What does it mean to be tender? What does it mean to be gentle? What does it mean to be kind? What does it mean to embrace all of these qualities for ourselves?
I have been asking myself these questions for the past few months and what I am constantly encountering is how self-compassion feels so clunky for me. I beat myself up. All. The. Time. I run the ______enough story; not good enough, not smart enough, not sexy enough, not competent enough, not healthy enough, not powerful enough. Even as I write this post, I am thinking I am not kind enough with myself. The brutal irony.
I remember when I first learned what it meant to have self-compassion. It was on my yoga mat in Colorado when I was heart deep in my Vinyasa practice. I showed up to my mat with armour-esque strength, very little softness. My heart hurt from being in deep depression and I was sad. I beat myself up daily for my lack of motivation, my lack of love and passion for the life I was living. I would go into strong poses which perpetuated the cycle.
More strength, more armour. More strength, more armour.
My teacher at the time, Miya, would come to me on my mat and whisper the words, "Soften, let go, surrender," right in my ear. It would fire me up, I would feel the heat in my throat. I didn't want to soften. I didn't want to be tender. And yet, I continued to come to class and each time I practiced, a little bit of armour fell off. It was during that time in my life that I learned what it meant to be tender.
It doesn't get easier for me. It actually gets harder to be tender, to express deep compassion to myself because now I know the other side and the true cost of what it means to live in a constant state of war against my own being. I shut down, I get cranky and resentful. I get mean.
In the pause between inhale and exhale is a moment that feels like magic. I use that moment sometimes to remind myself what grace is and what tenderness should feel like. A little uncomfortable, a little scary, but magical.