Be Excessively Gentle with Yourself

Columbine leaf with morning rain

A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted by John O’Donahue

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

I saw a familiar quality in Mr. O’Donahue’s poem: moving from darkness to light. A shift that happens somewhere along the way. So often when I feel inspired to write, it’s a journey of growth, moving from a place of challenge to a place of release, a place of confusion to clarity, a place of discontent to contentment, a place of resistance to openness. Can you see where the movement begins? Ah, slow, free, calm, gentle, ease, joy…yes.

The Wind Moves Through It

From Hotel Levante, Pelekas, Corfu

The Wind Moves Through It

The wind moves through it

a soft heart song, the gentle rustle.

The light shines upon it,

a glittering mosaic, the fluttering movement.

Grace blesses the tree

as she stands rooted and strong –

and open and vulnerable

to the touch of her friends.

This poem came to me as I read Mark Nepo’s inspirational reading, the Ocean of Spirit, with this inspiring quote:

“Everywhere we are given examples of how the life giving elements move through us and bring us to life…Consider how the tree has no control over the movement of the wind…like the tree, we as human beings have no control over the movement of grace.” ~Mark Nepo

This lovely meditation by Mark Nepo accompanies the reading:

  • Watch the wind move through a familiar tree.
  • Watch until the wind has left, and notice how even when still the branches sway slightly.
  • Notice how even what seems like a still air is just a subtle wind.
  • Meditate on how similar the life of spirit is as it moves through us.
  • Feel the force of life like a subtle wind move through you as you breathe.

a generous spirit

Turkish Boys Istanbul Turkey

I have been reading a chapter or two or three a week of The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World with his holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams, which was given to me earlier this year as a birthday gift by a dear friend. I love what they say on pages 274 and 275 about a generous spirit and generosity, which I’ve excerpt below:

“When we have a generous spirit, we are easy to be with and fun to be with. We radiate happiness, and our very company can bring joy to others. This no doubt goes hand in hand with the ability…to be less self-centered, less self-regarding, and more self-forgetful. Then we are less burdened by our self agenda: We do not have anything to prove. We do not need to be seen in a particular way. We can have less pretension and more openness, more honesty. This naturally brings ease to those around us, too; as we have accepted ourselves, our vulnerabilities, and our humanity, we can accept the humanity of others. We can have compassion for our faults and have compassion for those of others. We can be generous and give out joy to others.”

“In generosity, there is a wider perspective, in which we see our connection to all others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at another time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we do not take ourselves so seriously. There is an acceptance of lie, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what might otherwise have been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is ‘wise-selfish’, a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves.”

 

I want to be a generous spirit, to be what the Archbishop describes as “becoming an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that ripples out to all of those around us.”. And, I want to contribute to creating a more generous world. Where I am now, I see opportunity for growth in expanding my self-compassion and enhancing my ability to laugh at myself.

 

* I took this photo in Istanbul Turkey in 2010. I picked a photo from this lovely country because in my experience there, I felt a the people’s generosity of spirit, kindness and hospitality very strongly. I especially liked photo because it captures the simple joy that kids spread.