– why you chose this topic
– how your belly, chest, and head each feel when you reflect on this topic
– the emotions that you can associate with these visceral feelings
– the positive or negative impact of any stories you believe in regarding this topic
– the consoling/humbling/inspiring fact that many others are feeling similarly about this topic as you
– how you will feel with increased awareness around this topic
– when you can apply increased mindfulness to this topic in your day-to-day life
One of the most striking characteristics of our contemporary society is a complete disconnection from our inner sense of tenderness. For some reason, we’ve collectively grown up to dismiss our natural, basic attitude of kindness and compassion and to devalue it in our way of existing in the world.
Although our human nature is, and will forever be, an inseparable mix or “good” and “evil”, this core of tenderness is in all of us. However, because it comes with a deep sense of vulnerability, we’ve learnt protect ourselves from it by armoring up against each other and, what’s worse, against ourselves.
The paradox, of course, is that true strength comes from embracing vulnerability, not pushing it away: by experiencing it, we find that there’s something in us that can never be hurt. Conversely, the more we escape this sense of tenderness, the more we are vulnerable to our thoughts and circumstances, as we do not have any direct, experiential knowing of this invulnerable part of ourselves.
Spiritual teacher Neelam explains it beautifully when she says:
“Tenderness is not something that is acquired. It is the natural movement that arises in the openness of presence. … It is not something we practice. It is not something that we have to become. It is not something we have to do as a good spiritual being. That would be a real misunderstanding. The tenderness I am talking about is very different than the ego-based tenderness which is “niceness” or “softness”. That niceness or softness is really on the surface. It has a limit. You can only be nice and soft up to a certain point. Until something or somebody or a circumstance touches a boundary that is within you… And then you are not soft or nice anymore. I’m talking about a real quality that is available in your own being. It’s not about “softness”, it’s about being real. And tender is how it is in the heart of everything.”
Writing is a wonderful way to reconnect with our innate sense tenderness, to relearn how to open our heart in a safe space.
The Writing for Self-Compassion exercise below is adapted from Kristen Neff’s self-compassion exercise called Exploring Self-Compassion Through Writing. It will walk you through a few very simple steps that will help you face yourself with kindness.
This doesn’t mean getting rid of our conditioning. We simply see what’s happening within us and, whatever it is, we meet it with compassion. All we need to do is learn to reconnect with that part of ourselves that has everybody’s best interest a heart (including our own), and no other agenda. We learn to feel and express the love, compassion, and acceptance that are already within us, rather than covering them up.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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