“To thine own self be kind.” I mean REALLY TRULY kind. I mean radical kindness, real, radical self-compassion. The kind of kindness that lasts, that soaks into every aspect of your life, the kind you don’t leave behind when you come home after a retreat.
Beyond random acts of kindness. Beyond bubble baths. Beyond massages, spa days, yoga retreats, whatever your budget allows you to do as a form of self-care or even the occasional self-indulgence. Beyond chocolate, binge watching Stranger Things, or drinking too much Pinot Noir after a long, hard day when things seem to be falling apart — again.
Beyond anything that you layer on top of your life and then when it’s over you go home and everything goes back to “normal.”
Real kindness to yourself isn’t easy and it isn’t a quick fix. Not that I don’t love the quick fix as much as the next person. Bubble baths are definitely my favorite thing these days, now that the Pinot Noir is out of the picture and there are only so many massages, spa days, beach days, or mani-pedis I can manage. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Bring it on.
But it’s not the real deal as far as being kind to myself goes.
For me, the real deal has to do with accepting myself exactly as I am. Making friends with myself. Good friends. Best friends.
For me, the real deal has to do with taking the time — making the time — to get to know myself, to find all the messy bits I don’t actually want to look at and certainly don’t want to be friends with… and to be okay with these bits. To be okay with all the bits. The broken bits, the fun bits, the nasty bits, the loving bits, all of them.
For me, the real deal is all about being in touch with my own true heart. With my own goodness and compassion and happiness and sadness and anger and pain, my own deeply broken, soft heart, what is sometimes called the “tender heart of sadness.” Deeply broken not because my life sucks — I love my life and it most definitely does not suck — but because it’s part of my practice to keep opening my heart. And once you open, you open. To everything. To the pain as well as the joy. You don’t get to choose: “Only joy, please. No pain, no suffering. Thank you.” We all have pain. We all have yucky bits.
For me, the real deal is about holding it all without pushing it away or pushing it down. Accepting, embracing, loving all of it gently. And finding the joy at the end of it all, the glowing rainbow curving underneath all the darkness.
So this is all very nice for me (yay me!). But how does all this radical self-compassion help the world? What good does it do the rest of you?
The bottom line is that without kindness to myself, I am grumpy (ask my husband). When I’m grumpy, I don’t do the rest of you much good now, do I? I bark at the cashier at the grocery store because the line is moving slowly, which bugs me because I’m late and I can’t forgive myself for that. The cashier is grumpy because I barked at her, so she’s not as friendly as usual to the next 3 people in line. The third one happens to be feeling unusually unstable today and goes home and kicks the cat. Or yells at the kids. One of the kids goes to school the next day and bites the teacher. All because I was late and couldn’t open my heart enough to accept that part of me.
So, the point of being kind to myself is that once I can begin to be kind to myself, I can begin to understand what it really means to be kind to others in this world.
The world really does need our soft and tender hearts, now more than ever.
Next week: How I do self-compassion.