Be Gentle

Once again, life feels busy. It is deep spring in the northwest and these long-dormant bugs and blossoms are emerging like an airborne stampede. I feel buzzy, full, over-full. I am overflowing – today, with tears, some days with irritations, some days with compulsive habits. Many of my habits are labeled “virtuous”, so they slide by undetected. Who could criticize the lawn-mowing neighbor? I have to give a finger snap of gratitude, here and now, to Jim Gaffigan, who confesses his neurosis artfully in his standup routine, when he says It’s no problem, he’ll just go shove food into his mouth until he doesn’t feel anything.

He makes me wonder if my busy-life habit is an expression of my restlessness, my virtuosity or if I use the distraction of “so much to do” to excuse myself from having to feel uncomfortable.

Regardless of the why question, I am finding that what I need now is kindness, gentle and slow. I found this poem that reminds me that I am not singular in this hankering for the nourishment of soft encouragement and acceptance.

If you would grow to your best self
Be patient, not demanding
Accepting, not condemning
Nurturing, not withholding
Self-marveling, not belittling
Gently guiding, not pushing and punishing
For you are more sensitive than you know
Mankind is as tough as war yet delicate as flowers
We can endure agonies but we open fully only to warmth and light
And our need to grow Is as fragile as a fragrance dispersed by storms of will
To return only when those storm are still
So, accept, respect, and attend your sensitivity
A flower cannot be opened with a hammer.

                                  – Daniel F. Mead

I have some big-life, big girl stories unfolding right now, that beget basic security questions. In the moment, my internal flow chart doesn’t direct me from this kind of danger signal to panic. Typically, I am curiously calm. My calm enrobes everything, like fondant, enveloping the cake and crumbs, presenting a pleasing, smooth exterior. This “keep calm” feature may have become my norm back when I taught elementary school in my late twenties. It sure was helpful with my own children, and I like to think that it benefits me and folks around me now. It got me through, insured my survival, but now I question it as a long-term strategy.

Something starts to seep
or emit or
escape the
fondant of calm
I start to tremble
with those crumbs
of worry,


We all need opportunities to leak and fall apart. Is there a way to stay soft, to remember the nourishment of slow, soft, simple practices?

In addition to kindness, one of my wise daughters offered me a reframing practice in alignment with self-marvel:  I could notice how amazing I am, while I find ways to manage.

I am taking all of this into my āsana practice this week, spending lots of time on the floor, a blanket sweetly padding my mat. I am gently encouraging my mind to stay focused on my natural breath rhythm. I am moving slowly, lingering when that feels nourishing. I am practicing patience and giving this time of grief and worry its rightful space in my schedule. Maybe I am more amazing this way.

I typically adhere to the yogic philosophy regarding faith as the antidote to fear:  the faith is in our own ability to show up, based on the way we’ve been able to do this over and over. Right now, rather than this self-sufficient strategy, my faith is coming through reaching out for support. I love the magic of a text thread that can touch many loved ones with one message. Folks are showing up in all their varied and beautiful ways. Some say they’ll pray, others just say, “That sucks.”.  All I really need to know is that someone is there, that I’m not alone in all of this.

Is there someone you could reach out to today? Are you needing to know that people love and support you? Maybe it’s your turn to just show up and let someone know that you are here for them. What might happen if we all just started with gentleness?