I first heard about the Lighten Up exercise many years ago in relation to weight loss – so many years ago that it was on a cassette tape. What I came to understand is that it means lightening up on many levels. Lighten up in how we view ourselves; be less judgmental about ourselves and our bodies; be kinder and more loving to who we are right now, just as we are . . . and thus lighten up on other people, be more loving and compassionate for the struggles we and everyone might be experiencing.  

I used this exercise in my Love the One You’re With series of classes. When we are willing to apply love, sometimes we come smack up against where we are feeling unloving about ourselves. Which just calls for more love, kindness, and tenderness – to ourselves.

Here’s how it works: The first time, do this sitting down. Start by saying: I love my beautiful body (whether you do or not, or think that or not). Then put your hands on top of your head and say: I love my head. Then move to your face. With your hands over your face, say: I love my face. Keep moving your hands to each part of your body (gently, respectfully), and each time say, I love my . . . so you would say I love my neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, belly, back, bottom, thighs, knees, calves, shins, ankles and feet. Just try touching each part of your body as you say it (again, gently, respectfully).  I still do this every morning in the shower.

In my classes, there were many widely varied reactions. Some people cried. Some people couldn’t say the words out loud – they got choked up. You can say this silently too, but saying this out loud is very powerful.  Some people said they hated their belly or they couldn’t stand to touch certain parts of their bodies. Some people had no issues at all, or  didn’t feel anything. And some lingered over each part lovingly, curiously, wondering if what they were saying was true. Resistance came up, as well as acceptance.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel that you love each part of your body as you say that you are loving it. Just say it and notice how you feel, whether you feel resistance or doubt. Just be willing.  You will notice how loving you feel toward your body and your self, or whether it’s difficult to feel loving. Either way, just notice and continue. Over time, if you are willing, you will dissolve your resistance, if that is what is coming up, and you will actually feel kinder and tenderer toward this body that serves you every day. If you feel loving each time you say it, or simply are willing to be more willing to be more loving each time we say it, we automatically access that Love that is infinite and limitless. Our willingness opens the portal to feeling the Love is that we are, the Love that flows through us and lifts us up . . . if only we allow it, if only we say Yes! And let Love do the rest. It will seep into our lives at every level, for our bodies and our entire journey, wherever that takes us.

The idea isn’t to feel that our bodies (or lives) are perfect. The idea is to notice how we actually feel about our bodies (and our lives); and begin the process of accepting ourselves, just as we are this moment. Love the one we are with, today. Embrace ourselves exactly as we are right now.  Working with the body is a profound way to learn to love ourselves. As we are willing to love our physical vessel, we find that what loves is the Love we already are. We love what is visible, the without, and it helps us love our true self, the within. Since our true self is already Love, we can suddenly fall in love with ourselves. We can remember we were Love all along.

The reason we do an exercise like this every day (and it just takes a minute) is because we grow and heal in baby steps. We notice and are willing to let go of our resistance, which allows us to grow in love, bit by bit. This is what our lifetime is for. We build layers of love, a little at a time. Gossamer wing by gossamer wing. When our loving feeling reaches 51%, the scales fall from our eyes and we see our radiance, our Love.

I have a pendant that a friend made many years ago. Engraved on it is the saying: May all being come to know itself as Radiance. May you come to know yourself as Radiance, as Love. I will remember for you until you do.