I was in India, pacing my room, sobbing and wondering why I was feeling intense grief. I had long been engaged in the process of healing myself. Yet here I was, in a foreign country with nothing or no one familiar to go to for comfort. Though I had worked through certain personal anguish that I had carried with me since childhood, I was genuinely baffled that I hadn’t progressed beyond feeling that level of grief. But there I was, pacing my room and sobbing. Not wanting to experience a panic attack, I thought about how a mother might nurture her child, and at that moment, I asked myself, “Samaa, what do you need right now?”
When I was a child, rarely did my caregiver regard my feelings and ask me what I needed to alleviate my distress. I realized that I didn’t actually know how to feel my feelings fully. For years, I unknowingly adopted my caregiver’s behavioral pattern of abandonment by packing my feelings away. I learned to abandon parts of myself to cope. WOW! This sudden shift in perspective was a game-changer for me! I decided that prioritizing asking myself what I needed was going to become my new practice. Whenever I sensed that something within my experience felt misaligned, I would ask myself that question. I would let myself feel my feelings fully by doing three things:
- Feel into my feelings.
- Hear into myself by hearing beyond what is accessed audibly.
- See into myself by seeing into the subtle spaces beyond physical form.
I felt relief almost immediately. At that moment, asking myself that question, I felt like I had processed at least half of what I had been grieving. What I needed at that moment became obvious to me. I needed holding, to be rocked and spoken to in a manner that let me know that I was seen and heard and felt. I needed to validate what I was feeling by becoming unconditionally present with myself and my needs. I acknowledged that my feelings had a viable place at the moment that I was feeling them.
During my time in India, I prioritized being with myself so thoroughly that I would know with clarity what it was that I needed out of every moment, whether to maintain focus at the moment or to change the direction of my focus. This is self-intimacy.
Self-intimacy is the practice of unconditional presence with yourself. It involves feeling, hearing, and seeing into yourself in order to know through yourself what your needs are. You become so aware of yourself that you’re able to identify your needs and allow them to be met, even by others.
At first glance, the words self intimacy might conjure up thoughts of sex or even sexually pleasuring oneself. Yet “intimacy” is often misunderstood and misused. Intimacy is a profound connection expressed through sheer vulnerability. Intimacy is not sex. The physical act of sex, on the other hand, can be accomplished without intimacy. Self-intimacy is connecting with yourself in the most essential way. It’s a process of acknowledging your most pressing need, releasing any judgment towards your discovery, and absolutely allowing yourself to have those needs met.
It recognizes the following:
- “I need touch right this moment,” and then allowing that.
- “I need to say exactly this in exactly this way,” and then allowing that.
- Only the moment matters, and consistently checking in to simply ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” and allowing that.
- Noticing your feelings and leaning into them rather than avoiding what is by choosing to become distracted.
- Deciding that it’s ok to have your needs met regardless of what you discover.
To engage in self intimacy, unconditional presence with yourself is essential. Feel your feelings fully. Feelings like joy or trepidation are emotional communication that you can not only feel but also hear and see into. This means noticing the sensations that are already available in your body and acting on them without question, doubt, or judgment. Suppose you’re hesitant about the perceived emotional communication. In that case, you can begin the process of leaning into the feelings by talking yourself through as many leads as possible to get to the source of the emotional communication. For instance:
- Target the feeling: ‘I’m afraid to say how I feel, and it feels weighty. I feel so unsettled.’
- Lean into the feeling: “I’m afraid to say how I feel because I don’t feel he/she is going to hear me.”
- Trace it as far back to the source of the perceived conflict: ‘As a child, I was repeatedly told to be quiet until one day I decided to not speak about the things that mattered to me.’
- Finally, let yourself have what you need: ‘Whenever I start to perceive that I’m not being heard, I’m going to practice the opposite of shutting myself off or away. I’m going to practice vulnerability instead and express whatever I feel called to. I’m going to do this because I know that if I do not express myself, then I’m also agreeing that I don’t need to be heard. I’m agreeing to perpetuate the very pattern that I find conflicting.’
Having your needs met isn’t about violation or manipulation. Manipulation happens when we don’t feel safe, so we try to find a less direct route to meeting our needs.
The word ‘self’ in self intimacy may imply that you’re responsible for meeting your needs on your own. When you’ve identified and acknowledged a need that’s not being met that requires the physical presence of another person, self-intimacy encourages you to allow your needs to be met even from or with someone else. The focus isn’t on the how as much as it’s identifying the what.
Self intimacy encourages connection, and it’s a practice that allows us to return to our essence. Our essential nature doesn’t care about being exposed or judged while being vulnerable because our essential nature knows that at the core of existence, we are all wanting to just be ourselves.