Kindness to Ourselves

By Matthew Lyon

We live in a stressful world in many ways. The demands of our families, our jobs and the complexities of modern life can seem extreme at times.

In response to this, we often develop a pattern of pushing ourselves to our limits to accomplish as much as possible in a short time – to try to get ahead on the long list of things that we have to do – which, of course, is a never-ending list.

Over the years I have had many discussions with Tibetan teachers about this issue. Their objective observation has been that people in Western society are very hard on themselves, and that this tendency is at the root of numerous problems, individually and collectively. I certainly have fallen into this pattern quite often and I have contemplated the issue a lot.

It may help us to recognize this quality in our lives as a first step. We tend to get used to a certain level of stressful behavior, without fully realizing the effects it is having on us. For me, this seems to result in getting sick sometimes, and I suddenly realize how much I had been over-doing.

On another level, we can consider the difference between healthy exertion and the quality of demanding too much of our selves. For example, it feels really good to have a strenuous workout that brings health to our bodies. It is fulfilling to work hard on a worthy project and to bring it to a successful completion.

The problem comes in when we can’t let go of a certain driving quality, and when this carries over into every aspect of our lives. We then generate stress even when it’s not necessary.

Meditation helps us to tune into our state of mind and to notice that this is happening. Beyond that, meditation practice is also a fundamental act of kindness and generosity to ourselves.

In simply being present, we are cultivating the experience of being, in contrast to the fixation on constantly doing. We can give ourselves this gift.

When we can let go and surrender to this sense of nowness, we are empowering ourselves with a potent antidote to the stresses of this world.

2 thoughts on “Kindness to Ourselves

  1. Thank you for sharing your insight on kindness to ourselves. It is so easy to put ourselves in a position of “constantly doing” for everyone, but ourselves and then wonder why we feel so stressed. I am relearning the value of being present for myself and how it brings about a calming not only for myself but those around me. The value of your article is priceless, timely and, at least for myself, a gentle push to continue in this direction. ❤️❤️

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