August 15, 2023

Maitri: How Cancer turned Self-Criticism into Self-Compassion.

Self-compassion, self-consideration, self-love—all terms we’ve heard ad nauseam in the wellness community.

But what is the meaning and why is it seemingly so hard to embody?

My own personal relationship with Maîtri—Sanskrit for the practice of self-compassion—has been a turbulent and at times despondent journey.

At the beginning, the idea of self-love seemed so far out of reach that I unknowingly searched for it externally. The idea that it could ever be created from within was absurd and the foundational incongruences in my life only emboldened my belief that I wasn’t capable.

Nevertheless, my experience in life unfolded, and finding self-love from an inner source became an integral part of my becoming.

Steeped in life’s “hard medicine,” my soul was desperately searching for any way to numb the deep trauma that lived within my body. It appeared alcohol was the societal norm for numbing emotional dysregulation, so I jumped on the bandwagon and created a volatile relationship with myself while doing so.

Alcohol made me self-loathe more than I did when sober. It made me act out, spill my pain out verbally onto others, project my insecurities, and ultimately ruin my health. I would wake up engulfed in self-criticism, regret, and self-hatred night after night.

It wasn’t until my cancer diagnosis at the young age of 21 that I heeded the wake-up call my higher self was sending me. Overnight, I went from a healthy young adult to a cancer patient awaiting brain surgery. I was in shock, and while undergoing all the pre-op protocol, I remember having this moment of deep clarity.

The thought appeared explicitly in the same way a bolt of lightning illuminates the sky…I’m terrified to wake up from the surgery and not be myself.

It was in that moment that I understood self-love. I don’t know why it takes such extreme circumstance for humans to adapt a lesson, but I wanted nothing more than to appreciate myself. In fact, reflecting upon the past, I was so frustrated with myself for ever beating myself up. I thought, If I am this afraid to not be me after surgery, I must’ve actually liked who I was before.

Now facing this deeply fear-evoking experience, I loved myself more than ever before. I had such compassion for myself, more than I was ever shown. I was able to slow down and really take in all the good, rather than focusing on all the areas I wished to change. I promised myself that If I made it out of this experience alive that I would love and appreciate myself more.

I underwent surgery and upon awakening had to reestablish a relationship with my body, feeling its sensations and areas that were operated on. I was so proud of it for making it through the intense experience, and all I could focus on now was that the bigger journey of healing was about to begin.

I am 10 years into the post-op journey—healthy and thriving. In this time, I have spent countless hours studying trauma, shadow work, self-love, and holistic healing modalities to better my understanding of self. I was interested in uncovering where my struggle with Maîtri was born. Upon discovering the depth of its existence within my family tree, I have felt a clarity settle over me. I am healing this not only for myself but for my ancestral lineage.

After some time fostering a deeper connection with Maîtri, it now flows effortlessly—toward myself and others. I am a firm believer that healing ourselves injects a deep sense of healing into the energetic web that interweaves us all.

We forget the depth of our interconnectedness because of the individualism that is taught in society. But it is in our direct remembrance of our connection with others, and therefore connection with ourselves, that our innate Maîtri skills are activated.


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