I recently asked on Instagram what is kindness? Also, what does kindness toward the self look like? The answer I got, was not what I expected. I had gotten stuck in the loop of equating kindness as something tangible one does.
Like, open doors, help where you can, smile, notice, be generous, give, do.
The answer I got instead was, ‘acceptance’. That kindness is, accepting the truth of what is. The person who offered me this definition, credited me with being the teacher from whom she learnt same, but I’ll be honest and say, I don’t actually remember knowing this.
As always, providence was listening and presented to me, a facebook notification about an upcoming Metta Loving Kindness class at Home Yoga Sligo. Needless to say, I jumped on it and it was there, I met the wonderful Cathí Murphy, and her teaching of Metta. I loved the class so much and I completely fell in love with Cathí and her approach to teaching, which includes the use of poetry and music.
I shared with her, this new and emergent need to understand and wish to inhabit kindness, to which she responded by printing me a copy of a poem titled 'Kindness' and it's so beautiful and profound, I cannot listen to it without crying.
[Click here for a wonderful podcast episode 'Your life is a poem', with poet Naomi Shihab Nye.]
I would never have associated kindness with acceptance. It got me thinking more about how I define things and led to the realisation that, when I think of kindness or any quality I could do well to acquire, I tend to find myself inhabiting the terrain NOT of that new and improved state, but instead trying to contract the ground of it's opposite.
In other words, I understand things mostly, as what they’re not.
I’m recalling how this was a significant contributing factor in my failure to successfully adapt after emigrating to the US with my family. They all integrated into America and accepted this new land, it's inhabitants and culture, as it was. From the minute I landed, I obsessed not about how ‘America’ this place was, but about how ‘Ireland’, it was not.
It was like I simply could not let go of my own world. I obviously find it really hard to surrender this path of my own resistance.
I’m also wincing as I make the connection that this path was also the one from which I chose my relationships throughout life. The limits of my happiness never being defined by how great these bonds were, but how terrible they weren’t. All of this, is reflective of the degree to which, the ceiling on my worthiness was never to feel deserving of what might be 'good' and that the highest I deserved to aim for was, 'not bad'.
And what I know now, is that all this splashing around in the shallow end of 'not bad' is not where one learns to swim.
Like, am I really going to find serenity by perpetually courting what it’s not? How deep a fucking abyss will that be? Then what? There’s nowhere to go from there but to become an expert on how to simply tolerate your life.
That’s a pretty dismal prospect.
It makes sense that it would be WAY more useful to focus on developing a new skill set, one that's likely to get me the result I want and to abandon the well worn path of perfecting the abstinence of what impedes it.
That would be like a musician expecting to become a better guitarist through the act of not playing any other instruments.
Becoming a better at any skill, requires practice in THAT skill. Not how good you are at not doing the opposite. Why have I been doing this? What kind of warped person am I?
Have I been aiming for an obituary that says: 'Here lies Amanda. She got really good at not being anxious.'
All this energy going into not practicing X, when really the practice of Y, is where true recovery is. I’m so glad I caught this. Also, embarrassed. But fuck that. I'm here now and I'm diving in.