Joy AE Dennis, writer, life transformation facilitator, spiritual alchemist, hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and Intuitive.
In my work with others over the past few years there has been a constant theme that comes up. You will probably be surprised by what it is! Time and time again I am reminding clients to be gentle with themselves. So often our inner dialogue is a harsh, even violent one. The language we use externally is often violent also. How often do you use or hear the words, "hate" and "kill" in normal conversational contexts? I often hear, "My husband/wife would kill me if I said/did...." and "He/she would hate it if I...". These seem to be such common phrases that we don't think twice about what is really being said.
Our internal voices are much more vicious and critical. We call ourselves all kinds of names, all underlining the fact that we are not good enough, smart enough or worthy enough. Always that we are not enough. We carry guilt burdens that weigh down every aspect of our lives. Who said we must feel this way? Who piles on the shame and guilt? Whose voice is it that tells you these lies?
We must be gentle with ourselves, kind in the way we speak and in the way that we treat our bodies.
I encountered a woman at the gym the other day. We chatted about exercise, I was finishing up and she as just getting started. She was talking about how she never looked forward to it and was wishing she hadn't come that day. I said, " I almost didn't make it either! I had to go back home to get my shoes and then debated whether to come back." She said that she would not have come back and asked why I did. I explained that I did it for love. She asked, "For the love of who?" I said, " Of myself! I feel so much better when I work out, I do it for me." She went silent and turned away, I thought she was just going to ignore me after that. Instead she said, "I hate myself." I was so shocked to hear her admit so bluntly how she felt about herself. My immediate response was, "Well, that's not very nice! You should be nice to yourself!" She walked away.
Many punish their bodies through exercise, food restriction, overwork and with verbal insults. Our bodies are here to serve us, carry us through this life and assist us in enjoying the many pleasures that this physical life has to offer.
Be gentle. Be kind. Start with yourself, then you can offer these gifts to those around you.
As a mother of five, I have had the beautiful opportunity to daily be a student of Patience. In my own journey I have realized that when I lack patience with my external world it is a symptom of internal discord.
What am I trying to control? What expectations do I have that are not being met? There are so many reasons for us to believe that things around us should be different than they actually are. This always leads us to being impatient with the world "as we expect it to be" instead of embracing what is.
When we are triggered by circumstance, like when the driver in the car ahead of us is going too slow, we can approach it in a few different ways. Our gut response is usually to become instantly irritated and look around for ways to "escape" the situation. Another response is to accept what is happening and grumble about "idiots" , "other drivers" etc.
The way that I try to approach this very common scenario is by just observing what is happening and how it doesn't necessitate an emotional response. My life is not being changed by this circumstance, I am not allowing the external to affect my internal balance, because in the end I am in charge of my response.
By becoming an observer of ourselves we allow thoughts and emotions to flow freely though our minds. We can choose to get hung up on certain ideas and feelings, or we can let them go.
" The ancient principle of Patience can help us feel our emotions--but without having to pay a price that ends up hurting ourselves or others." - Donald Altman
One of the examples I use in my work is this:
If we can approach life with the fluidity of water, then the obstacles that we face are really just an illusion. The water does not care about the rocks in the river, or the debris that is constantly cluttering its path. It is water, its nature does not change no matter what it encounters. In this same way we can maintain our inner peace regardless of the obstacles we encounter on our own path.
Over the past few months I have been working with wisdom from the Buddhist tradition. I have been inspired and gently opened to new ways of thinking and being. I would love to share what I have been learning.
The first principle is the virtue of Generosity. Many traditions value giving, it is a foundational principle in living a blessed life.
The thing that was impressed upon me as I was studying is how important it is to first give to yourself, to be generous to your own soul before you attempt to extend that generosity to others. We cannot give from an empty well.
What does this kind of living look like?
Many in our culture see taking care of yourself first as selfishness, especially if you are a mom or caretaker of some kind. There is an expectation that you give and give to others and when everyone is satisfied it is then your "turn" to take care of yourself.
This most often leads to burn-out, bitterness and quite often playing the role of victim/martyr. None of which are healthy sustainable ways of being.
One way of being generous to your self is with gentle thinking. Give your self grace in your mind, listen to your thoughts.
Most of us have a voice inside that condemns and critiques nearly everything we do, as well as how we look or feel. If we were to talk to those we love with that same voice it would be horrifying! Why talk to your self that way?
You deserve the same love and respect that you try to extend to others.
And yet, how can we give to others what we do not give to ourselves? We must be kind and gentle in our own minds and hearts and then our generosity will flow from a place of being full.
You will be surprised at the ease you find in caring for those around you, when you take care of yourself first.
Joy AE Dennis-Struss, writer, life transformation facilitator, spiritual alchemist, hypnotherapist, Reiki practititioner and Intuitive.