The other day, I was teaching a class online about how to cultivate more empathy and compassion for ourselves.
There are so many obstacles that can make it hard to find tenderness for ourselves. We might believe that our personal pain doesn’t matter in light of all that’s happening. We might have been taught that it’s selfish to attend to our own emotions, or even feel ashamed of having needs at all.
Yet we can’t really be there for others if we’re not here for ourselves, can we?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious or afraid right now. I’m in touch with people who have been laid off, and with others torn up inside from having had to lay off employees. I’ve spoken with health care workers without enough protective equipment, breaking down in tears from the stress. And I’m speaking with those who are at home (like me), doing all we can to make the best of a tense and difficult situation—friends having panic attacks, parents struggling to keep it together for their kids.
Several days a week my own partner commutes to the hospital where she works as a Palliative Care Chaplain. I kiss her goodbye in the morning and tell her I love her, feeling worried for her safety and wishing she could work from home with me.
There is Chinese proverb from Chuang Tzu’s writings that I have always loved:“It is when the snow and ice are upon them that we see the strength of the Cypress and Pines.” Now is the time to draw on our inner and outer resources, to be here for each other. We all have inner resources (whether we recognize it or not) and we have each other.
Awareness is a resource. Compassion is a resource. Kindness and generosity and patience are resources. Our ancestors and lineage and faith are resources. And the unfathomable generosity of this planet—that keeps doing all it can to cleanse the water and the air in spite of our actions—is a resource.
Things are hard right now for us humans; there’s no way around that. There is no simple “look on the bright side” to make the situation more palatable.
But there is an opportunity to bring forth the goodness in our hearts, to share that with each other, and to allow ourselves to be nourished by it. And that starts with finding some tenderness for yourself, right here and now, just where you are.
I invite you to take a moment to pause.
Can you turn your attention inward with a kind, gentle gaze? Can you feel one in-breath? Can you feel your feet on the ground as you breathe out? With everything that’s happening, it’s easy to forget to slow down and make space to be with how you’re feeling.
If you want to connect, I’ll be leading a series of meditations and teachings online over the coming weeks. You can find the complete schedule here.