"Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves." Pema Chodron
If, as I believe it is, the path to world peace asks first that we each make peace within, surely self-gentleness is a key marker on our personal path. It certainly is for me. Born with a critical eye, I can almost always see that things need to be different. Sometimes that manifests as criticism of others.
But often on my personal learning journey it showed up as harsh self-criticism, making myself wrong, beating myself up. I thought that was a good thing. ‘Hey God, look I notice my shortcomings and ‘own’ them.’ Surely I’d get some credit for admitting that I am less than perfect. I’m sure God noticed, but whatever ‘credit’ I was given, I’d like to trade in for gentleness chits.
Today my acts of self-aggression are more subtle. They tend to sneak in when I least expect it. For example, I notice while working on a project which gives me pleasure, that I question whether my time would be better spent focusing on marketing or doing something to generate income. Then, I may let this little voice of monkey mind take over and move me to worry that, if I don’t focus on marketing, I won’t be able to pay the bills and I’ll be embarrassed that I made the ‘wrong’ choice. Not so gentle or goodhearted am I?
So, how do I transform guilt ridden ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ thoughts? How do I nurture the art of self-gentleness? There are three keys:
Be aware and willing to acknowledge my acts of self-aggression without judgment.
Forgive myself and those outside influences that may be ingredients in my worry.
Ask what my heart chooses. Honor the choice.
This week my heart has been playfully suggesting that I pause on daily walks to ‘listen’ to the rocks. They’ve inspiring me to stack them. I’m finding it a wonderful way to practice gentleness in nature, and just discovered more about the art of rock balancing.
As we practice gentleness and goodheartedness toward self, what might be possible if we extend that to all others? A more peace-filled world? Worry, fear, control, giving way to love, happiness, and the individual self-expression that we are each meant to express?
Experiment for the Week: Notice where you are less than gentle with yourself. Breath in a breath of gratitude for the awareness. Speak the words ‘I forgive me for this act of aggression.’ Take two deep breaths allowing the sense of forgiveness to penetrate your being. Ask ‘what does my heart choose now?’ Honor that choice. Practice, or as a wise sage once said wash, rinse, repeat.