Inwardly, in our heart of hearts, whether dressed in costume or fully naked, let love have a peek. Being seen, being real, can be a huge relief.

I’m still learning how to look inside myself with a more open heart, and still there are some days when it’s harder than others. Usually I’ll thrash around for a while before I relax into some form of acceptance. I have learned that it helps to observe myself with a very, very light touch. When my demand for self-improvement is imposed too quickly or too harshly, it’s not safe enough to be of any good. I’m so anxious to correct my thoughts and feelings that I won’t let in what may be healing to my deepest wounds. I’m still hiding. An open- hearted gaze is not so much about correcting thoughts and feelings. An open-hearted gaze is self-awareness with the intention to let love in to what most bothers me about myself. This self-awareness has its own healing power.

In this self-awareness, I take note of when I squirm and when I preen, not to change myself, but to know myself. I am also trying to get more spiritual air through this awareness. Trying to manipulate how other people see or think of us can get suffocating. Trying to manipulate ourselves can be even more suffocating.

In those times when I manage to postpone the urge to praise or condemn myself, I can hear more, see more and understand more about life and myself. There may be grief, satisfaction, discomfort or comfort in this viewing, but I am allowing myself the benevolence of being real.

There is a secret and wonderful gift in this realness. Tender and shaky, I am less controlling of how I have to be loved. I am giving myself a chance to be loved—as I am. Though being honest with ourselves may at times be exquisitely uncomfortable, in these moments of self-awareness we have a chance to surrender the barriers between ourselves and the mysteries of love and grace.