you will be to anything that arises in the field of your consciousness. In pure open presence, there is love. 

There are many methods, many paths, and many practices. And for every individual, the exploration with meditation may look different. But when we repeatedly set things down and come into a still place within, we allow ourselves to let go. And in letting go, there is freedom. 

My Ayurvedic teacher, Dr. Vasant Lad, will often say in lectures, “Meditation comes like a breeze among the leaves.” Meaning, a meditative state comes on its own accord. But every time we practice passive observation, we open ourselves up to the opportunity for bliss and love to pour in. Meditation reconnects us to the highest form of Self. Behind the body and the personality, there is a steady flame of awareness that has always been with you. That inner flame of witnessing awareness referred to as “Ātman” in Sanskrit, is the eternal Self, or soul, that dwells in every being.

Meditation allows you to come into contact with this higher Self, which is beyond quality or phenomena. In witnessing awareness, you will realize that you are not separate from anything in existence. At the very core, love is all there is, and love is what we are… we just forgot. 

So how can you apply this?

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, timed, or scheduled in, and it doesn’t have to be limited to sitting cross-legged in your home. It can be as simple as engaging your senses with your environment or even with aromatic plants. Bringing total awareness into your daily life – being with what is now –  is a meditation practice within itself.

Aromatics and the Heart

You can also invite the plant kingdom to support you in coming into greater feelings of ease, presence, and love. Plants are infinitely wise and intelligent beings that can invoke healing on all levels. 

Aromatic plants have a unique power when it comes to working on the mental and emotional spheres, due to their influence on the olfactory sense. Our sense of smell is intimately connected to our subconscious mind and emotions. Something unique to olfaction is that impulses from aromatic molecules travel directly to the limbic system, a center responsible for memory and emotion, without being processed elsewhere in the brain first. This means that before we are even able to identify what a smell is, we are already having an emotional response to it. 

This highlights the ability of the medicinal properties of aromatic plants to reach and heal the deep and subtle layers of the subconscious mind  – which is the driver behind our conscious experience. All plants will have specific affinities and qualities that will act upon the body, mind, and spirit in different ways, but let’s look at a few aromatic herbs for promoting self-love.

tulsi

Tulsi is a pharmacy within itself. On a physical level, it works as a heart tonic and can overall support the cardiopulmonary system when taken internally. It also has an affinity to the immune and respiratory system. On an emotional and mental level, Tulsi is said to promote the qualities of “sattva,” which can be described as blissful, peaceful, clear, and joyful. Consider adding a few drops of Tulsi essential oil to your diffuser, or diluting it in a carrier oil and applying it topically. Even simply having a Tulsi plant in your home is said to help uplift the spirit, promote positive energy, and protect the space.

Frankincense

The use of Frankincense in the form of incense is steeped in a rich history of spiritual reverence. It is traditionally recognized for its ability to open channels to universal wisdom and spiritual realms, particularly during meditation and ritual practices. Frankincense is considered a sacred key, unlocking the door to the divine and facilitating a connection with one’s higher Self. It can uplift the mind, release tension in the body, and be a wonderful companion for your meditation practice by supporting you on the journey of spiritual evolution.

rose

Rose is likely the aromatic plant your mind would immediately land on when thinking of herbs for promoting self-love. It has a special way of opening and supporting the emotional and physical heart. Rose has calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory properties, and whether burned, consumed, or applied topically as oil on the body, can mend our wounds and nurture our ability to love and care for ourselves. When using Rose for aromatherapy, it can unfold a great deal of emotional healing. Pure Rose essential oil is very expensive, so it is good to use a diluted form or to use it in other forms such as Rose petal infused oil or topical body products, Rose hydrosol, or in the form of incense. One lovely way to use Rose is to apply a small amount of diluted essential oil directly to the middle of the sternum, offering a bit of nourishment to the heart chakra.

Three Aromatic Rituals For Self Love

morning aromatherapy

Aromatherapy offers an effective way to engage the senses and promote a sense of well-being. You can experiment with different scents to discover what resonates with you personally, or explore some of the aromatic plants mentioned above. 

Lighting an incense in the morning can help awaken the mind and senses and set a positive tone for the day. Shortly after waking up, consider lighting an incense stick, cone, or rope. While doing this, you can sit and meditate, or simply smell the aroma for a few moments and then go about your day. There is no need to burn the incense for a long period of time – just lighting it long enough to smell the aroma is plenty to receive the benefit from aromatic plants.

Another great option for a morning aromatic ritual is to diffuse an essential oil blend. Here is a recipe you can try:

Ingredients:
2 drops Rose Geranium essential oil
1 drop of Lotus essential oil
1 drop of Tulsi essential oil
Directions:
For aromatherapy, add the blend to your essential oil diffuser. To apply topically as an anointing oil, mix with 10 mL of your choice of carrier oil, then apply as desired. Note: It's crucial to dilute essential oils before applying externally to avoid potential skin reactions. For more information, visit our Essential Oil Dilution Guide.

herbal tea ritual

Sipping warm herbal tea as a mindfulness practice can help cultivate moment-to-moment awareness and unfold inner peace. It's an excellent way to start or end your day with this intentional ritual. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how you can practice this:

Step 1: Set the Scene 
Choose a quiet and comfortable space. You can create a peaceful atmosphere by dimming the lights, playing soft music (if you prefer), and eliminating distractions.

Step 2: Select Your Tea
Choose a type of tea that you enjoy and that complements the mood you're seeking. It could be Chamomile for relaxation, Tulsi-Rose to come into the heart space or any tea that resonates with you. 

Step 3: Prepare Your Tea Mindfully
Gather your tea-making supplies, including a teapot, tea leaves, a strainer, and a cup. As you gather your supplies, bring your awareness to each object, noticing its texture, shape, and weight. Begin heating your water, paying attention to the sound and movement of the water as it boils.

Step 4: Engage Your Senses
As you prepare your tea, engage all of your senses. Notice the aroma of the herbs. Listen to the sound of the water as it pours into the teapot, and observe the color of the tea as it steeps. Watch as the aromatic herbs unfurl and release their flavor. Notice the steam rising from the teapot. Allow yourself to be fully present in this moment, letting go of any thoughts or distractions.

Step 5: Embrace the Ritual of Drinking
Once your tea is ready and has cooled off enough to drink, take a moment to pause and engage your senses fully before taking a first sip. Hold the cup in your hands and feel its warmth against your skin. Inhale deeply, savoring the aroma of the tea. Take a small sip and allow the flavor to fill your mouth, noticing the taste and sensation on your tongue.

Step 6: Cultivate Awareness
As you drink your tea, focus on the sensations in your body and the thoughts in your mind. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort and allow them to soften with each sip. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the present moment and the experience of drinking tea.

Step 7: Reflect and Appreciate
As you finish your tea, take a moment to reflect on the experience. Notice how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Step 8: Carry Mindfulness Throughout Your Day
As you conclude your tea meditation, carry the sense of calm and presence you cultivated into the rest of your day. Approach each task with mindfulness and intention, knowing that you can return to this practice whenever you need a moment of peace.

Self Massage (Abhyanga)

In Sanskrit, the word “Sneha” translates both to “oil” and “love.” When we apply warm oil to the body, it is an offering of love. Practicing self-oil massage daily or even a few times per week can do wonders for the body, mind, and nervous system. It has a grounding and nourishing effect, promotes circulation, helps to moisturize the body, supports healthy skin, muscle, bone, and nervous tissues, and invokes a state of relaxation. Ideally, self-oil massage can be done in the morning before breakfast, or in the evening before bed. 

Ingredients For Self-Massage Oil:

Carrier oil of your choice (Untoasted & Refined Sesame oil, Sunflower, or Coconut oil are all good options)

Rose Geranium Essential Oil


Directions for Self-Massage:
1. Heat up about ½ cup (or a little less) of oil in a glass jar or bowl in a double boiler, then remove from heat. 

2. Add 3-5 drops of Rose Geranium essential oil and stir it around.
3. Apply the warm oil from your extremities towards the heart, making small circles on the joints and bigger strokes on the long bones. Apply the oil to the entire body, including the scalp and hair if desired.

4. Let the oil soak in for 10-20 minutes, then take a warm shower. Apply soap only to the hair, armpits, and genitals, but allow the oil elsewhere just to rinse off.

5. After the shower, pat the body dry with a towel and put on cozy pajamas.


CAUTION: Before and during the shower, be careful not to slip. If you oil your feet, put on socks that you don’t care about so that you do not slip and fall. Be extra mindful while stepping in and out of the shower.

discover the layers of self love

Self-love is not a destination but a continuous process of internal evolution. It is about self-learning and requires you to continuously turn a curious and compassionate gaze inward. To love yourself is to prioritize your well-being, to live in alignment with your innermost knowing, and to allow yourself to authentically express yourself in each moment. With daily rituals and the botanical kingdom on your side, may you open fully and awaken completely to the limitless love that dwells inside you.

Article Written By Dawn Gibson

© 2024 The Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine. All rights reserved.

*The statements above have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before you use this information for health purposes.