The other day, we found this lovely image at Girl Knew York, Improvised Life assistant Mira Keras’ tumblr, accompanied by these words:
Love is tiny actions of affection. My favorite tiny action this week is seeing Love as putting makeup on your sister when she isn’t well enough to do her own. (It’s also using your coveted urban decay naked pallet, and not the cheap sephora brand one.)
It reminds us of Anne Herbert’s brilliant mantra and book: Practice Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty, (Read about how it came about here. )
It strikes us that gentleness and generosity in Mira’s photo is the very thing we should give ourselves (in addition to others): apply kindness to those areas of holding and judgment within us that can be undermining and downright savage. It seems to be something of a theme lately as we see friends being harshly self-critical: not good enough, not smart enough, a failure etc.
The best antidote we know comes from a book we’ve been reading and rereading for years: Healing into Life and Death by Stephen Levine which is, at heart, about “the application of merciful awareness as a means of healing“, whether one is ill, or in physical or psychic pain. Mercy is a word so associated with religion and punishment that we had to look it up to clear our old notions. Compassion is another word that resonates, as does “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly”… “kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation“. Levine writes:
By softly exploring and letting go of the resistance which tightly encompasses discomforts in the mind/body, the next level is uncovered and our pain becomes yet more accessible to healing.
Over the year it has become evident how simple and natural a truth is inherent in the process of sending love and awareness into a place of mental or physical discomfort. Indeed, when injured, our hand naturally moves to touch the wound or bruise, an unconscious act which reflects the deep conscious attempt to activate healing and the relief of pain by touching with softness an area hardened in the mind or body.
This deep knowing of the body is conceptualized in the Gate Theory of pain. The observation that soft touch in an area of hard injury can confuse the pain’s signal through the “neural gate,” a phenomenon by which lesser sensations are able to displace the pain receptors in the brain. This instinctual response to touch that which is in discomfort with a gentler sensation gives some indication of the fundamental healing quality of mercy and awareness.
Trusting the deeper intuition that lies just beyond mind’s old conditioning to escape, we discover how entering mercifully into an area of discomfort can relieve distress. To relate to discomfort with a merciful awareness is to see with soft eyes. To see with soft eyes is to receive life with a nonjudgmental kindness and openness that makes room in the healing heart for even our most assiduous holdings. To see the mind with soft eyes is to practice forgiveness. To see the body with this same softness is to experience sympathetic joy. In soft eyes are reflected a world of peace and healing.
That last paragraph is so amazing, we separated the lines to turn it into a sort of poem (just the right amount to take in as we go about our day)…
To relate to discomfort with a merciful awareness is to see with soft eyes.
To see with soft eyes is to receive life with a nonjudgmental kindness and openness that makes room in the healing heart for even our most assiduous holdings.
To see the mind with soft eyes is to practice forgiveness.
To see the body with this same softness is to experience sympathetic joy.
In soft eyes are reflected a world of peace and healing.
We all treat ourselves harshly at times. Can we apply kindness and compassion —soft eyes — to ourselves? Or to those we view harshly?