Image by Jill Wellington courtesy pexels
Reviving a lost art
I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed lately. There has been so much going on in my life and I have felt pulled in so many directions at once. Distracted, and not fully present, I reversed my car into a lamp post and jarred to a stop. I drove carefully home and I finally pressed pause on the chaos. I sat down and for a few moments I tuned into my body and I asked myself what I needed. Never mind what everyone else who I was giving my energy to needed, what did I need? I was surprised when the answer came back as gentle loving kindness. I decided to explore that a little deeper and to really understand what it was I was craving. Closing my eyes, I focused on my breathing, and once I was still, I allowed my senses to explore the words.
Gentleness brought images to mind of soft pastel colours, the sounds of tinkling music, sunlight filtering though trees, a softness like downy feathers, and my shoulders released and relaxed. Loving felt more like bright orange leaves in the autumn, dramatic tango music, blood red roses, feelings of intense heat from a roaring fire, and the pit of my stomach tingled with a frisson of excitement. Kindness was all greens and blues, with music that sounded like the ocean waves, springs of gently bubbling water flowing over rocks, the warmth one feels when snuggled under a duvet cover on a cold winter’s morning, and my body felt still. But when I strung those three words together as ‘gentle loving kindness’ I saw in my mind’s eye an endless comforting blackness with tinges of the softest pink, the music was meditative and peaceful, fields of yellow canola flowers stretched as far as my eyes could see, and my entire body softened and unfurled like the tender green shoots of a tree fern. I felt completely safe and nurtured. Such is the power of words. It’s been a long while since I’ve taken the time to engage with my senses and allow my body to tell me what it needs. I realised I have been so very busy taking care of everything and everyone else, that there wasn’t a drop of gentleness in my own existence, I wasn’t being loving towards my own body, and I was being very far from kind to myself. I had lost the art of living with gentle loving kindness.
How do we lose this art? We became overly busy. We became focussed on the doing part of life and we relinquish the space for simply being. In today’s fast paced world, people are moving at such a rapid rate, constantly chasing the next goal, the next opportunity, growing and reaching, striving, pushing, checking, balancing, following, or leading, judging, or ignoring… and seldom do we stop and simply be in the exact moment we are in with nothing else on our hearts other than to experience the beauty of the moment. Mental health issues are escalating, small children start school already beset by anxiety disorders, depression is rife and tensions are high. We are living out of resonance with our natural state, we have abandoned the principles of gentle loving kindness. It seems trite to say we are human beings and not human doings, but I feel there is definitely something there to be considered.
We push ourselves to the limit and if we find we are tired we drive ourselves even harder. We step over one another to get ahead, and we focus on goals and achievements rather than the journey and the joy. The divorce rate is shamefully high, and we appear to have lost the ability to love ourselves, never mind one another as we compete and divide and separate, needing more to be right than to be together. We have become too busy to show kindness to strangers or more importantly to ourselves. We drive ourselves harder and harder and we compensate when our bodies try to tell us something is wrong. We take medicines to subdue and hide symptoms that should never be ignored and we stop listening to our intuitive self. Under the relentless onslaught of demands we place on ourselves, eventually things begin to go wrong. Stress, injury, illness, and suffering become our reality and when we eventually crash our car into a pole, we cry out in despair, “Why did this happen to me?”
Take an honest look at your life and ask yourself if you are living gently, lovingly, or kindly. Try to think back to if you have ever lived that way, or when last you did live your life by the principles of gentle loving kindness. When last did you truly prioritise your own wellbeing, the wellbeing of your family, friends, neighbours, and perhaps even total strangers. When last did you offer a helping hand to someone in need, or help an elderly lady cross a busy road. When was the last time you considered the environment, your carbon footprint? When last did you stop in your unending busyness to smell the air after a summers rain, or notice the nest filled with chirruping baby birds in the tree outside your home. When last did you notice that there are soft green leaves pushing through the cracks in the road, and thrill at the strength and determination of the plant trying to make its way to the sun. When was the last time you hugged your children, or lay on the grass and looked up at the clouds holding hands with your loved one? Have you ever looked around you at the massive skyscrapers reaching for the sky and marvelled at how, what began as an idea in someone’s mind, was slowly developed and coaxed to reality through the labours of many people. Do you take the time to appreciate architecture and the careful juxtaposition of the different elements with the surrounding buildings and landscapes so that they enhance one another and create beauty in spite of their unnatural existence? Or have you been too busy driving yourself to achieve without taking any time to cultivate a balanced life.
Tune into your senses
How about if tomorrow you wake a little earlier, just five minutes, and instead of reaching for your mobile devices and launching yourself into the onslaught of information, frantically scanning in case you might have missed something in the night, you just lie there with your eyes closed.
- Feel the heavy warmth of the bed covers, the softness of the fabric of your pyjamas.
- Feel the skin on your feet and say hello to your toes.
- If you are lucky enough to have a partner then become aware of the soft rhythm of their breathing, or perhaps smile as they snore and grunt in their sleep.
- Tune into the environment of your room and taste the air with your nose. The residue of yesterday’s perfume on the clothes you discarded at bedtime. The comforting smell of fabric softener on your linen and the accompany joy of knowing you’ve slept in freshly laundered sheets.
- Let your ears tune into the surrounding world, the birds, perhaps the sound of the wind, passing traffic, maybe someone else is stirring in the home.
- Then gently and slowly stretch out your body. Breathing deeply, allowing the ripples of movement to spread from the bottom of your feet, right up through each muscle and limb to the top of your head. Raise your arms slowly above your head and stretch fully and luxuriously.
Release your breath and then softly open your eyelids and allow your vision to swim into focus. Take a moment to notice the room you are in. Pause and remember the moment that photograph on your dresser was taken. Pull the memory to the fore and allow your heart to expand as it recalls the details, the excitement, the joy of the moment that was worthy of photographing. And then swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up. Be amazed at how easily your body functions, or perhaps be grateful that you are still able to get up unaided. Those precious few minutes where you slowly engaged all of your senses, allowing yourself to emerge from the cocoon of sleep gently, lovingly, kindly, sets the tone for the day ahead. You can still live a full and busy life, but if you can mindfully begin to press pause in between moments, just long enough to engage your senses, and fully appreciate the moment by playing with the imagery in your mind, that simple act will begin to bring balance to your life. You will engage the incredible power of gentle loving kindness and your life will flourish as a result.
As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I am always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:
We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another.
So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but please remain respectful of other’s beliefs and journeys.
Treat yourself with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. EMerge from your learned way of being, allowing yourself to celebrate life as you EMbrace your full potential. EMancipate yourself from your limitations, EMpowering yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!
Until next time, be kind to one another and honor yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.
© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed