Kindness is critical
What do we do when it appears we’ve lost our way?
This past weekend, in a conscious effort to slow down, Mi Amor and I attended a silent work meditation retreat. The retreat took place at Southern Dharma, a lovely retreat center about an hour north of us here in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina. The weekend was a combination of sitting and working meditation to prepare for the upcoming retreat season. There were about 20 of us who were split into various task teams, and I was assigned to the outdoor landscaping crew.
Even though we had specific tasks to do, the priority was placed on maintaining our meditative focus over getting the job done. We were encouraged to slow down, to be with our breath, to notice what we were doing, and to enjoy the work. And believe you me, this was much easier said than done. (even when I had just sent out an email practice all about how to do this!)
Within 5 minutes, yes, 5 minutes, of raking leaves I had already mapped out in my head the entire area that I would tackle in the first 3-hour work session. Once I had the plan in place, I started to attach myself to the outcome of accomplishing what I had set out to do, quickly forgetting the meditative focus.
About 20 minutes in I felt a sharp sensation in my left hand. I stopped, wiped the sweat that at this point covered my forehead and the back of my neck, and removed my working gloves. In between my pointer finger and thumb was a huge blister that in this short time managed to not only form but had also popped, leaving behind a large flap of skin.
In the absence of noticing my breath and staying present for what I was doing, I had become so focused on completing the task before me, that I was death gripping the rake, literally causing myself harm. Now in that moment of awareness, I had a choice. I could do what I tend to do, beat myself up for losing my way….
“Ugggghhhh…I’ve only been out here for half an hour and I’ve already failed. Ugggghhhh…I’m a professional for goodness sake, and I can’t even get it right. Ugggghhhh…all this practice and for what? I should just quit right now. What’s the point? I suck.”
OR….in this moment, I could choose to offer myself kindness. I could let go of the story in my head about not being good enough or being a failure, and I could simply come back to noticing my breath in the body, feeling the sensation of the sun touching my skin, seeing the red buds against the blue sky and the yellow daffodils emerge from the green grass, hearing the sound of the birds singing their songs….
I could return to right now. I could remember that I am a human being and that being human isn’t about being right or wrong.
That the so-called success of the meditation practice is in making the choice to come back over and over and over again, no matter how many times we stray. And that the critical element for ensuring that we are able to start anew without losing hope or getting lost in our story is kindness.
As we approach the vernal equinox on Sunday, it’s a great time of year to come back to our center, without judgment of if and how we might have strayed. To remember our True Nature is already whole and complete. To realize that our worth isn’t tied to what we “get done.” That in any given moment, even when it may not feel like it, we are more than enough.
This week, the invitation is to practice coming back to your breath…. the sensations in the body…the sounds around you…the beauty you see as Nature wakes up from her winter slumber… to choose to come back to the experience of right now, with kindness.
Now sometimes we need outside support in helping us remember our innate ability to begin again. Mother Nature continues to be one of my most helpful teachers. Spring offers us the reminder that new growth is possible. Sometimes support comes in the form of a trusted friend who reminds us to be gentle and kind to ourselves when we are stuck in a pattern of despair or when our inner bully is on the pounce. And sometimes we just need some guidance as we practice.
Lately, I’ve found it quite challenging to exercise my kindness muscle, and therefore I’ve included a loving kindness meditation practice that has served me well in hopes that it may support you, too.
As always, if you have questions or comments, or are in need of a friend, I love hearing from you. And if you feel called to invite another to join this online practice community, please do.
May we all be happy, may we all be healthy, and may we all love and accept ourselves just as we are…
Wishing you all a supportive Spring Equinox, full of kindness and reflection.