Once I was in India visiting a holy man who my family had known since I was a child and hadn’t seen in nearly 30 years. As I sat across his desk from him, he looked at me as if he were watching a movie about my life. With no words said, I felt like he could see everything I had ever done, every unwise choice, every lie, every romantic encounter, every achievement, every good thing, and every thought. I just somehow knew, without any proof, that he knew everything about me. All I felt from him was absolute unconditional love. You would think that that would be a beautiful experience.
The problem was that I was extremely uncomfortable. I found myself squirming in the presence of such love. It was then that I realized that the reason I was so fidgety was that I didn’t feel like I deserved the unconditional love. While he didn’t seem to be judging me at all, I was watching the same film, if you will, and I was judging myself.
I then began to rethink the concept of “judgment day.” Most of us have been steeped in the concept that when we die our life flashes before us—and God judges whether we have been good or bad. However, the experience I had with this holy man made me think that we got that one a little backwards. While yes, I think our life flashes before us and God, I think God just shows us absolute compassion and unconditional love and the experience of “heaven” or “hell” is whether we feel deserving on the love or not.
Thus launched a committed intention to align my actions and thoughts with “right action” and “right thought.” I was determined that in the event I should get to sit in the presence of pure love again, that I would feel deserving of such a gift. I then wondered, does that actually only happen when we die? Perhaps we have that a little backwards, too. Perhaps we are always basking in the presence of God’s unconditional, pure love for us. Maybe we don’t have to wait to die to receive that love. Perhaps it is happening now.
So, let me ask you this: Do you think you deserve unconditional love?
When I was in a workshop many, many years ago, the leader asked us all to close our eyes and imagine that we were looking into a mirror, into our own eyes. He then instructed us to say silently to our own image in the mirror, “I love you and accept you just the way you are” and watch for the mirrored images’ reaction. So I invite you to try this as a quick glimpse into your sense of deservability. Go ahead. Try it.
Close your eyes and shower yourself with love. Then notice: Do you believe yourself? Do you squirm? Do you feel uncomfortable? Or does it make you feel warm and fuzzy?
If you liked the way that felt, do it some more in front of a real mirror. Establish eye contact. Breathe. Send yourself love.
If you didn’t like the way that felt, also do it some more in front of a real mirror. Begin the task of loving yourself, starting with looking into your own eyes and acknowledging your good qualities. Finish the sentences: What I like about myself is…, What I appreciate about myself is…. I did a good job of handling…. What I love about myself is…
This is not a tool for developing your ego, rather an exercise to “train your brain to start with heart,” retraining yourself to think kinder, gentler, more loving thoughts about yourself.
Then, as you practice acknowledging the good things in yourself, you will be better able to receive compliments, kind affirmations and love from others. If you are not telling yourself the good news about you, you will never believe someone else when they do.
Then, when you are faced with two choices—one to do something that harms another or to do something that helps another—you will be far more inclined to do the kind thing.
When we believe we are bad people, it is natural to make “bad” choices. When we know we are good people, deserving of absolute love, it will be painful to make anything other than good choices. Soon our thoughts, words, and actions will align with the highest, most deserving part of our being. Rather than squirming in the face of love, or sabotaging it, we will bask in it and return it ten-fold.