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Spirituality Essay:

Mumford    ( April 2009 )

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In the March 1 service, "Loving Yourself," we looked at the second UU Quality of a Spiritual Life: growing in our ability to give and receive love to others and ourselves.

Some of the ways we show love for ourselves include: recognizing and valuing our positive qualities, forgiving ourselves of past mistakes and shortcomings, nurturing ourselves ... and respecting and accepting ourselves.

The last one is often a little tricky: the parts of ourselves we don't like often seem to shout more loudly in our minds than the parts of ourselves we're proud of. I've shared before the amazing study in which people were asked to list their positive and negative qualities - and the average person coming up with three times more negative qualities than positive ones!

In the feel-good sleeper movie, "Mumford," the protagonist, a psychologist named Mumford, comes to a small town and sets up a practice. He remarkably has his patients in and out - and "cured." The town's other two psychologists, mystified and losing clientele, invite him to lunch to learn why he's so successful.to which he answers that he just helps people face themselves - and accept themselves "as they are."

We complex humans.so shaped by life's pushings and bendings. No one escapes the ensuing dysfunctions and shortfalls, or the little foibles and idiosyncrasies that follow. How unfortunate, though, when we let them pull us into self-doubt, shame, and worse with all our self-judging.so much of our attention and energy getting directed into what's wrong, what to work on, what to fix, how to "get there ...

It's good, of course, to want and work on our betterment and growth; we're hardwired for that in fact. But can you imagine the difference a little "well, that's just me" would create with some of those minor glitches? ... what softening and lifting of the spirit might occur, were that personality flaw instead a personality trait?

The worrier worries about his worrying (along with his regular worries) - the fearful one becomes afraid of his fears - the procrastinator procrastinates dealing with his procrastination ... each little dysfunction works to create a larger eddy of itself, energized by the shame and blame we add to it.

But if we can defuse some of it ... if we can move the needle a little from "problem to be fixed" to "no problem - it's just `who I am,' " enough of the pressure and negative energy around it might leave for the problem to lighten of itself.

Ahh.the power of self-acceptance - our ability to deeply love ourselves as the human beings, warts and all, that we are - is so incredibly life-giving. As Mumford realized, we thrive in the warmth of acceptance ... we rise to the occasion; our unconscious is free to take us to our best selves.

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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Read more about the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast.

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