What do you do when your wisdom eludes you? When you feel overcome with emotion or ill equipped to handle life as it is? According to Buddhist teacher and author, Thich Nhat Hanh, our safest course of action is "indirect embracing."
Most of us have a difficult time embracing all of our emotions, especially the volatile ones. It is a genuine spiritual practice to embrace anger, greed, jealousy, and the like. But we can, with the help of our breath and an attitude of loving-kindness.
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that you recognize the emotion by simply saying hello to it, offering it a slight smile, just like you would someone you're not fond of, but don't want to be impolite to. Allow this hello and an inner smile help you rest into your breath with gentleness. Relief can be yours.
©2023, Janice L. Lundy
How can you be with yourself in a more kindly way?
Would it be to quiet yourself and rest? To let go of a pressing deadline? To re-engage a spiritual practice you've been too busy to enjoy? Choose one. Do one.
Do a good deed today by being good to you.
Many years ago I did a kind thing for myself. I stopped trying to create balance in my life. Instead I made a kinder choice: create inner harmony.
Balance, by its very nature, is impossible to achieve. Nothing is ever balanced (I'm thinking of the see-saw [teeter-totter) of my childhood here ...). It's either up or down. Too much or too little. Trying to achieve balance for me was a self-defeating choice because no one can ever get anything "just right." I experienced trying to get my life in balance as pressure, resulting in failure (of course!)—a misguided attempt at perfection.
But harmony, oh, that had a lovely, gentle ring to it. It reminded me of musical notes coming together in a pleasing way. More like rhythm. A delightful blending of elements that just flowed. Now this I could get behind. I decided to pitch balance and opt for harmony instead.
Instead of striving for and struggling with balance, how can we shift our efforts to focus instead on creating inner harmony? Here's an idea, a simple starting point.
You can begin to create greater harmony in your life by paying close attention to what your body is trying to tell you in any given situation, honoring that revelation, then making choices that foster your well-being.
You can do this by literally listening to your body through the vehicle of your senses. Pay mindful attention to what you are seeing and hearing. Note your body's response. Ask yourself, 'Is this experience creating feelings of peace and well-being in me, or is it causing me stress, worry, pressure or fear?'
When we listen mindfully, we can make healthy, new choices for ourselves—choices rooted in loving-kindness.
And new choices are easy to make and implement when they are sourced in self-kindness.
©2024, Janice L. Lundy
As often as the “too muchness” of life might sometimes 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?" This, indeed, is the $1 million question.
I believe the answer to this question lies in learning to live more gently and kindly with ourselves. This sounds like an oxymoron, perhaps even an impossibility considering the way we have been enculturated to live, but I assure you, it’s not. The success, if you will, of being able to live more kindly with yourself, even in the midst of chaos, is to learn how to listen more deeply to your inner voice of self-compassion, one that may not have 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 gentler way.” I know because it’s taken one mishap, one health crisis after another, for me to hear it. To hear the sacred call to live more gently with yourself is one thing. To actually heed it and do what the voice of kindness says is another. To create a lifestyle rooted in self-compassionate awareness, full of loving choices that enable you to maintain health and well-being.
Excerpted from the Introduction, Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guided Journey by Janice L. Lundy
Gentle and timely reminders for the spiritual journey, because sometimes we forget or need a kind nudge back to Center.
Dr. Janice Lynne Lundy (PsyD, DMin, MPC)
is The Gerald May Professor of Spiritual Direction & Counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She is an interspiritual director/mentor, educator and counselor who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for nearly thirty years.