And I don’t mean gentle yoga. (Love me an athletic, ass-kicking vinyasa class.) Gentle with your body. Gentle with your heart. Gentle every time you blow it or run into that meeting sweaty and late or fall out of the pose or say that super awkward thing that makes you cringe every time you think of it for the next ten years.
Gentle with your whole self. Gentle with the world around you. Gentle with not knowing what comes next.
Buddhism gave me this word. As an early twentysomething, I was very good at being hard on myself; most of us are. Especially when you grow up in a religion that proclaims you destined to fall short of the glory of God, sinful and unworthy, broken, “a wretch like me” (thanks, Amazing Grace. You kinda suck.)
In such stark contrast — compassion lies at the heart of meditation and yoga practices. Compassion for self; compassion for your suffering, very human body; compassion for all beings; compassion for the world.
And when your heart begins to spin on the axis of compassion instead of confession, gentleness instead of guilt, everything softens; everything opens.
Try it. Just try being gentle with yourself. Nobody ever got where they wanted to by beating themself up. I promise.
Maybe, just maybe, compassion will get you there instead.
(PS — if you want to dive further into this, check out the wonderful work on self-compassion being done by Kristin Neff. She’s setting the standard in so many graceful, life-giving ways.)