What's your definition of kindness?
I want to make a point that may at first seem like a downer, but it's for good reason, so bear with me.
When a close friend's well-known husband was dying, he told his wife that the most important thing in life is kindness. That statement has stayed with me ever since she shared it with me.
Now, I can imagine we'd all appreciate kindness being shown to us when we come to the end of our lives, raw and vulnerable and wide open as we would most likely be.
But what about how we treat ourselves? Are we showing the same kind of kindness to ourselves that we imagine we would show to others?
Have you (as I have) found it to be true that it's often easier to be kind to others, but not to ourselves?
How much kindness do you show yourself? Generosity, support, consideration - how often do we know when to show that to ourselves when we're caught up in a bad mood or thoughts that are mean, scary or worrisome?
When our thoughts and feelings carry us away, we often feel like victims, pushing our noses even deeper into them in order to somehow get through to the other side. But that never works out well. We stay mired in the constriction of it unnecessarily.
When we're angry with a person or a situation, we rarely take the time to support or be kind to ourselves while we're stewing in our own juices, so to speak. We might have enough presence of mind not to directly lash out, but internally the dialogue inside our heads can stay on a continuous feedback loop.
I'm sure you've been there, too. So what would it look like to be kind to ourselves?
It hurts to dwell on painful thoughts or feelings. What we don't often remember is that we don't have to dwell on them.
One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to remember that thoughts and feelings are not what we assume they are. They appear and disappear unless we have an issue with them. But in and of themselves, they don't have to make us lose our focus on what it is we really want to be paying attention to.
I'll admit that sometimes it takes more time than I'd like to regain my focus and get back to that deeper place within me, beneath the surface of those roiling waters.
But I do get there. I can notice that I'm feeling like a victim, believing I can't get away from all that unpleasantness; sometimes there's even a fascination with where they will take me. But there's a cost for allowing myself to be fascinated by them.
Our insecurities can easily keep us distracted and so far from being at our best, but most of that distraction is both from habit and a misunderstanding of how to handle our feelings and thoughts when they're painful - hurting us more than others.
If we could see that the thoughts and feelings that pass through us are really only forms that have the potential to become solid when we breathe life into them, we wouldn't seem them as bad or wrong. Just things we don't ned to focus on. and We can let them continue on their journey.
We have a deeper nature that has much more wisdom and grace and when we let ourselves drop into it, will reveal the shadows to be what they are so they become powerless to affect us.
And whether the thoughts and feelings stick around for a while or fade away quickly, , we will still be fine. Judgment, blame, fear, worry, anger - who we are is so much deeper and stronger and resilient.
And that deeper nature is free from all of it. Letting ourselves remember that can free us to get on with our lives.
Once we begin to let ourselves touch that deeper nature, we automatically become kinder to ourselves, and kinder to ourselves because we know what they're going through.
Sometimes we forget that we're all in this together. But if you look closely, you'll see that we all suffer for the same basic reasons.
But we can also find freedom for the same reasons as well.
And what a kindness that is.