Gestures of kindness go a long way to demonstrate respect, create a sense of belonging and reduce isolation. Kindness is contagious. Kindness helps keep things in perspective. Kindness is my philosophy when it comes to silent meditation.
I struggled for years following meditation rules, figuring out how to do it right so I can reap the benefit others seem to find. I heard over and over how meditation would help, knowing my disappointment would stir up the inner monsters. Better to leave well enough alone.
I relate to stories of not being able to sit still, having a monkey mind, inner agitation, panic, pain, and the threatening emotions rising when left alone with myself. I understand the resistance.
I was desperate to connect with me and I didn’t know how. I had tried everything else. I was willing to cooperate with the idea of silent time only by leaving home and attending a five-day silent retreat. Then I knew I had no choice but to face me.
I brought books and puzzles and my laptop. I was surrounded by nature and food and housing. I was ready to withstand the silence for five days. Like any new activity, I started out gung-ho and dove in. The retreat started on a Sunday afternoon and by Tuesday morning I was feeling the storm swell under my skin.
I couldn’t stop crying. Sadness moved through me and then despair. I was homesick. I felt scared. The retreat offered spiritual guidance. I sat and emoted while the gentle person just listened, offering encouragement for me to continue. I felt better. I felt heard and felt visible.
I journaled and journaled, hiked and gathered stones and mementos. The spiritual guide modeled for me words and acts of kind support. I soothed myself with similar words. I felt better. I felt heard. I endured. I felt present and I actually enjoyed my company. I survived being alone with me. I thought my inner monsters were too big to get past and I would fall forever into the black hole. I realized I wasn’t afraid to be with me anymore.
My first silent retreat over three years ago was a life-changing experience. On reflection, I realize my ego was screaming loudly in fear. My ego was the dominant voice I focused on. My ego was agitated, panicked and pained, running amok bouncing off the walls inside my brain.
Silence offered me the occasion to meet my wisdom. We haven’t stopped talking. My wisdom is my friend. It took gentle kindness to coax her out. Our wisdom never runs away in fear. It’s steady and patient and willing to be there until we show up. It’s a wonderful feeling.
So, I advocate kindness in meditation. Kindness for ourselves. The only rule is to be patient, be comfortable, and support your needs so you can spend just 15 minutes every day in honor of you. You deserve your attention. You deserve this special time.
There’s a miracle that happens when we bestow kindness on ourselves. It’s cumulative, building upon itself every day. The inner landscape flourishes. The more we see the more we see.
Practicing silence has deepened my inner reservoir and strengthened my foundation. Sometimes I cry if I need to, lose my focus and feel fear or discomfort and I find my way back, always present and kind. I have more patience with me. I have more room inside to experience my life. I found my true friend and I am home.
When you have been at war with yourself
for so many years that you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving for hours and only
gradually begin to realize that you have lost the way,
when you have cut hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries since you watched the sun
set or the rain fall, and the clouds, drifting overhead,
pass as flat as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these everyday nightmares,
you understand that you could wake up,
you could turn and go back to the last thing you remember
doing with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake, you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun, naming every shadow as it slips
Thank you for that. You nailed it, you absolutely nailed it. For 35 years, I’ve been meditating and I’ve never been able to express it in the way you did. So thank you for allowing me to walk in your footsteps. This group is amazing. What we have here is our collective wisdom, and we tend to disbelieve ourselves until we hear it coming from someone else’s mouth.
What I went into meditation with was that moment coming out of the cave, and the sunlight and blinking. It stayed with me through the meditation. The words from Amazing Grace, “I was blind and now I see”, became a mantra. Toward the end, it felt like a doorway, a transition, an arch I was moving through. That happens a lot, that moment when there is a transition and sometimes it’s small and sometimes it’s big. Sometimes, I notice and most of the time I don’t, just an awareness that transitions happen. Thank you.
I experienced feeling softened after you finished the reading and quiet just by listening to what you said. I experienced the kindness and the gentleness I give to myself as being probably one of the most powerful things I can give to myself. During the meditation, I’d be with that feeling and then a list of to-do’s would pop up. I wrote them down and came back, but with kindness. I really value that tremendously.
As others model kindness, we get inspired to practice it with ourselves.
It seems to me kindness is a wonderful vehicle for listening, and maybe the reverse is true, that listening is a wonderful vehicle for kindness whether we listen to each other or we listen to ourselves. I love that image of the cave. I’m thinking about Covid as a cave, and we hope soon we’ll crawl out of the cave, blinking, and reflecting.
I visited a dear friend who is compromised with dementia. I dreaded the visit. The day before my visit, another friend reminded me I am a kind and patient person and hold a lot of love for my friend. We had such a meaningful visit. Even though her memory impairment was obvious, I listened and responded with kindness. Since the visit, I’ve had such sadness and a real sweet feeling for the closeness of our friendship even though she’s changed. When one gets into a period of kindness and that is the stage we come from, that pervades the atmosphere and is the thing to do. I applaud everything you said today. I lived it with this visit and saw the effects.
I had an image of this flailing figure blowing in the air. There was a flower underneath. Then there was this surrender into self-kindness and compassion, and the figure gently fell softly into the flower, which was amazing. It’s easy to remember kindness for others, but kindness to ourselves is sometimes so difficult. It takes surrendering.
Meditation over the years has felt impossible until I learned sitting in silence has no rules except setting aside the time for me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Journaling is similar, I had so many rules in my mind to journal, and it has no rules, free expression; even one word on the page is journaling. I’ve had so many encounters with people. I met an employee in a public restroom and I felt such compassion for the work she was doing. I knew her exhaustion. I offered her a $5 tip to thank her for her work and she refused the offer. I asked if she had a pet. She did and I offered the $5 for the pet and she accepted. I feel kindness from people and it helps me as I face my struggles.
I was reminded of the Edna St. Vincent Milay poem with the line “love in the open hand, no thing but that.” To me, that’s the definition of kindness, facing a person without having any agenda. Thank you for this reading. It reminded me the first time I lived alone. I remember I began art projects that brought me into a meditative state where I was connecting with myself.
Thank you for joining us today. Thank you for your patience and your persistence in taking care of you. This is an important topic for me. It comes up often and I need reminders to be kind to myself. I hope you all have a gentle day and remember to put kindness in your own lap as well as for others you meet along the way.