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April 5, 2023

How to Be Gentle with Yourself

Have you ever woken up and felt a little off? Not physically, but emotionally? It’s a familiar yet unsettling feeling — one of loneliness, lostness, or lack of purpose. These emotions then turn into thoughts, and thinking about feelings makes them worse. Anxiety arises at what’s in store for the day, and there’s projection about how difficult it will be to handle.

Recently, I had one of these days. I find a pattern that they pop up during transitional periods, like when I’ve completed a project or come back from a trip. They are challenging because if it’s one thing we hate feeling, it’s powerlessness. So many of us — including myself — are addicted to control, and the uncertain nature of transition leaves us without a firm grasp.

In this instance, the feeling arose the day after a four-day trip. It was for a side job that supports me while I grow my business. I’m grateful for it, but returning home is difficult. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost time, and there is an unease that comes with the process of getting back into the swing of things. Whatever the reason, I sensed this despairing feeling during my morning meditation.

My initial thought went something like, “Oh shit, not today.” My reaction was resistance because of a reminiscence of feeling idle and without direction in the past. I felt a reminder of depression and hopelessness.

Although reflecting on the past is a necessary part of most spiritual development, for those that have been there, it can be frightening. If we’re not mindful, more negative thoughts will come, and be exacerbated by getting wrapped up in the story of the emotion.

Thanks to my practice, I’m more equipped to label the feeling for what it is — separate and impermanent. It doesn’t mean anything; it merely is. I get to decide the story and how to handle it.

I remind myself the emotion is not me; it’s just a passing wave. Some say our job is to ride the wave, but that can be chaotic if we’re not good at surfing. Instead, meditation helps us dive under the water. When we slip below the threshing water, we can still feel the power above but aren’t dominated by it.

In this way, I worked with the emotion I had that morning. I noticed where I felt it in my body and relaxed into it. I did this for a while, but the mind snuck its conniving voice in and said, “You’ve got so much to do today, you can’t feel like this. You won’t get it done.” It was at that moment the angelic words came to me, giving me a much-needed teaching: Be Gentle.

Ahhhhh, Be Gentle. What an amazing cue!

My interpretation was to apply it to any time I get down on myself for feeling unmotivated or any other self-deprecating belief. Remember, Be Gentle. Be Gentle on your thoughts, Be Gentle on your actions, Be Gentle on Yourself.

As the day passed, the self-deprecating thoughts came, and each time, I paused and whispered those words to myself: Be Gentle. It subdued my mind’s control if only for a moment. It was like a comforting friend on whom I could keep calling.

I’m grateful for the experience because now I can offer you the same cue for when you feel off. Use it anytime your mind wants to tell you all the ways you’re messing up and lists the endless reasons why you’re not enough. Instead of sulking in fictitious claims, try out Be Gentle. Allow its soft intention to ease your mind and, hopefully, your mood.

Here is a practice to help: Be Gentle.

Listen on SoundCloud or Insight Timer.

PS. There’s a surprise at the end. Hint: It’s one of the best cures to feeling down. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

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Lou Redmond  |  Contribution: 4,745