Thich Nhat Hanh says that if we wish to manifest love and compassion for others, we must first be able to love ourselves. Our capacity to love others is limited, in effect, by the extent to which we can also love ourselves.
How might we do this? Some of his meditation practices demonstrate ways and means. We can sit in meditation and go through a body scan, smiling at, and appreciating, each part of our bodies.
Have you ever expressed love for your liver? Do you even know where your liver is? But it does vital work for you, keeping you alive! Surely it’s worthy of a little love now and then?
Here’s a poem to complement the teachings:
He searches out all parts of himself
and loves them.
He searches out his flaws and his failings
and loves them.
The parts others do not like,
the parts he does not like,
he loves them.
His spasming back, his decaying knee,
his secret shames, his worrying mind,
he searches them out and loves them.
No part too bad,
no part too small,
Too late, too old, now, for change, for improvement.
Too long the wait now for someone else to love them.
No saint exists that holy, that perceptive.
Only he, radical lover, can do the work.
Only the Radical Lover can do this work.
The poem says that only you can do the work of radical love on your own being. Don’t wait for anyone else to do it, because they cannot know the intimate details of your being. Only you can know them.
And don’t just wait for any parts you don’t like to change. You may wait for ever. Go to the root, and be radical, and love yourself as far down as you can get.
And in doing this work you do change. You become skilled at radical loving – skilled enough to move occasionally beyond your normal self and become a manifestation of a universal Radical Lover.
Go on. Just do it!