Do we need to show kindness to ourselves? When it finally rains in the desert, all the plants soak up the water that’s so rare in coming. Though we can’t see it, the cacti are soaking up and retaining the life-giving water, so it sustains them until the next rain. And, for part of each year, from the cacti emerge surprisingly beautiful and colorful flowers.
Like desert rain, kindness is a stream of life-giving nectar. Kindness, or the Pali word “maitri”, means “being a friend to.”
Do we show kindness to ourselves?
Are we friends with the parts of ourselves we find difficult; or do we judge and reject them?
And what’s the point of befriending our difficult aspects?
The guided meditation “Making Friends with Your Difficult Aspects” (which you can download for free), has a special place in my heart, because in order for it to work, I need to be willing to step out of my negative attitudes toward myself. And, I learn to trust that these difficult aspects are not who I really am.
When we reject or judge something, we give it power over us.
Not only does it not go away by being rejected, there’s a constant subtle fear of our difficult aspect surfacing once again and ruining us.
Instead of banishing those parts that seem so despicable, in this meditation we invite them to be present, and offer them understanding and kindness.
Giving power to kindness
Now, we are in control, because we are giving power to kindness. Kindness is our willingness to see and accept the parts of us who are suffering. Kindness is an orientation of the heart and mind, like that of an animal trainer faced with a snarling dog. The trainer knows that the fear and aggression behind the dog’s behavior are just one aspect, they are learned adaptive patterns, but not the real nature of the dog.
Kindness is another word for love. Not love that is romantic or sentimental; not conditional love. Kindness is acceptance, rather than judging. Kindness is seeing and caring about those parts of us who are hurting or defensive, fearful, or ashamed. Kindness includes compassion, because, like the dog trainer, we know the situation is workable, and that change is possible. With compassion, we are touched by the suffering that’s within, and are moved to do what we can to heal, or to ease our pain.
Easing our painful patterns doesn’t happen overnight. When we befriend another person, the process is a gradual one, as we sense that it’s safe to share more, and trust that our vulnerability is being met with presence and kindness.
But the first step: the decision to befriend ourselves – every part of ourselves – is ours to make right now. Each time we enter this healing attitude of kindness, it’s like offering ourselves life-giving rain. Something within our heart can ease, and blossom, when we decide to give ourselves kindness.
Text © 2014-2018 Christine Longaker. All rights reserved.
Photo © istock.com.
“Kindness is another word for love. Not love that is romantic or sentimental; not conditional love. Kindness is acceptance, rather than judging.”
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