Those words – “take good and gentle care” – are usually what I sign off with in my email replies. I want folks to be reminded that they deserve to be take care of, and well, and gently. The ‘gently’ piece is something I think is hard to do, though. Gentleness is not something that’s easy to cultivate in the modern world we live in.
I feel like the modern world we live in is full of angles and edges and pressure. We often have to rush through things, or we’re overwhelmed with boatloads of email, or we’re being pulled in 15 different directions at the same time. And when we’re in mid-life or living with the Sex Surge, there is a whole other layer of stuff to deal with. Hot flashes, not sleeping, holes in short-term memory, or a sexy radio station playing in your head all day long (which sounds awesome, but can get kind of exhausting when you can’t turn it off).
I think of all those things and then I think of the word ‘gentleness’ and it feels like the opposite of what most of us are living on a daily basis. When I think of gentleness, I think of softness, patience, kindness, compassion. I also think of things like dappled sunshine, puffy dandelions, a welcoming hug, a good pillow to rest on. There’s not a lot of edges or push when I think about being gentle.
I wish we were more gentle with ourselves.
One of the things I especially wish is that we were more gentle with our minds. Our mind is the ‘software’ that lives in the ‘hardware’ of the brain. The brain is structures, the mind is functions. And one of the functions we seem to default into is the internal yelling we do at ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always the nicest voice in my own head.
I yell at myself in my head…mmmm…quite a bit, if I’m honest. If I’ve got a decision to make (I actually kinda hate making decisions), or I’m ‘taking too long’ at something, or if I’m not living up to my expectations I tend to yell at myself. If I snip at a friend or family member, there goes the unkind voice again. When I was in the Sex Surge it was a daily companion- reminding me how awful and destructive my feelings were (except they weren’t). Some days there is a just a low-grade grumble going on in there.
Of course, this kind of self-talk doesn’t help. It puts stress on our mind, which transfers itself down to our body. It can leave us feeling anxious or depressed. When we notice we’re doing it, it just straight up feels like crap. (And if you happen to identify that inner voice as being similar to someone you love/loved you, it can feel 100x worse.)
I want more love and gentleness for ourselves inside our heads. I want us to be a bit more friendly towards ourselves- especially during the day-to-day and in the places you know the cruel voice will come after you.
Notice and ignore, baby. Notice and ignore.
Noticing when we’re being unkind, uncompassionate, or a little yell-y or cranky at ourselves in our head is the first step. Just notice it when it happens. Because once you notice it, you can take action with those inner voices (if you feel like it).
In Sufism (the mystical wing of Islam) they call those inner voices ‘the nafs’- and they are regarded as ignorant and loud and probably best left alone- like the loud guy at the office party. They are not the true self. I think we all kind of know this already- that’s not our best self talking to us that way. So, ignore it- just like the loud guy at the office party. It’s okay to turn the volume down on it, completely dismiss it and what it’s telling you, and simply just stopping the thought or the voice when you recognize it. Please also feel free to stick your fingers in your ears and sing, “la la la la la!” if that helps. Or to think of the nicest person you trust giving you a hug and meaning it. Yes, like that.
We do better- we are more efficient and effective and we feel more confident- when we are kind to ourselves. Remember what it feels like to be gentle with yourself. To have your own back. To support yourself. You so deserve this kind of love and gentleness. You really do. And I think if we were not dragged around so much by our days and our jobs and our obligations, we would know this was true. We do deserve gentleness and love inside our selves.
This week, maybe pay a bit of attention to how well you are caring for yourself inside your mind. Notice where there are edges and roughness and pressure. See what you can let go or ignore, and begin to take good and gentle care of yourself.