Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The path of unconditional kindness

Unconditional kindness is not a goal or an achievement, for which we are to shame and blame ourselves for ‘failing’ at (which we inevitably will), but is an intention, an aspiration, and a commitment to meeting whatever arises in our present here-and-now experience with tenderness, warmth, and gentleness. 

We can actually train ourselves to open our hearts and soften into our sadness, our grief, our rage, our fears, and our anxieties, cutting into millions of moments of meeting ourselves with fundamental aggression – as we likely experienced as young children in our families of origin. 

While the specific ways we practice aggression to our experience are many, they generally fall into two camps, corresponding to our early attachment histories. We come into adulthood specializing in avoiding, denying, stuffing, and repressing our alive vulnerabilities – by engaging in numbing activity or by weaving narratives of blame and victimhood, and how something is wrong with us. Or we learn to urgently and frenetically to seek relief from underlying feeling states through a very anxious engagement with others and the world, desperately hoping someone or something out there can soothe and metabolize our raw emotional world for us. 

We all know what it’s like to engage in behavior designed to get us out of very vulnerable states of being, but we can also discover that the quickest and most reliable way to get relief is to start thinking. In a fraction of a second, we can dissociate from our present, embodied experience and spin the most seductive tale about what has happened, about the very rich lineup of characters, about what someone has ‘done’ to us, about who is to blame, about what it all means, and about how something is wrong with you, with others, or with the world. Before we know it, we have lost contact with the precious reality of our tender, raw, vulnerable bodies and hearts – and have come back into trace, thinking ‘about’ our experience rather than actually ‘having’ it. We think that by spinning out these narratives that we are creating safety for ourselves, but abandoning our embodied experience is never safe. 

If we will slow down, get very curious, and cultivate the desire to know what is true more than *anything,* including generating the fantasies of safety, resolution, and a life of invulnerability, we may start to discover that abandoning ourselves, shaming and blaming ourselves or others, and exiting the aliveness of intense states of vulnerability may be seen as the ultimate act of self-aggression. It is not bad or wrong or evidence of our failure or unlovability, but is simply out of date. It is the best way we learned to care for ourselves as young children – to weave stories in the attempt to make meaning of a life where we can’t fully be ourselves, where we’re not being seen, mirrored, or receiving the sweet love we’re so terribly longing for. 

While it may appear otherwise, you can discover that you are only ever longing for your own presence. Will you reverse the cycle of violence and offer this gift to yourself. Will you stay near? Will you call off the war with yourself and with others and end the unkind activity of self-abandonment in all its forms? 

It is in these moments when we can ignite a revolution of love, and turn back toward that which we’ve spent our entire lives avoiding. We do not need our narratives of interpretation, shame, and blame to protect us any longer from our own hearts. We can take the risk required to love ourselves so deeply that we will do anything to stay, to not abandon ourselves any longer, and to no longer blame others and the world for our flatness, for our feelings of disconnection, and for the vivid and colorful landscape of our unlived lives. 

It is the ultimate act of self-kindness to stay close to your embodied vulnerability, to withdraw the projections of a cruel world and ‘bad other, and to recognize the majesty of what you are. It is a simple path, in many ways, but not an ‘easy’ one. It is the ancient path of love and is what you have come here to do. 

Artist unknown