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Be Kind to Yourself

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Do you ever feel like there’s something you should be doing, but you just can’t find the energy? Are you like me, and not doing that thing you know you should be doing actually sucks the energy out of you because you beat yourself up for being “lazy”? It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting on the couch watching college football highlights, sipping coffee, and relaxing while wifey is asleep. I’m also just getting around to writing this post for you guy as many of you know, new blog posts come out every Wednesday and Sunday. On a typical week I usually write the blog a few days before hand, however, with Thanksgiving this week I found it difficult to find the time. So, I’m writing it now—on a windy Sunday morning. I hope you forgive me. Speaking of forgiving, that’s what I want to talk to you about today. I want to share an experience with that I had when I went on silent retreat earlier this September. Now, before I begin I must warn you: this story involves me crying. And I’m not just talking a single dramatic tear rolling down my cheek; I’m talking ugly crying. The type of crying that one typically does when no one is around. So, proceed with caution! When you’re on silent retreat there’s really nothing to do but be with yourself (I think that’s is the whole point). During our second or third day, we were taught metta-meditation, or loving-kindness. For those of you that don’t know, metta is simply repeating several phrases that are designed to extend kindness to yourself, someone you love, someone you are indifferent towards (like the cashier at you local grocery store) and someone for which you struggle (like someone at work). metta is the Pali word for friendship and ultimately, cultivates a kind heart towards yourself and others. This was my first time doing metta meditation although I had read about it many times before. Based on what I read, I knew that metta could be powerful and extremely valuable to those who practiced. For some reason, my first session of metta-meditation was difficult. I didn’t feel much. Later, during a group discussion in which it was one of the few times we could speak during the retreat, I mentioned my struggles with metta to one of the teachers. My instructor told me that sometimes if you find metta challenging, you can place your hand over your heart and that might increase the connection between you and the practice. So, determined to try again, we set off for another 40 minute sitting of metta. This time I put my hand over my heart, and I could definitely feel a difference. There was a different energy with this round and I could start to feel the phrases that I repeated over and over—“May you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be at peace, may you be free from suffering.” But something was still missing. I still didn’t feel like I was connected to those people I was sending loving kindness to, and even more so, myself. After the session ended we went straight into a 45 minute walking meditation session because what else do you do when you’re on a silent meditation retreat, right? I found myself on a beautiful walking trail atop a hill that overlooked the meditation hall. I began to pace back and forth for roughly 20 yards—over and over. Each time, at the end of my 20-yard loop I paused, place my hand over my heart and repeating the loving kindness phrases to myself. As I extended each phrase of kindness to myself I started to feel more and more warmth flowing through my body. I could actually feel what I was saying. And then, it happened... I lost it! Before I knew it I was crying uncontrollably. To be honest, I don’t really remember what sparked the tears, but damn once they started they weren’t stopping. I remember repeating the phrases and giving my heart slight squeezes and suddenly it was as if my emotions burst through me. I think for the first time in my life I realized how big of an ass I’ve been to myself. How little love I really did give to myself. How hard I’ve been on myself. How much pain and suffering I’ve created for myself. It was like for the first time in my 29 years I could actually see the thinker--and the truth was, I didn’t really like him. I remember thinking to myself, “If my thoughts were a person, I would never want to be his friend.” Because truth be told, my thoughts, to that point in my life, where by no means a friend. As I continued to cry uncontrollably it was clear to me that people could probably hear me. In fact, there is no doubt they could hear me because when you ugly cry like that at a silent retreat, it’s literally the only noise people been can hear for hundreds of yards. But you know what? I didn’t care! I was being kind to myself, and I didn’t care what others thought. I was holding myself with compassion and to me that was a much better alternative than worrying about what others thought of me. This idea, this realization—that I have a choice to be either kind or hard on myself— was a massive breakthrough in my life. As a Type-A classic overachiever, I’ve always been my own worst critic. I have accomplished many great things in my life but I never give myself credit. In my head, my achievements are just another thing to check off life’s list of things to do. On the contrary, when I mess up in life as I inevitably do as a human, the story is completely different. I spend weeks kicking myself for my failures. I bully myself and tell myself that I’m not good enough. So there I was, crying like a baby on top of a hill in beautiful Marin, California. There was nothing but the sound of birds chirping and me sobbing. But it was beautiful. It was cathartic and rejuvenating at the same time. This experience alone was worth the entire trip. The lesson that I learned by crying my way through it has been a complete game changer. I can now see the thinker when it tries to push me around and am now able to simply choose kinder thoughts. It’s like they say when you fly, if you’re ever in a situation where oxygen masks are deployed you must first put on your mask before you can help the people around you. For me I suppose, the practice of metta is the same thing. I need to show myself loving kindness before I can truly show it to others to my fullest capacity. Thank you as always for reading. Let us know if you can relate to my experience with loving kindnesses meditation or if you would like to share an experience you’ve had showing kindness to yourself. What does that look like for you? What hurdles have you had to overcome in order to show yourself the love you deserve? And again, I hope you forgive my slight tardiness because if were being honest here, I’ve already forgiven myself. And isn’t that the whole point??? Until next time, many many blessings.

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