How easy is it to be gentle?
What does gentleness mean?
I actually like some of what was written on Wikipedia:
Gentleness is the value and quality of one's character. Being gentle has a long history in many, but not all cultures. Gentleness is considered to play a very important role in life.
The quality of gentleness is colloquially understood to be that of kindness, consideration and amiability.
Gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch. It is a tender, compassionate approach toward others' weaknesses and limitations. A gentle person still speaks truth, sometimes even painful truth, but in doing so guards his tone so the truth can be well received. "When my daughter was young, she used to love to squeeze my hand as hard as she could, trying to make it hurt. She could squeeze with all her might, but it never hurt. She didn't need to be gentle because she lacked the power to cause me any pain. Then, just for fun, I'd give her hand a tight little squeeze until she yelped. It's the strong hand, not the weak one, that must learn to be gentle."
The phrase I was originally going to use for lettering today was a little more specific: "Gentleness to oneself is key." Teachings that I listen to regularly, many of them Buddhist in nature, emphasize the importance of gentleness toward oneself. It all has to start there. We can't be at peace, present in the moment, compassionate, or truly loving beings if we don't practice love and gentleness toward ourselves. It takes a great deal of practice to cultivate kindness, love, compassion, and gentleness toward ourselves. Psychotherapy also typically focuses on self love and kindness. We need to learn to think about and treat ourselves the same way we do the people we love most dearly. Meditation practice is one place we can practice cultivating gentleness toward ourselves, but you don't have to meditate to do this!
This has been a nice reminder to me to be more gentle with myself, my thoughts, my habits, my feelings...everything. It helps my inner peace as well as my ability to help others.
I came across a short article, written by Kipp Efinger and posted on a website called THE INTERDEPENDENCE PROJECT that nicely illustrates this point.
Gentleness Toward Myself
That's when I heard the voice: "You're such a fucking idiot."
"Wait, what?! Where the hell did that come from?" I thought. I was in shock. This voice was familiar, but I had never noticed it before.
There was a narrator inside my head. We all spin stories; I knew that. What I didn't realize was that the narrator in my head wasn't very nice. But of course the narrator was me. How could I talk to myself like that? This had obviously been going on for many years, under the radar.
That moment changed me for good. I had realized something my meditation teachers were telling me over and over again: be gentle toward yourself.
Gentleness towards oneself is a foundational practice. There are a multitude of reasons why. For example, we can't effectively be compassionate toward others while we are beating ourselves up.
Gentleness also gives us the ability to see reality more clearly. A person who is gentle towards him/herself doesn't have to put as much energy into protecting the ego. So when the truth appears, it is less threatening. We can hang out with the truth and get to know it, rather than defending against it.
It's amazing when I make realizations like this. Little by little meditators untie the knots in our lives, we drop our hangups as the truth becomes clear.
Of course, these kinds of realizations tend to come more quickly when you are a beginner. Maybe the trick is to always come at meditation with the mind of a beginner.
Thanks for reading. Here's my daily phrase.