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Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tenderness


I was blessed this week to sit in spiritual direction with my beloved teacher & guide Rabbi Nancy Flam. Nancy is kind enough to work with me over the phone because she lives two hours away and I can no longer drive that far. I usually sit in my bedroom for our time together. Upon opening my eyes after some silence, I noticed a clay heart sitting on my night stand with the word "tenderness" stamped into it. I didn't remember placing it there, and have no idea how long it was sitting in that spot, but somehow I had and there it was. I had purchased it with two other hearts sometime before Belin was born. One heart says "love" the other "peace". Somehow the "tenderness" heart became separated from its sisters long ago (they reside on my meditation altar) and I forgot about the "tenderness" heart. But there it was mysteriously waiting for me to pay attention to what it had to say. I mentioned discovering the clay heart on the table beside me to Nancy and this is what the silence and the "tenderness" heart stirred in me: I began to talk about Yom Kippur. A primary focus of this Holy Day is reflecting on "sins" we have committed individually and as a community; the unkind things we think, say and do as well as the kind and generous things we don't think, say or do and of course a continuation of t'shuva- turning inward, toward God-seeing our mistakes, admitting them, asking for forgiveness and beginning the process of change, of healing. One particular "sin" that has been weighing on my own heart, is in my interactions with my girls. It is no surprise really, as Rosie is 13 and Belin 16; they often direct accusations and judgments toward me, their mother, the one person they know will always love and forgive them no matter what. (And yes, I am aware that I am guilty of the same behaviors at times.) They are good girls, kind, generous, and mostly thoughtful, but there are moments when they push me away. They are defining themselves as separate from me. I understand and accept that this is a vital part of their development. Most of the time we connect deeply, we are close, we have always been close-but there are those moments when...

I am easily knocked off balance when they are angry with me, when they say words that are hurtful to me or treat me in a way that feels disrespectful. (Again, I know I do the same things to them sometimes.) My gut reaction is anger. I YELL! I don't want to react in this way and we always end up apologizing with true remorse and desire to heal the hurts. None of us want this. Nancy suggested that perhaps if now that it has reappeared in my life, I could call to mind the clay heart with the word tenderness stamped into it, I could begin to alter this pattern. By directing my attention to the experience of feeling hurt when one of the girls begins shouting or isn't behaving in a way that feels respectful to me, I can see what is true in the moment...then space opens up for a new possibility; offering my own heart tenderness before I open my mouth and YELL in anger, which only serves to increase the painfulness of the situation for us all. In essence, if I can be loving to myself then I don't need the girls to be kind in all moments in order to feel safe and "good enough" when their truth in that given moment is that they are feeling angry (perhaps someday, when they learn to examine their own delicate hearts more closely they might discover hurt, disappointment, frustration, anxiety or other feelings arising before their anger begins too..but that's another story.) This practice cultivates both chesed, lovingkindness and menuchat hanefesh equanimity...ultimately inviting rachamim, compassion into our relationships with each other and shalom bayit, peace in our home. And so the "tenderness" heart sits on my night stand (and will remain there) to remind me of this when, for example, one of the girls comes running up to my room in a whirlwind of anger because she "can't find_________ and why did You move it? lose it? blah, blah, blah...Mom You forget everything. You LOSE all my stuff. Why are You such a neat freak? It's all You ever care about! blah blah BLAH!" In my defense, this is the stuff they leave lying around, I get tired of seeing it, tripping over it, and often pick it up for them because I've reminded them 10 times already and I can't stand the clutter anymore...I've run out of patience waiting for them to put it away "in a minute!" Admittedly I do forget where I put their things afterward (and MS probably plays a role in my forgetfulness)..but it's not MY stuff and I don't always know where They want it! (and if I were obsessed with neatness everything would have it's own place and I would know where Their stuff goes...but I'm NOT a neat freak, I just get overwhelmed by an abundance of chaos-not at all the same thing, SO THERE!) Oh am I yelling on my blog? Sorry. You'd think after 16 years of being Mom I would also remember that I'm the grown-up and NOT the child. Then again, sometimes my own inner child gets angry, frustrated, hurt, annoyed blah, blah blah...and well, there you have it...this is precisely why I need to mother her too...with tenderness as Nancy suggested.

As our session came to a close, Nancy remembered a beautiful offering from our mutual friend, colleague and teacher, Rabbi Myriam Klotz:
לב רך
a lev rach (soft heart)
לברךה
is livracha (for blessing)


This is my kavanah (intention) as Yom Kippur approaches. I hope it will resonate for all of you as well.

May I live my life with a lev rach (soft heart) so that all of my interactions in the world, with everyone I meet, and in all of my relationships are livracha (for blessing).




Click the icon above to view more hearts that mysteriously appear at just the right moment.

Thank you Nancy and Myriam for your love, wisdom and continuous support (and Sheila too...the three of you are like the flesh and soul versions of my triad of clay hearts!)

g'mar hatima tova

gentle steps,
Laura

21 comments:

  1. Laura,
    What a beautiful and honest post. What you describe is what I call "the gap"... the gap between my reaction to something and my realization that I missed the mark in the moment. Tenderness makes all the difference. It's easy to beat myself up over missing the mark in the first place instead of offering tenderness to myself that at least I did at some point reach the point of realization (even if it was later than I would have wished for). I find the gap gets shorter with practice, and tenderness.(I am my own toughest critic).

    Your frustration with the clutter reminds me of something Byron Katie wrote in her book "Loving What Is". She says, "The reality was that day after day, they left their socks on the floor, after all my years of preaching and nagging and punishing them. I saw that I was the one who should pick up the socks if I wanted them picked up. My children were perfectly happy with their socks on the floor. Who had the problem? It was me. It was my thoughts about the socks on the floor that had made my life difficult, not the socks themselves. And who had the solution? Again, me. I realized that I could be right, or I could be free..."

    She goes on to say,
    "And an amazing thing began to happen. I realized that I loved picking up their socks. It was for me, not for them. It stopped being a chore in that moment, and it became a pleasure to pick them up and see the uncluttered floor. Eventually, they noticed my pleasure and began to pick up their socks on their own, without my having to say a thing."

    She concludes the paragraph,
    "Our parents, our children, our spouses, and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don't want to know about ourselves, yet. They will point us to freedom every time."

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  2. Oh Laura. How much I have needed to see this post. My own daughters (twins) are 18, and I find myself going through the same cycle at times. I will try to remember your words ... and your "tenderness" heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story - with a love and honesty that helps heal my soul.

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  3. Powerful teachings here Joanne, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and Byron Katie's too.

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  4. This is lovely. The first thing I thought of when I saw that little clay heart was to be more tender to ourselves. The ways in which we dismiss our needs/wants in favour of others, or the unkind words we use in conversations with ourselves, or the ways in which we describe our bodies, all add up costing us much more, in the end.

    Reading further, I was reminded of a strategy my brother & sister-in-law put in place in their home to help with the clutter issue. They put a large plastic garbage can on the back porch and anytime they picked up anything their kids had left laying around, it would go into the garbage bin. After a week, the bin was taken away with the rest of the garbage and disposed of. The kids always knew where to look for missing articles of clothing, etc. and if they didn't want to lose it, they got it out of there before it was too late. They tell me that there were many mornings when the kids were outside, in sub-zero weather, rummaging through the garbage bin for something to wear. *smile*

    Blessings,
    Carolynn

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  5. oh Laura this whole post resonates with me just now.. and i needed to be reminded of that tenderness.

    your wee protest and yelling made me chuckle..seeing myself there too:o)

    much love to you gentle lady..

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  6. Lovely Laura,
    Beautiful transparent words here. You are a mom like all of us. We all have our limits and lose it. The practice of tenderness to self when we do is so vital. I celebrate your journey into this and will take into my heart what you share and recommend. May your Yom Kippur be especially blessed! (How did the Tenderness stone get there anyway?)

    And Joanne, thanks for sharing the Katie piece. So true.

    Hugs all around,
    J

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  7. You have a soft and tender heart.

    happy Holidays.

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  8. Laura, this may be a somewhat surprising take on the sometimes vexing interactions with your daughters,but here it is. I think it's wonderful that despite your illness, which theoretically could come to define your relationships entirely, boxing everyone in unpleasantly and unrealistically, you are holding on to "normal" ebbs and flows. What a miracle, something to be grateful for. As for Tenderness, I have always thought you to be a gentle soul. If Tenderness is a synonymn for gentleness, than it's a perfect match for you.
    Blessings,
    Judy

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful thoughts and heart, Laura. I want so much to have a soft heart. It was really a blessing to read this tonight. Thank you!

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  10. Dear Laura, it is always so inspirational to read your beautiful and sincere writing...
    I have no children of my own, but I can relate to sentiments here, as i have a family. Sometimes family behaves very much the same...
    Tenderness is vital; it is an extension of the love and care we feel towards those we hold dear...
    Have a lovely Friday,
    xo

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  11. A wonderful heartfelt post. Thank you!
    Blessings,
    Coralie

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  12. I'm glad this post resonated with so many of you. Neatness and frustration with my kids was just one example of how this plays out in my life, but as you all realize, this tenderness practice can be cultivated in many situations.

    gentle steps

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  13. This was beautiful, Laura. I love how the universe talks to us if we listen and pay attention. We so often forget in the heat of the moment that tenderness and a soft approach, a soft heart, is powerful and healing.

    On a side note - my father used to hate if we left things lying around. He would tell you once and if it wasn't picked up in a reasonable amount of time (his time frame, mind - lol) it was taken away and never seen again (usually donated). Nothing laid around the house in inappropriate places for long - lol!

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  14. Powerful words, yet soft and loving. This was a much needed reminder for me on this Yom Kippur Eve as well.

    -----------------------------------
    My photography is available for purchase - visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

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  15. Thank you for sharing your "tenderness" heart with us. It is a great reminder, and I will go from your blog with its message to carry with in this day.
    And I`ll leave a little heart here---

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  16. teenagers can be hard, just think love, peace & harmony
    every day along with tenderness

    my friend you asked about the dragonfly, I found that if I blocked the sun and made a shadow they flew away. And make little slow movements. Butterflies are almost the same way.

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  17. These words are exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you for your honest and insightful story. In a very short time I've come to expect wisdom and voice of God in your words.

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  18. Laura, I keep reminding myself "this too shall pass" and it does. My 23 year old doesn't remember one angry word between us! Now my 17 year old is another matter! And of course, it always brings to mind the way I talked to my mother when I was their age. I love her and miss her every day. It is our Divine and Feminine Circle of Life and Love. In all of it's glorious messiness! Love to you dear one!

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  19. You show so much love and care for your family ~ that is what they will remember. In my experience, my hardest times with my children were when I was trying to fulfill a preconceived notion of what a mother was instead of being myself. I thought I had to behave a certain way, essentially how my own mother behaved, and that didn't work for me. There was a profound shift in my words, actions, and reactions when I shed that role.

    May tenderness fill your heart ~

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  20. I've been traveling and sleeping under the stars this past number of weeks and haven't taken in your wisdom for some time.
    I was so happy to stop by now and see your bowl of lavendar with its attendent wise words...then scrolling down I met 'TENDER'.
    I felt so soothed. And it was a familiar sense of connection because I have one of these tenderness hearts gifted to me more than 14 years ago.

    I carry it with me always.
    It was so lovely to see that you too have this sweet reminder.

    Your words are like a balm.

    I wish you Happy New Year.
    Iona

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  21. Your prayer softens my heart now, brings awareness to it's vibrational sending out and within. Thank you

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