Cultivating Kindness



“Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.”
-Naomi Shihab Nye

These words from Naomi Shihab Nye came across my computer screen last week as I sat to write this post.  I felt myself dissolving like the salt within the weakened broth.  How are you, my sweet friends?  No really, how is your heart right now?  I know mine is at times flatlining and at other times resiliently fluttering with small delights.

I have been attempting to ride the waves of this new unprecedented time with tender care.  Writing has been the invisible companion I have been relying on.  My desktop is littered with musings as I find my physical space empty with individuals. I’ve been calling upon my resources: sometimes meeting my fear with immense lioness courage, and, at other times, feeling an indescribable, unmovable boulder atop my chest.  I’ve seen so many individuals rising to the occasion to offer healing balms, encouraging words, and helpful strategies.

As I look for kindness and love in the world, I sit in a space of questioning.  I have always been a philosopher of the heart.  This time is no different.  I explore and peel away what meets the surface.  I tend to dive deeper, as I have known this curious part of myself since childhood.  I don’t profess to have any answers in this season of life, but I know I will keep creating space to sit and ask questions.

As I pack up questions like a wild explorer, I find some treasures that I hadn’t expected to discover.  I find that I can feel both angst and love; I can make space to honor each.  I can offer a healing salve to my angst, and I can inquire what this angst needs.  Sometimes it’s simply the permission to let the tears flow like a river.  Sometimes it’s reassuring the child within me that we are safe, even though it’s been tough to cultivate that feeling.  I have been placing pictures of myself as a child around my apartment so that I can gently whisper, “We are safe.”  And when I feel love, it often pours through me like the sunshine radiating through a sapphire sky.  I trust it’s an invisible companion as well.  Always with me.

I see that connection is flourishing amidst the limitations of present-day life.  A once welcomed trip to the coffee shop to see friends is now a distant memory.  But I have been experiencing new connections.  Social media is challenging us to implore our kindness.  Whether it’s buying food for medical workers or sending cards to nursing homes, people are stepping up in new ways.  There have been slower mornings instead of intense rushing, more thoughtful phone calls instead of texted replies.  Greeting cards that had been saved for special occasions are now being sent, because now seems like the most pertinent time to share love with one another.

This time has revealed how separated I have become within myself, within my heart.  I notice all the ways I have been on autopilot.  Living a half-life you might call it?  Half of me waking up and jumping into my day without taking the time to really “be” in my life.  I’ll explore my curiosities about it, the best I can, and I’ll sit with my discomforts.

I’m curious about my anxiety at this time.  I wonder what life will look like in a few months.  Will our communities bounce back?  Will we be able to re-invent ourselves?  Will we have to find new careers?  How can we be with ourselves in this season that feels like an out-of-control wildfire?

And then my heart settles and I take a big breath and I remember my connection.  I think of my wellness/psychology trainings throughout my life and I can feel in a very real way that my prefrontal cortex has been hijacked by fear.  I can hear my grad school professors reminding me that fear is a normal reaction that we all experience in our earthly bodies.  Fear also has the ability to shut down the area of our brains that flood us with joy and compassion.  That’s why it is so imperative to have practices that ground and re- connect us.

A practice that grounds me, is my meditation practice.  I recently heard a talk by Tara Brach, a meditation teacher on Insight Timer, and her questions rise to the top of my awareness, “As I face this collective suffering, what is being called forth in me?  Who do I want to be?”  She reminds us to make room for everything we are experiencing in our “collective suffering.”  She whispers, “This to belongs.”

When I set my fear to the side, assuring it that “This to belongs” I can feel my body more animated with aliveness.  When I turn my face towards the sun, I settle my bones into the Earth, I feel her support.  When I hear the choir of birds outside my windows, I feel my heart creating space to open.  When I think of my niece and nephews, love fills my awareness.   My nervous system settles, and I can more readily access joy again.  I can answer these questions from a more compassionate loving space.  “Who do I want to be?” I long to be vulnerable and transparent.  I want to write about a new world.  I want to see with new eyes.  I want to create new systems to replace outdated systems.  I want to be conscious and connected.  I want to nourish the world around me.  I want to make a tangible difference on this Earth.  I want to be a brave wild pioneer, full of heart, full of love.

I’m exploring my heart on a page.  It might seem like a ramble.  But maybe you’re right here with me.  I hope you can feel the kindness in my inquiry.  I hope you can feel me holding both the fear and the love.  I hope you are exploring your vulnerabilities right now.  I don’t have any answers, my friends, but as much as possible I’m trying to radiate love to myself.  Compassion to my heart that heaves with uncertainty.  Gratitude to my heart for all the love in my life.  Love to the planet that is in need.  Love to all hearts everywhere.  Peace to all hearts.  Healing to our world.  And a continual call to remember, “Who do I want to be in this?

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If you haven’t checked out our podcast, Sweetly Speaking: Authoring a Fierce Life it might offer nourishment during our time indoors.

Stay well, my friends.  Sending love and kindness.  Take care of yourselves!! Big Love – Sarah

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