updated pic of heart blooms, may 2013, in CT

Every Monday features a tip, activity, inspiring quote or some other tidbit that helps boost your body image, whether directly or indirectly — and hopefully kick-starts the week on a positive note!

Got a tip for improving body image? Email me at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com, and I’ll be happy to feature it. I’d love to hear from you!

In her book The Need to Please: Mindfulness Skills to Gain Freedom from People Pleasing & Approval Seeking, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher Micki Fine, MEd, LPC, explains that each of us is made of love.

And as we water the seeds of love within us, we can learn to accept ourselves precisely as we are. When you have a negative body image, this can be incredibly hard to do.

That’s when having a daily practice is important. We can start creating new ways of thinking and feeling about our bodies and ourselves.

A daily practice that can be really helpful is a loving-kindness meditation.

In her book Micki quotes the words of renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg: Loving-kindness is the “ability to embrace all parts of ourselves, as well as all parts of the world.”

Micki features the below beautiful loving-kindness meditation. She suggests setting aside 20 minutes.

Accessing feelings of love before you start can help, according to Micki. For instance, you can touch your pet, listen to music, read poetry or remember a specific time when you felt truly loved.

Whatever feelings arise during the meditation, treat yourself with kindness and love. Acknowledge those thoughts and feelings. As Micki writes, “thoughts and feelings of unworthiness, anger or hatred may emerge.” It’s not uncommon.

It also can help to imagine that you’re speaking to your younger self. Or first offer loving-kindness to a loved one, and then “come back to wishing yourself well.”

“Call to mind a being, human or otherwise, who makes you smile and whom you love a lot. If you can’t think of such a being, you can imagine someone you don’t know but who embodies love, perhaps Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or Martin Luther King Jr. Imagine that you are in the presence of this being now. Allow yourself to feel this being’s presence. Notice what happens in the body, perhaps feelings of lightness or gladdening of the heart. See this particular being through the eyes of love. Sit for a few moments, relishing this imagined presence.

Now turn your eyes of love toward yourself. Notice your experience as you do so, remembering that nothing special needs to happen. Simply notice whatever happens inside you. You are watering seeds of love toward yourself, not trying to force them to grow and blossom right away.

Quietly repeat the following blessings to yourself for about fifteen minutes or for whatever time you have. Experiment with allowing gentleness and kindness to inform the way in which you speak to yourself as you say these phrases:

May I be free from fear and suffering.

May I have physical well-being.

May I have mental well-being.

May I be happy and truly free.”