The First Step to Self-Acceptance: You Are Not Broken
Hi Sweet Friends,
You are not broken. Isn’t that a relief? Yup, your soul doesn’t need to be fixed, nipped, tucked or squished into an acceptable template. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. If you feel like a square peg in a round hole, if you feel unworthy, neglected, banged up or lost in any way—this blog is for you. Welcome to unconditional self-acceptance.
Through my work I get to travel the globe giving lectures and speeches, signing books and meeting thousands of people every year. I treasure those experiences. They remind me that no matter what our history, we’re more similar than different.
We all want to feel peace, connection and love. We all want to heal. And we all can.
As I stand on stages awash in sparkly lights, I often find myself looking into a gentle ocean of searching eyes. Eager seekers trying to learn how to live a good, healthy life. Smiley people. Tall people. Old people. Young people. Sick people. Perky people. All types of interesting people. But sometimes my intuition sees a layer deeper. In those moments, I notice a (subtle) collective anxiety, a pulsing desperation to get it “right.”
Of course a gusto for growth is vitally important. We all benefit from educating ourselves and making lifestyle upgrades. But it’s tricky to make changes from a belief that we’re fundamentally flawed. When we force improvements from that negative space, it becomes impossible to stick with them.
The good news is that it’s possible to seek from a place of fullness rather than lack, excitement rather than fear. To know that even though you may be confused about a particular topic, you’re not incapable. You’re not a project to be checked off and accomplished. Your deep capacity to heal and grow is always present. Always. You don’t need a book or a doctor or a shaman to guide you. You just need to know how to go home to yourself on a daily basis.
“Do you make regular visits to yourself?” — Rumi
Such a great question! Thanks, Rumi.
Recently, my mom and I made visits to ourselves by attending a three-day meditation workshop with best-selling author, Buddhist scholar and psychologist, Tara Brach. It was deeply replenishing for us both. As much as I love teaching, I also cherish my time as a student. The title of the workshop was “True Refuge: Three gateways to peace and freedom.” True Refuge is also the name of Tara’s most recent book, a must read. In between guided and silent meditations, mindful strolls and candid personal reveals, we discussed how to cultivate presence (or mindfulness) through the three gateways: awareness, truth and love. Why do we do this? To access that homey space inside ourselves, to visit the True Refuge.
Hold for a poetry break…
Clearing by Martha Postlewaite
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.
“Create a clearing in the dense forest of your life.” Isn’t that delicious? Tara read that poem to kick off the weekend. When I think of that clearing, I feel an invitation to come back to myself, to experience grace while releasing the thoughts that paralyze me. That clearing is inside you. How easy it is to forget when we get caught up in everyday stressors and old aches and pains. Presence (pause, awareness) is the last thing we think of cultivating throughout the day, especially when the going gets tough and the proverbial shit hits the fan.
Our society makes finding that inner space all the more challenging. Tara discussed how we live in a culture that encourages separation from ourselves and the world around us. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re encouraged to fit into certain standards. “The best bikini bodies revealed!” or “10 things you need to do TODAY or your man will dump your ass!” Unfortunately, the only way to fit in is to whitewash our uniquely fabulous, kinky, quirky, wild essence or real self. Next we construct a fake (more snoring-ly appropriate) self in order to get the love and approval we seek. That kind of validation is built on a house of cards. And as I was reminded this weekend, the separation from our self (soul) only creates more suffering.
The more separation we feel, the harder it is to nestle into the genuine loving refuge inside ourselves. The True Refuge.
But finding your way to unconditional self-acceptance is easier than you think.
If I were to set my inner GPS to “home,” here’s how it would direct me:
- Pause and prepare for some Spiritual Spelunking!
- Set your intention to find your way back to yourself.
- Grab a sturdy flashlight and allow whatever feelings to come up.
- Notice without judgement (yeah, get off your own back!).
- Have the courage and compassion to sit with any discomfort.
- Connect with your heart. You may chat with yourself: “I’m here, it’s OK, I love you.”
- Practice non-attachment—basically don’t identify or cling to your shizzle. And remember, it’s a thought, not a fact.
- Woot! You made it.
If pesky, loud thoughts spring up during this practice, remember, it’s just brain blather. If your mind is like mine, it’s a raunchy parrot fluttering amok and crapping all over the place. Except I am not the parrot and neither are you. As we become more conscious of our true nature and as we develop a loving friendship with ourselves, we can slowly awaken from the illusion and realize that we’ve got the goods right here, right now, today, tomorrow and for all eternity. Being present and accepting ourselves in all our messy majesty is our greatest spiritual opportunity.
“Between the stimulus and response there is a space and in that space lie your power and freedom” — Viktor Frankl
So relax your body, release your “shoulds” and as Tara said, “stay close to what matters in your life.” Start to look for healthy, feel-good ways to truly be with yourself. And when self-judgement or attack shoot up, hold those negative thoughts with compassion and loving kindness. You might be surprised at how quickly they dissolve.
If you’re having a hard time with this, Tara suggested an awesome exercise. Identify a being that you see as enlightened. Invite them into your consciousness (I pictured Gandhi and me floating on rafts in my pool, beer cozies and all). Allow them to advise you. Ask yourself to just shhh and listen. And then, just wait for wisdom, comfort and bliss to wash over you.
Peace and untangling,