Sunday, 7 October 2018

A Discipline of Self-Kindness


I used to be very good at discipline. Probably the best I have ever been was back when I judged myself as being a mess. It seems that the more of a mess I was the more disciplined I was. 

For the ten years before I learned how to meditate I did a two hour yoga practice every other night without fail. I did my yoga hungover, between studying for exams, after nights out, watching movies, with friends waiting in the other room, with friends drinking wine beside me chatting...

When I look back I can honestly say that at the root of all this discipline was a pure love and care for myself. I wasn't interested in perfecting my body, I was only interested in sanity. Yoga calmed my mind and made my every tomorrow more bearable. This discipline was fuelled by self care. Yet somewhere along the way I began remembering it as me being a 'mess' and needing to be 'fixed'.

In the early years of my meditation training I meditated for at least five hours every day without fail. I woke up before 5am and sat up in the bed. It was a very cold house so I often slept with a few jumpers on. I refilled my hot water bottle and meditated in the bed until the light came up. I never questioned this and it was never ever a chore. My heart dictated the discipline and I followed it.  

As I healed the childhood trauma from which my pain originated everything got easier and it became clear that my discipline would need to change. This necessitated moving away from the tradition I had learned meditation in, which advocated the boot-camp mentality of 'if you just try hard enough you will sort everything out'. 

I knew deep in my heart that if I kept on using the tools of force that had created the bodymind tensions in the first place (back when I was a child) I would only succeed in creating brand new tensions inside myself. I realised that it was surrender that was now called for and not will.

So my new discipline, still centred on kindness, was asking me to sleep longer and more deeply, to relax and smell the flowers, to sometimes not wash the dishes before bed, to let the dog hair lie a little longer on the floor before hoovering, to play and create... This new soft discipline was just as difficult as the rigid discipline, but it didn't look like hard work from the outside and I mourned the loss of kudos from others I had enjoyed before. 

In a culture that congratulates people for working themselves into the ground, for exerting a personal will over life's ups and downs, softness is seen as weakness and the easy option. But letting go, softening and trusting really isn't easy. It's often excruciating.

Walking into my first jiving class late, with everyone already partnered up. Standing alone on the edges, taller than everyone else, single, clueless about dancing... give me a ten day silent retreat any day over that!

It has taken me years to untangle the rigidity of those early years of healing and relax the belief that there is always something wrong that I need to fix. 

They say that a bit of the poison that has harmed you will heal you. I know that I needed that rigidity  to heal back then, and I would not encourage anyone to be soft when what is needed is to be firm. But what is always needed is to be kind.

What I continue to learn is that softness from a place of fear, and rigidity from a place of dominance are not helpful, but softness from love and firmness from care are both deeply kind. These are the disciplines that propel us very quickly towards experiencing the joy and unshakeability we all want.

I recently began another new dance form and it is just as strange and uncomfortable as the jiving was to begin with, but I continue to go because I know that it is the next loving thing to do. It is the next thing to expand my comfort zone and provide more space around me.

My heart will lead me to the next thing after that, and the next... and I will continue my daily meditation and yoga practice as I have done for years, sometimes missing a session here and there. And that's OK. A discipline of kindness is constantly reminding us that Everything is always OK.

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