To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s extremely simple and can be done anytime, anywhere and in virtually any circumstance.

Hanh teaches, however, it’s not the words that matter but our commitment to, and intention behind the practice.

Here are seven simple steps for you to begin your practice.

  1. Whenever you become aware of negative thoughts and emotions arising, rather than ignoring them, or setting them aside for later, gently (non-judgmentally) identify, acknowledge, and honor them.
  2. Become very clear on what the specific upset is by identifying the exact thoughts that are bothering you. Are they self-judging, bad memories, or anxiety about future events? Do you replay things over and over? Any thought that causes dis-ease in you, regardless of past, present or future is applicable.
  3. Next, indentify the specific emotions that arise in you as a result of said thoughts. What do they feel like in your body? Is there tightening in your chest? Is your stomach turning or is there a throbbing sensation in your head? Again, any emotion that causes dis-ease is applicable.
  4. Once you’ve clearly identified the thought(s) and emotion(s), and where you feel sensations, close your eyes and explore any imagery they create in your mind (once you’re familiar with the practice, you won’t always need to close your eyes—i.e., if you’re driving, or in public you can still do this.) Do the thoughts and emotions create colors, shapes, figures? Are they abstract or clear? The important thing is to let your thoughts and emotions create the imagery while you simply become aware of what they are. This takes practice.
  5. Breathe. We’re at the half way mark and I’d like to offer you a sincere congratulations on completing the first half! Our natural tendency is to suppress these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, often telling ourselves that we’ll deal with them later—but honestly, does later ever come? Unfortunately for most of us, it never does. So even just by taking the time to become conscious of, and identify these unpleasant thoughts and emotions is a huge step! Let’s not stop there though – here’s where the really good stuff starts to happen.
  6. This step is where everything begins to change! Once you have the mental images of what your thoughts and emotions look like (and even if there’s no image at all, this practice still works), picture yourself holding the image (or lack thereof) in the same way a mother holds a newborn baby. Picture the image of your painful thought and emotion wrapped in a warm blanket, being held with very loving care closely to your heart, your chest, as you extend it very sincere compassion from your heart center. (You can also use the imagery of wrapping the thought/emotion in a warm blanket and placing it in a baby carriage, and rocking the carriage back and forth.)
  7. Next, mentally (or verbally) say to the image that you know it’s there and you promise to care for and hold it with compassion until it’s ready to go. Do your best to say these words from a very sincere place in your heart.

Through bringing our attention to the image of our painful thoughts and emotions, and tending to it with an open heart, we’re doing the most natural thing we can—expressing love. Instead of ostracizing our uncomfortable thoughts and emotions and their unpleasant effects, we show them pure, complete and inclusive love. It’s a love they’ve never known before, and a love many of us have never known before either.

The thoughts and emotions will often subside very quickly. Sometimes, however, they aren’t ready to go so fast, and that’s fine. When we initially told them we’d be with them as long as they needed us, we were sincere in that intention. So if/when the thoughts and emotions call us on it, we honor our words and hold them dearly in our heart for as long as it takes.

So that’s the practice. This practice can be used on everyday minor things all the way to heavier memories of our most difficult life experiences. It’s all relevant, it’s all grist for the mill and it can all be healed.

Excerpts of:

Al Green – Love and Happiness (Live from Soul Train!)