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Tender Loving Care

The Summer of Lovingkindness Invitational continues with tender loving care…

encircled © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

Susan Gallacher-Turner left a sweet and tender comment on my post What Is Loving Kindness? With her permission, I’m bringing it front and center for those of you who may have missed it.

Check out her Sculpting a Life blog, and discover her earthy sculptures here.

Susan wrote:

As a mother of two, now grown, children, I can see that loving kindness truly bloomed in me as I nurtured my children. And it reminds me of an exchange between my own mother and I.

I had been home a few days after giving birth to my first child, a daughter, and I was giving her one of her first baths in a small baby sink in the bathroom. I’d carefully assembled all the needs, soap, shampoo, soft wash cloth and towel then, just as carefully and somewhat nervously, I undressed this little darling. While my mother looked on, I lowered her slowly into the bath and went about gently washing her smooth skin while taking in her tiny beauty from her dark hair and eyes, little lips and fingernails. As I was absorbed in the process of bathing my daugther, I didn’t notice that I did anything special, but as I finished up my mother said, “You did that all so gently. I never did that, I was in such a hurry and just scrubbed you.” When I looked over at her, curious, wondering if I was getting criticized, I could see amazement on her face. It was as if for the first time, she realized that she could have done it differently.

The act of bathing, feeding and holding my children was always done with loving kindness, I realize now. It just came naturally. Why, then, is it so hard to give that same care to myself?

The tender loving care she gave to her daughter is so beautifully present in her writing. She inspired memories of my own, and I intended to add them to these words of hers.

I’m deciding to offer her words as a gift to you and to myself — to let her words hold the space even though I think I should be adding more of my own writing here.

“Why, then, is it so hard to give that same care to myself?”

I’m too far gone with exhaustion to have any honest answer. I’m good at being gentle with myself when I’m crashing from my head injury or adrenal fatigue and it’s too late to do anything else. (Like now.)

But I think it may be one of the most important questions we have to answer if we’re going to be of service.

I really want to hear your thoughts on this: What can I do? How can we support one another in giving ourselves the tender loving care we need to go forward in vitality and lovingkindness?

15 Responses to Tender Loving Care
  1. bookbird
    July 23, 2010 | 5:09 pm

    yes – excellent post and good question. To look honestly at ourselves and see what we see… the bones, the warts, the addictions, the anger, the jealousy… and not turn away…. and then to keep looking with compassion… maybe that is the biggest life lesson that we face. So perhaps that is why it is so hard? It is probably supposed to be! It might take me several lifetimes to get the knack of this I think.

    I think for me I begin to breathe into the negative emotions I am having aboiut myself, to try and ventilate my fears. Then I find a spiritual friend to talk to – one who affirms me and makes me feel stronger. And then I take those words and try to apply them to myself.

    • Mahala Mazerov
      July 23, 2010 | 10:28 pm

      Pema Chodron calls that the gorilla in the mirror. You keep thinking “That gorilla is not me, those addictions, that anger is not me” but you finally have to accept that really is you in the mirror’s reflection. Then, as you said, you get to work on it with compassion.

      Spiritual friends to talk you through. That’s one thing I love about the internet. They’re everywhere. Like you, dear.

  2. laney
    July 23, 2010 | 8:47 pm

    hello, i think this is a question we all struggle with & will never be able to fully answer. it’s so different for all of us. for me, part of it is that it’s easier to see when other people are not being kind to themselves & it’s easier to call them on it. when it comes to me, though, it’s very easy to make excuses for myself & for those around me that may not be making my life so pleasant. does that make sense? thank you for sharing the story above. it is beautiful. have a great weekend!

  3. Mahala Mazerov
    July 23, 2010 | 10:32 pm

    We seem to find multitudes of ways and reasons to struggle with this, don’t we?

    You’re making perfect sense, Laney. How can we stop accepting being unkind to ourselves — in a kind and loving way?

  4. Michael
    July 23, 2010 | 11:03 pm

    Thank you Susan and Mahala for sharing that touching moment.

    On the question, here are a few thoughts perhaps someone will find of interest:

    1. It is the mark of a kind person, and group, when one struggles with treating oneself as well as one treats others. I’m sure we’ve all run across people who have the opposite challenge: learning how to treat others as well as they treat themselves (hence the age-old need for the golden rule).

    2. On many issues people fall toward one end of the spectrum, and are out of balance. In this case, some are too much takers (to the point of selfishness and habitual self-indulgence), and some are too much givers (to the point of self-destructive, or at least self-demeaning, over-sacrifice or lack of self-care).

    3. I’m not meaning to equate, in any sense of moral or social virtue, the over-givers and over-takers. I’d far prefer to live in a world of over-givers than a world of over-takers. Still, for both individual and society, some mix and balance (though not necesarily a uniform mid-point for all) is usually best.

    4. A few simple and practical tips for treating oneself well:

    a) Imagine yourself from the outside, as a good friend, and do kindnesses for that “friend.” And while doing so, you can even talk to yourself using your name (instead of being silent or saying “I”).

    b) Schedule your self-nurturing (whether a bubble bath, a meditation session, etc). Put it on the calendar, the Day Planner, the I-Phone, or whatever scheduling device you use. Scheduled activities are far more likely to happen.

    c) See it as a spiritual discipline. It is a great spiritual responsibility to shepherd your life force through this existence, and to do it with compassion. Nobody is more in control of your life experience than you; thus, nobody is more responsible for your care than you.

    Best wishes for love and healing to us all.

    • Mahala Mazerov
      July 24, 2010 | 2:42 pm

      I think your suggestion to schedule in time for self-nurturing is a good one. One still has to overcome a multitude of voices to actually put something on the calendar, and not push it aside in the immediacy of the moment. But I do think scheduling helps. At the very least, it starts to say this matters, I matter.

      Self care as a spiritual discipline. Something to think about.


  5. LaShae
    July 24, 2010 | 9:26 am

    Some of the reason I think I personally don’t provide myself with the loving kindness I provide other people, comes from believing – giving it to myself is an act of selfishness. That I will use it up on myself and I won’t then have enough to give to others.

    I’ll become a loving kindness addict. I’ll horde it.

    As if loving kindness can be horded or as if it creates the same kind of selfishness that addiction creates.

    Huh? What did I just write? Really? That’s one of the reasons I don’t or won’t give myself the same loving kindness I give others?

    This requires some quiet pondering. And maybe some writing. Thank you Susan for saying it out loud and thank you Mahala for placing a spotlight on it.

    • Mahala Mazerov
      July 24, 2010 | 2:54 pm

      Oh dear. These nefarious voices in our heads!

      I, too, am always concerned that any act focused solely for my own benefit is an act of selfishness. From your comment I’m beginning to wonder if what we need is a model self loving kindness addict. Surely she would show us that loving kindness is a quality that can do nothing other than overflow.

      Good luck with quiet pondering. If you end up writing anything on your blog, do come back and let us know.

  6. Kelli
    July 24, 2010 | 5:32 pm

    If I were as generous with myself as I am with others, my life would be transformed.

    That said, I read something the other day about how offering to help someone may come from a place of superiority. I am better than you, therefore I can offer a piece of me to help complete you. I’d never considered philanthropy this way before, but it struck a nerve. I’ve been reconsidering why I offer to help when I do and where it comes from in my heart.

    • Mahala Mazerov
      July 26, 2010 | 9:19 pm

      If I were as generous with myself as I am with others, my life would be transformed. What a resounding sentence. I’m sure many readers can relate. I think the next question is how would your life be transformed? and, more importantly, what would you do with that transformation?

      There certainly can be imbalances in giving such as you describe. I always try to give with the awareness that no one is the giver and no one the receiver. in a true exchange of generosity, we are both.

  7. Susan Gallacher-Turner
    July 26, 2010 | 10:18 pm

    Wow…amazing and soul-searching comments from everyone. Much to ponder here.

    First off, thank you Mahala for seeing my comment’s value, my writing as beautiful, using it here on your blog. I’m touched that this mothering memory was an inspiration in a small way.

    Michael, what great practical suggestions, especially ‘scheduling’ time to actually do it and seeing it as a spiritual discipline. I don’t think, seeing it that way that one could become a loving kindness addict or horde it. I do agree, Mahala, that we need to stop accepting being unkind to ourselves and find a way to do it in a kind and loving way. How? Perhaps like Laney suggested, the key is in accepting and catching ourselves and calling ourselves on it, like we would a good friend. In the last week, I’ve been repainting, cleaning and renewing my home…could this be an act of loving kindness?

    The question we are all discussing here, is such an important one. Because I really do believe that nurturing yourself is a key to being able to continue to nurture others and that in turn, nurtures our world.

    • Mahala Mazerov
      August 1, 2010 | 11:22 pm

      Your words, the responses here and my own issues with self-care have generated a considerable amount of contemplation for me. I’m letting thoughts percolate further, but will definitely write more about this in the future.

      Thank you.

  8. laney
    July 27, 2010 | 8:55 pm

    Susan, I totally agree & I loved your post. Again, thank you Mahala for sharing the post with all of us. Sometimes I wonder if we even know How to be good to ourselves, because it’s so drilled into us that to think of ourselves first is selfish & we should think of others first. Where is the balance?

    • Mahala Mazerov
      August 1, 2010 | 11:25 pm

      As I wrote to Susan, I have many new thoughts percolating on this and I will write more in the future. I will say, I’m looking beyond the idea of balance to the idea of wholeness. Wholeness with myself and with all beings.

      More to come :-)

      Thanks for being part of such a scintillating conversation.

  9. Vicki
    August 24, 2010 | 12:00 pm

    I, too, suffer from a brain injury, and now I am facing some knee surgery. I have experienced a gamut of emotions from “Why me?” and “Life’s not fair!” to a gentler, more peaceful place of trying to accept this as a challenge to work with and learn from. I have pooh-poohed the idea of a Gratitude Journal in the past, but in less than a week I am accepting its benefits. “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” I realize that although this is a setback, friends and family are rallying around, offers of help are coming from unexpected places, and that things could actually be MUCH WORSE. And so I cope…….

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