This past Sunday, Rev. Jan shared a spiritual practice with us that she learned to do at the beginning of any and every other spiritual practice. It reminded me immediately of one that I learned years ago. At the very beginning of meditation, prayer, journaling or other spiritual practice:
Looking into a full length mirror, and into your own eyes say: I accept myself in this moment just the way that I am.
Here is what Rev. Jan’s practice adds: I accept myself in this moment just the way that I am, and I extend that acceptance to every being I will encounter today.
This sort of practice is grounded in Hindu and Buddhist practices that recognize what our 7th Unitarian Universalist principle affirms–there is an interdependent web of all existence between and among all beings. This principle along with this kind of spiritual practice makes clear that justice begins with me. There is another saying from the Scholastic Christian tradition: You cannot give what you do not have.
For too long in Puritan and post-Victorian mindset (one that is a part of our own UU history!) we have tried to deny ourselves and offer goodness and justice to others. That is an exhausting and ultimately empty practice even for the bravest of souls.
If I can really accept myself in this moment just the way that I am (don’t be misled, this ain’t easy–that’s why it’s a practice), then I really do have something to extend to others. Without question, whatever stands in the way of self-acceptance will become the very thing by which we judge and blame another.
Accept myself just the way I am. Extend that to all beings I encounter today. Isn’t that bestowing bounty where it is most proper?