Kind promise: I will be tender with weaknesses.

Painting“Tender” is a word that sits in the backwaters of our language. It gets put to use in love songs (Otis Redding, Elvis Presley). It finds its way into doctors’ offices and cooking instructions. Other than that, it languishes. How did it find its way into this promise?
Because my meditation teachers use it.

You say to yourself, “now is my time to meditate.” You sit down, check your points of posture and attend to your breathing. In no time (it seems), you are lost in thought. Tenderly, you allow yourself a fresh start and return attention to your breath.

Tenderness is an important part of the process. I practiced meditation off and on for years without a teacher. When I found myself lost in thought, I attacked myself mercilessly, made sweeping judgments about my past and future and bullied my attention back to my breath. No wonder my practice didn’t last!

In the fall of 2011, I found a meditation teacher (Jan Lundy). The title of the first lesson was “Cultivating a New Relationship with Your Breath.” That lesson, and the (continuing) practice that has followed, has led me to cultivate a new relationship with everything, including weakness.

As someone with multiple sclerosis and a tendency to depression, weakness is a big part of my life. When my body doesn’t answer my requests or my thoughts tumble into darkness, tenderness is a saving response.

Tenderness releases the past and leaves behind stories.
Tenderness bathes wounds and comforts pain.
Tenderness recognizes wholeness in the midst of brokenness.
Tenderness opens the heart.

As my current meditation teacher, Susan Piver, says: “when my heart opens, the world changes.”

Coaxed from the shallows into the mainstream of my thinking, tenderness allows me to leave behind old patterns of judgment and retribution and brings me into new life.