This post is a sneak peek from my forthcoming book,
Living Gently with Myself. Enjoy!
Permission to Begin Again
I wrote the passage below many years ago while on silent retreat on the California coast. I’d left home and family behind to spend quiet days restoring my soul.
As the sun rises, bringing the dawn of a new day, celebrate and give thanks for the blessing of second chances.
I believe in second chances and our ability (our birthright!) to begin again. I’ve begun again so many times in my life I’ve lost count. I’ve also started over multiple times each day when things were not going as well as I’d hoped. The same can be true for any of us. We can begin again … over and over again.
Beginning again is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. Why? Just imagine the opposite. What happens to you when you succumb to inner pressure to keep going even when your wise self tells you to stop? What happens when you keep pushing ahead even though your body says no? Beginning again allows us to lay down the tasks of the day when we need to. Granted, industriousness in many situations is admirable. In others, it's depleting, even damaging.
There is something in many of us that urges us to just keep going and going and going. This “something” can be sourced in a myriad of things: cultural and workplace expectations, familial habits, or personal agendas that are not rooted in reality. This varies with each of us and only we can know which “voice” we are listening to when we continue to push ourselves beyond reasonable limits.
I know this voice well. It truly is my nemesis voice. “Keep going,” it says. “Press on. You can do it!” It spouts off even when I’m tired or have done enough for the day. Like a chameleon, it might change its colors to whisper, “Just a little longer,” even overriding ache of body or fogginess of mind. I’ve ignored it in all its guises and I’ve finally learned that answering its beckon call is usually the worst thing I can do.
Enter “Permission granted to begin again!” a commanding voice as well, but one that is sourced in good self-awareness and the ability to honor the call of body-mind when enough is enough. When enough is good enough. Now that’s what a kind inner voice would say!
The truth of the matter is we can always begin again. The sun does always rise in the morning. We can depend on that. Will we always be guaranteed that we’ll have another day to welcome it, knowing that our days on earth are numbered? Not always. There is a path of clarity that runs between these two.
You can learn to trust the wiser voices inside your mind—the ones that care deeply for your well-being—and follow their sage advice. “It’s ok to stop. You can pick it up tomorrow. Begin again when you feel rested, clear and ready to go. I give you permission.”
I’ve been on a journey to live more kindly and gently with myself for over two decades. Today, in retrospect, it feels as if living gently is, indeed, my passion and my purpose. It continues to serve as my everyday lesson as well. Gentle living is my teacher, my guide, because, like you, I live in the real world and the world today is a difficult place in which to live, and living in it demands much of us. The world does not go gently …
And as much as the “too muchness” of life might overtake us, we cannot hide from the world as it is, nor shrink from our duties, nor escape to a mountaintop cabin to live in an imagined world of bliss. There is much to do here, families to raise and professions to embrace, including good work that can benefit humanity. The invitation then seems to be, "How do I live in the world, make a contribution, and still take good care of myself so I am calm, happy and healthy in the midst of it all?" That, indeed, is the $1 million question.
I believe the answer lies in learning to live more gently and kindly with ourselves. This sounds like an oxymoron and, depending on your life situation, an impossibility. From experience, I can tell you that it’s not. The “success”, if you will, of being able to live more kindly with yourself is to learn how to listen more deeply to the voice of self-compassion which lives within you, but has likely not been given space nor time to be heard. In the busyness of daily life, it is difficult to hear a voice that wisely whispers ever so subtly, “There is a kinder way.” But it’s there. I know because it took a health crisis 20 years ago, spending weeks in bed not doing much of anything, before I finally heard it.
To hear the sacred invitation to live more kindly with yourself is one thing. To actually listen to and do what the voice of kindness says is another. And to create a lifestyle rooted in self-compassionate awareness so that you can continue to make kind choices for yourself—so you maintain your health and well-being—well, that’s something else altogether!
This is why I can say that living kindly is both an art and a science. There is much to overcome, old stories to unravel, and new skills to learn. I maintain that living gently and kindly with yourself is absolutely possible whether you are the CEO of a corporation or a stay-at-home mother; a college student or a retiree; a “regular” person who is doing the best she can to live and work in harmony with herself and others but, perhaps, struggling along the way ...
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.