Yesterday I received a sweet tribute card from a friend, thanking me for being in her life. I read it until I knew it by heart, and then put it into a cardboard shoebox with other notes of appreciation I’ve received over the years. Collecting these fan letters started years ago when I was trying to convince myself I was not the hateful bitch one woman had loudly proclaimed I was!

I figured that maybe one day after I was gone someone would find these loving tributes in my house and read them to her! That would show her!

Obviously, the problem was hers more than mine, but it hurt terribly all the same.

It astonishes me that there have been so many people over the years who’ve written these love notes to me, and how much I still continue to need to hear that I am loved. I mean, I thought I was above all that!

But really, we all need to keep hearing it, otherwise how are we to remember to admire ourselves? Every one of us: every child, parent, celebrity; every drug addict, bully, businessman; every artist, speculator, lawyer… needs to be reassured that we are acceptable in other people’s eyes. Otherwise we tend to forget it on a daily basis. At least, I do. You’d think self-love would come naturally, but in our culture most of us suffer from just the opposite, as our parents did before us.

At our worst, we even consider it a virtue to pretend to be invisible.

My own parents were so fearful they punished us for brilliance. My mother confessed, in her old age, that she tried to ‘break the spirit’ of my little sister - the brightest light of us all - lest she attract too much attention onto herself.

And to me, an iconoclast by the age of 7, both parents continually warned, ‘Whatever you do, don’t be yourself.’ They laughed when they said it, but repeated it often enough that I knew they meant it.

In any case, I’ve spent much of my adult life – as did my sister - trying to scour out all those reams of ancient self-hate that got laid down early. No doubt it goes back into the collective generations, when women assumed that abuse was normal and men proved themselves by killing something.

I confess I was one of those who took as a given that I only deserved breakfast if I did a good deed first; and worried that by breathing, I might be using up someone else’s air!

What I’m saying is that I know this problem personally, from the ground up.

I also witness it daily in the work I do, teaching dance as a healing modality to young adults. People reach out to me suffering from every kind of pain, and my way of helping is to get them into movement.

It seems not to matter if their complaint is physical or mental or emotional, dancing gets to the core of the problem pretty quickly, and more often than not the problem is some form of self-doubt, some variation on the theme of feeling unlovable. I hear that awful cry, “I hate myself!” more than you might imagine, and it breaks my heart every time. I recognize it only too well.

So I encourage release by strong dancing that evokes feelings of anger, tears of grief. Then I reach for the story behind the feelings, praying they will trust me enough to talk about it – both because I’m interested and because it facilitates a release of all that bottled-up emotion.

One of the amazing bonuses of this whole process is the artistic quality of the dance that emerges and that I get go watch – movements unselfconscious, freely flowing and expressive - and oh, their luminous eyes as healing grace wells up in their bodies. I bow in wonder, privileged to witness this transformation and the subsequent healings that take place.

The principle is simple: when people move freely they feel beautiful and thus good about themselves, which generates healing energy from the boundless universe we live in. They are in the presence of the Mystery. Naturally.

So what does it take to enter in and feel so beautiful?

I’d suggest you get out of your chair right this minute and dance, but maybe that’s a bit too radical. So consider taking this little survey first, and take stock of what Grace feels like:

1.Are you in a body that mostly works? How unlikely is that, given how many systems have to function together?

2.Despite the number of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune you have slogged through in your life, you are still here, right?

3. If you look up, what can you see? Day sky? Night sky?

4. How delicious was lunch today?

5. What was the last funny thing you laughed at?

6.What (or who) turns you on these days?

7. How much genuine, in-the-body gut feelings do the elections inspire, be they joy or outrage, positive or negative?

Well, thank the Lord for genuine, in-the-body gut feelings, whatever they are!

NOW – get up, push the furniture back, and DANCE! Then look in the mirror and catch your beauty as it whirls by.