The Slightest Shift
– Turning Pressure into Peace
Love thy neighbor as thyself. I never got this. From early on there was I lot I did not like about myself, let alone love. It’s relatively easy for me to love other people, and virtually impossible for me to love myself.
Treat yourself as well as you treat your best friends. Now I can understand that. I don’t destructively criticize my friends. I know they do their best. I thank them a lot. I forgive them when they mess up. I speak well of them. I don’t put them down. I advocate for them. I encourage them. I don’t dwell on their pasts. I don’t make them feel guilty or ashamed of themselves. I don’t compare them to other people. I don’t expect perfection from them. I don’t love them because of what they have accomplished, or because of what they look like, but because of whom they are. I respect them. I am kind to them. I love them. It’s easy for me. It’s a pleasure. I’m grateful they are alive, and that they have chosen to befriend me. It’s a gift to be their friend. I’m grateful they are in my life.
Can I honestly say that about myself? Can you? And if not, why not? We’re human beings, just like everyone else? So why is this so difficult for some of us?
Let’s take that same paragraph about how we treat our best friends. Let’s try it on ourselves and see how it fits.
I don’t destructively criticize myself. I know I do my best. I thank myself a lot. I forgive myself when I mess up. I speak well of myself. I don’t put myself down. I advocate for myself. I encourage myself. I don’t dwell on my past. I don’t make myself feel guilty or ashamed of myself. I don’t compare myself to other people. I don’t expect perfection from myself. I don’t love myself because of what I have accomplished, or because of what I look like, but because of who I am. I respect myself. I am kind to myself. I love myself. It’s easy for me. It’s a pleasure. I’m grateful that I am alive, and that I have chosen to befriend myself. It’s a gift to be my friend. I’m grateful I am in my life.
Do you feel this way about yourself? Do you treat yourself this way? I don’t. And this is why I teach Grace of Sense. Because, if I am not going to teach this to myself, and do this for myself, who is going to do this for me?
I think I can safely say that kindness is a religious act. When the Dalai Lama was asked what his religion was he answered, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible to be kind.” I’ve heard Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, say, “I am not a spiritual person. I just know the difference between what hurts and what doesn’t.” I like that.
When we are kind to ourselves, it doesn’t hurt. When we are not kind to ourselves, it does. At some point we get tired of hurting ourselves. We don’t like it, but we don’t know how to stop.
I am teaching to others what I need to learn. It moves me to see how effectively, and immediately, Grace of Sense practices educe kindness from people. Kindness is beautiful to see. Real kindness spreads inward toward the person being kind and simultaneously outward toward others and the world. That’s because real kindness does not perceive boundaries. It is a force of nature, like the sun, or the wind. It’s a force of human nature. Kindness is the kindest thing you can do in this world.
One of my teachers, when she was 77, and I was 25, told me that simplicity is more powerful than complexity. She had just seen me teach an interesting, entertaining, but overly complex class. She had a simple way of saying things. I don’t know why it has taken me 40 years to become an uncomplicated teacher. Maybe it just took me a long time to simmer down. But now my work is simple. Maybe it’s too simple for you, and maybe not. What I teach is simply a matter of playing around with a few principles, every once in a while. It’s no problem if you forget them for hours at a time, or even for weeks at a time. Sooner or later one of them will resurface. And the moment one resurfaces, a subtle shift occurs, and your orientation toward yourself and the world becomes kinder. Just like that. It doesn’t matter how long it lasts, a few seconds, a few minutes, or a few hours, or for the rest of your life. As soon as this slightest shift occurs you have entered an opening into another world, a kinder world that exists inside this world.
You don’t have to practice them perfectly or diligently. Giving a bit of attention on just one of these simple principles creates a slight shift, and that is all you want – the slightest shift. These principles are pleasurable, so quite effortlessly the nervous system, when undisturbed, chooses them because the nervous system prefers pleasure to pain.
Let’s get going.