Be Gentle With Yourself


Lately, the gap between where I am and where I think I should be has been making it hard to get up in the morning.  Then, yesterday when I did, I heard my neighbor and friend knocking on my door, asking me to come down for a minute.  She shared that she has been having a very tough couple of weeks, complete with panic attacks.  We spoke for some time, encouraging each other.  Boy am I glad I have a friend who can do that for me!

Anxiety does seem to be running rampant in our society~  this week my Dad invited me to join him at a guided meditation workshop being held at the library.  Well.  This is quite a thing, because he is an engineer and if you know any engineers, then you know that they don’t typically go in for that sort of thing.  I was intrigued and was happy to go along.  I wondered whether anyone would be there and was surprised when the room filled up. The leader turned out to be the genuine article.  A man from India, he spent 40 years working as an electrical engineer before retiring and turning to meditation.  He called himself a PhonyDr., to much amusement.

I have read a bit about guided meditation, and was nervous because I can never seem to do it right.  The whole, “picture yourself walking through a wood to a clearing with a bench and someone comes to you who is your spirit guide” has never worked for me.

Therefore, I was just delighted with this leader.  By the way, did I mention his first name is “Om”?…

ANYWAY…he talked very quietly and calmly about the benefits of being present and aware.  He had us close our eyes and listen to music, explaining that if you are listening you aren’t thinking and it is thoughts that can make us feel anxious.  There is a bit more to it than that, but really, it is quite simple.  Try it…it can be the birds outside your window, a wordless piece of music, or even “the sound of one clapping hand”.

Others, who had also been reading up on meditation, had questions for him.  ” Do you breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, or the other way around?” was one anxious question.  He chuckled and replied that as far as he was aware, the nose is for breathing but that there really aren’t any rules about this.

After about an hour of this, I really did feel a deep sense of peace settle into me.  Mostly his message was, “be gentle with yourself”.  This is what I wanted to share with all of you today.  And I expect that if we start with that, a lot of other things will naturally fall into place.


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21 thoughts on “Be Gentle With Yourself

  1. Isn’t it funny how we try to complicate everything? I’ve meditated off and on for years and always make it into something much more difficult than it really is. Then we feel we aren’t doing it the “right” way and start judging ourselves. I think if we meditate on a regular basis it really does teach us to be gentle with ourselves. I’ve been wanting to find the time to start up again, so your post is very timely. Thanks!

  2. Sounds like a very interesting guy, this meditation master. Hope that you will be able to put the anxiety behind you quickly. It is such a waste of life.

  3. Melissa,
    It’s wonderful that your father invited you to the meditation class! Meditation is very helpful for just about anything. I really like the teachers advice. Thanks for sharing.

  4. The need to “do it right”, compete and achieve is the source of most of the anxiety we feel nowadays, unless it’s genetic. There’s a huge body of evidence re: meditation, showing clearly how it changes teh brain.
    Your paintings are a joy.

  5. That’s so great! I can imagine how being still and just really in the present – aware of the music, the birds, the wind, whatever it is – would provide you with some much needed peace. I focus so much on the past and the future, that I crowd out the here and now. I can’t do anything about the past, and what I plan for the future can only be achieved by what I do right now, so there is a big problem when I don’t pay attention to the present!

    “Lately, the gap between where I am and where I think I should be has been making it hard to get up in the morning.” We’ve all talked about this before, and that seemingly gaping hole was a theme for me when we were all talking about happiness. I understand (at least from my own perspective) what you may be feeling, and I hate to think of my friend going through that.

    The biggest thing for me to deal with (still deal with) is my impatience – with my progress, or lack thereof, and generally with myself. I don’t make changes fast enough, I don’t do what I say I want to do, my successes aren’t coming fast enough… It can all be so debilitating. As I’ve been thinking about my goals in the past couple of months, I am slowing coming to the realization that it will come when it comes. And as soon as I start feeling like one thing is coming together, something else presents itself to me as a new challenge or thing that I feel I need to improve about myself. It seems to be a never-ending cycle, with my big, vague goal of being a better me never being reached. But that’s not really accurate. What is accurate is that making life changes, and achieving most worthwhile goals, is a slow, slow process.

    I am definitely one to focus on what I have not accomplished, rather than on the small achievements I’ve made. So, I’m going to write down my goals in smaller steps, so I will have not only a better guide for myself, but a way to look back and see that these small victories add up – that they are not meaningless.

    I would ask you to go easy on yourself and take the time to acknowledge your accomplishments. However small or insignificant they may seem to you, they are steps in the right direction. You’ve seen me be so harsh with myself, and that is not the best method of encouragement. And the person that holds the most sway over how we feel about ourselves is simply US! Tell yourself how great you are! Remind yourself of that – because you are great! But you need to hear it from yourself before you can really believe it’s true.

    Okay, sorry I talked for so long – but please take that as a compliment to your thought-provoking post!

  6. Wow Melissa I was pulled into this post immediately by the calming peaceful colors and shapes in the fabulous image and then even deeper by your well done post. Meditation and the art of being present takes time to fully integrate into your life and art (so no getting impatient!!!) And I have to tell you if this amazing work of art is what grew from your first meditation experience, I am excited for all of us to watch how your already beautiful work evolves. Be gentle with ‘your’ self — you have an amazing talent for sharing beauty with the world not just through your art but your words as well.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind, encouraging words, Rick. They mean so much to me!
      Meditation enriches our lives in ways it is hard to express, doesn’t it? I find there is a calm presence somewhere under the surface…very reassuring when life can look scary.

  7. I think meditation is something we all used to do but didn’t realize it. We used to take more time to think and breath, but today we are so busy that we don’t take time to be peaceful.

  8. You know, Melissa, I do so appreciate the thoughtfulness of your posts…but always return to what catches me right away, and that is your beautiful art. Such talent! It is always such a pleasure to visit you here.

  9. I think we may all learn from being more gentle with ourselves. It’s hard, though, isn’t it? Meditation is definitely one way to facilitate that emotion. I really like your painting with the post. It does emanate kindness and peace. Very nice.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! Yes, I find that being kind to myself is surprisingly difficult. Many times I will catch myself thinking something harsh about someone else, perhaps another driver on the road, for example, and I will realize that really I am judging myself about something.


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