Soothing One’s Spirit
In a life that rushes, hustles, demands and pushes how can we soothe our ruffled feathers and be kind and compassionate to ourselves? What measures can we take in soothing our spirit and calming our minds? It does seem that living in our world requires toughness and an outer shell that will deflect the insults and ridicule we hurl at one another in the news, in traffic, and sometimes in our social media. Can we identify when we are in need of a gentle caress? Can we do that for ourselves and others?
In my past I cringed and made fun of the need for serenity and sweetness. I denied myself of tenderness because I believed it would cause me to be more needy and pathetic. That is how I defined a need for compassion. Wimpy, sappy, pathetic. And yes I repeated pathetic because that was a condition I loathed, despised and feared. Vulnerability was a state I dared not be in. I was on constant alert for those who would pierce my protective layers. I would not be like Kafka’s cockroach with an apple stuck in his shell; I would be impervious to hurt and cruelty and steel myself for inevitable barbs that would be thrown by others. But what I did not comprehend was how I constantly slung those arrows at myself from within in the guise of strength and resilience.
It took a paradigm shift for me to change those habits and understandings. I had to look at my personal lexicon and determine if I truly understood and believed the definitions I was using to guide me in my life. Brene Brown helped me redefine vulnerability for myself. I took a class she offered on art and vulnerability and redefined strength as being able to reveal my vulnerabilities.
Now I work at recognizing the need I occasionally have for comfort and soothing myself. I had few conscious tricks for treating myself gently and compassionately at first. With the help of Brown’s course and a class I took based on Kristen Neff’s self-compassion studies, I tend to my own spirit’s needs by painting, reading something that makes me cozy and warm, writing, watching a good movie, meditating and doing yoga. I have been on an endless search for additional ways to be kind to myself. The outgrowth of being tender with my own heart has been that I am much more aware of the needs that others share for this same treatment.
Being a kind and thoughtful person has become my goal. I did not come by this easily and I sometimes struggle to extend it, but it sure makes life a lot more pleasant when it happens.
What kind and gentle thing can you do to soothe your spirit? How do you define vulnerability and compassion and what is your comfort level in being vulnerable and compassionate with others?