It is a tradition for many to start the New Year with a resolution. The purpose of this resolution is usually to make a change in some area of our life. When it comes to our relationships with others we often resolve to be more patient, better listeners and to display more kindness. While noble and well-meaning these resolutions often last until the first time we are triggered – perhaps a minute or two past midnight on New Year’s Eve.
If we are truly serious about being more patient, kinder and better at listening to others, there is one place we must start – being more patient, kinder and better listeners to ourselves. You see, we can only genuinely give to others what we give to ourselves.
Self-kindness, patience and compassion begin with the awareness of our own light and goodness, just as of our own shadow. Each of us is a complete human being, carrying immense love and the capacity for no less immense violence. And, it is often violence in its cruelest form that we display towards ourselves. Have you ever thought yourself unworthy or not good enough? Have you berated yourself for a perceived mistake? Have you ever dis-honored yourself by saying “yes” while really meaning to say “no”? When we commit these violent acts towards ourselves (often multiple times each day or even each hour) we simply cannot turn around and be genuinely kind, patient and compassionate towards another being.
Yet, words like “be kind to yourself” are just greeting card truisms, so sweet that they are bitter in their emptiness. What does being kind to yourself even mean?
Being kind to ourselves means giving space to all that is arising within us, light or dark, beautiful or ugly. Let’s say the thought that is arising is “I am not good enough.” We do not judge ourselves for having this thought; do not try to escape, fight or avoid it. Rather, we allow it and the full range of sensations this thought brings. Can we just be the space for this thought without believing it or rejecting? Can we be the space for each of the words “I” “am” “not” “good” “enough”? Can we be the space of the sensations in the body and fully feel them?
When we simply allow what is at this moment we show kindness and compassion to ourselves. We don’t have to do anything. Being the space for whatever appears in the present moment is enough. We don’t even have to accept or allow it. It’s too late for that. The thought or sensation has already appeared and it’s valid and complete in itself. Not as the carrier of a certain meaning or story but just as a thought (which appears as words or a image) or a sensation.
Being patient, kind and a good listener is always a consequence – a natural by-product – of being the space for whatever arises in this moment, not in some future moment to come some time later (perhaps next year!). So, instead of resolving to change ourselves and the way we treat others, let’s be ourselves and be kind … to us, right here and right now.