To keep us tender in this world is the hardest, yet most important thing.
Tenderness is like prayer. It is a humble intimate act as we settle into our vulnerabilities; as we gather all parts of us that were meant to be whole. Tenderness is a blessing. It is the source of water poured into the soil of our soul, into which we’ll nestle bathed and moist like newborn baby skin. Tenderness is to love. It is to open our heart truly and fully to hold and be held, to receive and be received. Tenderness is healing because to heal is to be strong enough to remain tender. Our tenderness is our lifeline.
Treating ourselves with compassion allows us to engage more deeply with ourselves and come into our wholeness. As we settle into our vulnerabilities, we come to terms with our innermost world of feelings; to flow like water unresistingly filling forgotten dry parts inside of us with forgiveness and compassion. In this nourishing way, we gain a much needed appreciation honoring our emotional needs and come into a deeper relationship with our self.
Losing our tenderness is like losing our soul and yet it is so easy to lose it when we fall prey to today’s evil eyes and negativity. And why should we even stay tender in a world so hard as crucifixion nails; in a world where toughness is rewarded and kind people are constantly cursed by malicious words, gossip, criticism, judgment and cruelty? How can we cultivate our tenderness through such injustice? How can we bless our tender parts?
Cultivating tenderness today
It is natural to be gentle when all is well but how gentle are we to ourselves when we are hurt or faced with cruelty? When we are stripped to our skeleton by negativity, disappointment and pain, it is so easy to lose our tenderness. And yet it is precisely in these times when we need it most.
How do we talk to ourselves when we can’t meet our impossibly high goals? Do we treat ourselves with harshness, criticism and judgment? How do we talk to ourselves when we’ve been rejected or failed in something? What words do we speak to ourselves in our most fragile, weak and embarrassed moments? How hard is it to forgive?
Tenderness means feeling all of our feelings – anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness, and allowing ourselves to feel it anyway. We need to have compassion and gentleness towards ourselves no matter how we feel. In fact, the most powerful way to banish curses and evil eyes is by love and compassion, through forgiveness and refusal to accept such behaviors as our own. It is okay to say, “I am afraid. I am worried. I am sad.” The only thing that’s “wrong” about having intense emotions is the associated feeling of shame or guilt about having them. There is also much freedom in giving ourselves the permission to say, “I don’t know.”
As human beings it is natural to always want to know, or label or categorize, because this gives us some soothing and comfort that if we can shape something into a definition, then we can perhaps understand it, and make sense of this uncertain thing called life. In admitting that we don’t know, and in allowing ourselves to be okay with not knowing, in this fragile openness, we come into a whole new understanding, intelligence and connection.
Whatever you feel, just remain with yourself, because it is precisely in these uncomfortable, vulnerable moments that we build a deeper relationship to self.
When I think about what has transpired over the last year, I think of what is known as Crossed Conditions. Spiritual practices focus on moving through life in an uncrossed state, i.e. freely like water. To cultivate this space and flow within us, we need peace of mind and emotional fulfillment. Anytime we are not in this balance, whether from within or without, we find ourselves in crossed conditions.
Crossed conditions are an unavoidable part of our human existence; they are the challenges that life presents to us along the way, and they are the reason why we grow. They can manifest as divorce, break-ups, lay offs, ailments, spiritual attacks, stagnation, feeling uninspired, controlled, or just an overall state of feeling unfulfilled. In the words of mythologist and theorist Joseph Campbell, “where we stumble and fall is where we’ll find gold.” By learning to humble ourselves, flow with life as water, and stay in our tenderness and emotional connection, we can see crossed conditions as opportunities, and we can become wiser, stronger and more whole.
Crossed conditions can also be seen as initiatory. Any initiation process can be usually defined in three stages. The first stage is the separation; the awakening and the questioning, which ultimately separate us from a known narrative or a group dynamic. This demands a lot of bravery and strength, and then leads us into the woods, into the unknown, into the uncertain, where we need to find stability in the core of who we are; as part of our second stage we will face obstacles, tests and challenges, we will bump into objects and shadows, and ultimately, we will learn to sharpen our own senses and hold onto our truth, and we’ll persevere. And then comes the final stage – the union; we unite with the one or the thing we initiated; we unite with the freedom of the letting go of the parts of us that didn’t serve us anymore, and with the birth of the parts of us previously unknown.
Sometimes crossing can be self-made; for example, we cross ourselves up when we self-sabotage by engaging or perpetuating behaviors and acts that harm us or limit us, such as staying in unhealthy friendships or relationships. Other times, crossed conditions are external, and other times, it is a combination of both.
Spiritual cleansing, purification and protection are as essential to our wellbeing as drinking water and tending to self-care and our basic health needs. It is part of our holistic well-being to make sure that we dedicate enough time to all of our bodies of consciousness: the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual. I discuss these in-depth in both my articles on The Art of Spiritual Protection and Spiritual Protection and Holistic Wellness Using The Medicine Wheel where I share tools and practices/exercises on protection and wellbeing.
The oldest understanding of Crossed Conditions is that these are times when we are dried up, dried out and devitalized. As all else in life – the remedy is to experience its opposite. For example, if we feel betrayed, we need to experience loyalty; if we feel stagnant, we need to experience movement; if we feel abandoned, we need to experience commitment. And if we feel dried up, we need water. We need to call upon the things that sustain us, that nourish us, that nurture us, that protect us, that keep us tender and heart-centered. These will be different for all of us, but a question to ask ourselves would be: What has gone un-watered for too long? How can I restore it?
The chaos of this world has been swinging around for a long time now, as has the uncertainty of our future as humanity. Have you been feeling depleted, exhausted, numb? Times have changed and it is not just other energies that we absorb, but we are also exposed to more electromagnetic frequencies and waves, especially when we spend so much of our day with our phones and the internet. Mixed with the volatile nature of humans and the current instability of our world, all this can make for quite the toxic potion.
Be like water
When we are faced with hardships and challenges, our body hardens and this also causes our heart to close off. And in many ways we become like dry desert land in desperate need of a water well. In our hardest moments we need to be most gentle to ourselves. So when faced with drought – call in the waters. Cry, ask for help and support, bathe in salt water, take a shower, wash your clothes and bedsheets, nourish your skin, drink water, pour from the well of forgiveness, and hold yourself sensitively in your arms speaking softly gentle love to you. Through water we explore our emotional depths, feel our feelings and come back to our heart.
It may feel really uncomfortable to sit in our vulnerability and fragility. It may make us feel weak, helpless and powerless – but it is actually during our unconditional openness that we come into our wholeness and self-acceptance; it is while allowing ourselves to move through our vulnerability that we become invulnerable. Blocking our gentleness means blocking the connection to ourselves. As we learn self-tenderness, we come back to life and allow a deeper relationship to unfold within us.
“Be like water,” is what Taoists will always tell us. Water is incredibly powerful even though it does not show its powers often; think of all the places it enters despite stones and hard surfaces; think of all its changing forms, from vapor to rain to rivers to sea to vapor again, and yet it stays true to its core essence. We must learn to flow inside without resistance so that we come into equilibrium and resolve ourselves into inner peace. Soft, emotive, sensate, compassionate, forgiving and caring we must be towards ourselves – and be able to feel into our feelings without rationalizing them or judging them. It is not about thickening our outer skin – it is about nurturing and protecting our inner skin, which is the soil of our soul; this is the best protection, this is the greatest secret in our world.
Follow yourself back to your tender parts, like the inside of your forearm. Have you noticed how soft it is despite age and circumstance? Life changes us – our bodies begin wearing burdens whether seen or unseen; whether ours or of others – and sometimes we lose sight of the tiny gentle things. Just above our wrist is the unchangeable softness of our inner forearm; is the place where we can trace ourselves back to the very beginning – we can remind ourselves of the tenderness that never changed; of what we forever hold in our hearts despite changes, despite age, despite hardships; of the way we hold our bared gentle parts, remembering ourselves into wholeness.
Our greatest adversary to a deeper connection with self is forgetfulness; forgetting our ability to love. It is our tender places that remind us where our resilience is; how despite the hardships we remained soft in these places and we can settle into the safety of this gentle knowing. And finding these moist fertile places within the soil of our soul shows us where new seeds can grow.
We all adapt to our environments and in desert places cacti, and other plants, have adapted to grow sharp edges, be “tough” and have hard dry surfaces to survive. Needless to say, we all become our surroundings to “survive”. You see, no matter how true to ourselves we are, unless we have the supporting environment who will allow us to cultivate and nourish our true essence, we wouldn’t be able to express ourselves fully. A rose is a rose, but not all roses will bloom the same; if not given sufficient sun and water, how would it grow to its full glory?
And yet a “dry” environment doesn’t mean that we are stripped of that which is inherently in us since birth. No matter how “dry” it becomes, water can always be found in the desert if we dig long enough beneath our feet. Many years ago, I actually lived in a desert for a while and I can assure you water can be found even in the driest places. More symbolically, sometimes we may need to dig really, really deep to find that sacred well of life. It’s tough work to find something within that we thought we’ve lost – but I assure you it’s there, just like the soft inside of your forearm. Even if we find just a drop, collect it one by one like raindrops – keep it and treasure it, and one day it will be the whole sea.
Protect your tenderness
To bless our tenderness is to protect it and nourish it.
Our tenderness, just like our vulnerability, are blessed gifts that are meant to be fully shared with those we love who are true to us. Wearing our armour of protection is needed but we should also know when and with whom to take it off. Share your tenderness with long touches and deep love making. Share it with laughter and tears. Share it with long intentional conversations and whispers of sweet nothings in your beloved’s ears. Share it with true intimacy and share it all with an open heart, in the devoted sacred love spaces. Say “I love you” even when you think they know; say love, say love anyway, say love despite the love.
When fights or conflicts happen, it is easy and instinctive to go into a hardening mode. It is effortless to be critical and judgmental towards ourselves when we think we’ve failed or have been rejected in some way. It is easy to want to take revenge when someone has harmed us; to wonder, why the hell should we stay kind in this harsh world; what’s the point?
But we should remember that it is our own hearts that need us to remain in our tenderness. Don’t curse yourself by falling into the negativity you’ve absorbed from elsewhere. And once you find your sacred well of waters, protect it and share it only with those close to you.
And then there are times when we might find ourselves thinking, “Where is the love? Where did the compassion go?” These are the times when regardless of how kind, compassionate, loving and generous we’ve been, somehow we are faced with not being appreciated, nor supported, nor loved in turn. But in these times, I feel you should remember that love is still there – it is you. Does the sun ask, where is the light? It is you darling; it is through you, through your love, your forgiveness, your empathy, your very essence and mere presence in this world, that others experienced love in this moment. And it is through your love that they are faced with the opportunity to respond; some will, others will not. But what matters is that you stayed true to your heart and your values. And if it’s time to walk away, because you are not respected, loved nor treasured, then walk away with peace.
The breaker of all harm is a heart filled with love.
There is nothing more powerful than a heart filled with love, and the way towards it is our tenderness. When we follow its thread of water, it leads us gently to our core where despite the hardships we remained resilient and unbreakable. In a way – our tenderness is our hardiness because no thing and no one were capable of destroying that part of us nor take it away. This is our greatest power. This is our greatest strength. This is our source of life itself. And when we allow to be tender with ourselves, we’ll also be more tender with another. So call in the waters dear reader, for it is in your tender places where you truly are.