I have a link on this blog to Grow Yoga, the blog by my dear friend and colleague Rachel. Her topic today is Kindness, and its powerful teaching challenged me to think about the ways I am and am not kind to myself.
I am hard on myself. I hold myself to incredibly high expectations. I am learning to be more flexible, fair and forgiving of myself. This is not something I expect to attain and then stop there; it is an ongoing practice. How do I extend to myself the same loving patience and receptive generosity that I give to others?
It would have been easier and a bit less brave to have written the last paragraph in the universal voice of We. Being more transparent, being seen, opens us up a bit more to what I would call chesed, and what the Buddhists call metta, which translates as lovingkindness.
For those of you who are grammar nudniks like me, you may be wondering why LOVINGKINDNESS is not written as a phrase or hypenated word; these two qualities are actually fundamentally connected, particularly as they are defined by spiritual traditions and teachers. Sharon Salzberg describes metta as follows:
"…a commitment to our own happiness, seeing our happiness as the basis for intimacy with all of life. It fills us with joy and love for ourselves and a great deal of self-respect. Significantly, when we do metta practice, we begin by directing metta toward ourselves. This is the essential foundation for being able to offer genuine love to others."
–excerpt from Loving-kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
I do believe that we all have within us the innate capacity for lovingkindness. Sometimes difficult or traumatic life circumstances interfere with our ability to express lovingkindness freely (toward ourselves or others), but I have faith that it's there. And we have infinite opportunities to nurture it, fertilize it, share it with others. Our collective survival depends on it.
History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solution of the problems of the world.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am blessed beyond compare
And I am loved by love so rare.
I am home.
I have known
–excerpt from "I am Home," lyrics by Shirav