The Journey: Loving kindness toward yourself

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                  Twenty-two Presbyterian ministers went on an overnight meditation retreat. This isn’t a joke. It is true. We attended an overnight meditation retreat at Westminster Woods in Occidental. Tucked into the redwoods we took silent walks and did yoga! We had a well-balanced mixture of men and women of varying ages. We joined together in breathing exercises, mantras, and many meditation practices. The meals were delicious, and the wine at the end of the evening was outstanding.

We were invited to this retreat to grow in our spiritual practices in order to deepen our loving kindness and compassion to others and ourselves. Please stay with me and I promise I am not going to start levitating and change my name to Rainbow. Compassion toward ourselves is the pathway to compassion for others.

Why is it difficult for many of us to offer loving kindness to ourselves and yet we can give it freely and happily to others? Perhaps it is that we often look at compassion as a gift and offering it to ourselves seems selfish. In ancient meditation and wisdom practices, loving-kindness is essential for everyone, and this includes giving compassion to oneself.

When we live without self-compassion we easily get caught in blaming ourselves for our problems and shortcomings, all of which too often leaves us feeling more pain and isolation. Being able to practice and live with self-compassion means acting, believing, and seeing God’s creation in new ways…and you are God’s creation.

When we explore our spiritual depths we are saying yes to new horizons and possibilities. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6: 9-13). Praying or meditating is about being present with your life, present with God and present with your fellow human being, right now in this moment.

Consider the obstacles we often place in front of ourselves in regards to being present with God. Do you isolate yourself through work, anger, hurt, betrayal, addiction or self- importance and thus deny yourself and God your life as a pathway for God’s peace and freedom? I am reminded of a passage in Proverbs 8. We see that we are partners with God. Partners in creation, shalom, beauty, kindness, compassion, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.

Loving kindness and self-compassion is the cure to fear. When fear grips us, and we all experience this, we are acting from a place of pain and resistance. The more pain we experience the more fearful we become and the cycle continues. The fear of feeling not enough, or the fear that rages through us when we feel trapped and see no options; or the fear of taking the next step. In the midst of these feelings we suffer deeply.

Courage is the heart of compassion and leads us to emotional, psychological and spiritual freedom. Self-compassion affirms healing, and it connects rather than alienates us.

The practice of self-compassion is fertile ground to living boldly, generously and inclusively with the world and ourselves. In self-compassion we are truly free from the demons of painful and suffering emotional states.

Twenty-two Presbyterian ministers said goodbye at the end of our retreat. Hugs and handshakes were given. We all went home and back to our congregations. This time we were a little different than when we began. Self-compassion begins by taking the first step. When our daughter was learning how to walk if she fell down ten times, she got up eleven times. That is what the road to self-compassion is about.

Take the first step and be able to get back up. Living out of kindness and a new and present self-compassion we can’t help but change.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah.