A gentling

Recently I ran into a friend of mine who had been traveling for some years. After a long hug and reacquainting ourselves with new smile lines and fledgling gray hairs, she asked me what I had been up to since we’d last seen one another. When I responded, I found myself saying: “You know, what I’m up to these days could best be described as a gentling.”

I’m not sure if I came up with this word or not, but all I know is that when I said it, it sounded True, like the first, wonderful warble of sound from an instrument played after many years of lying in dusty silence.

Yep–-these days when people ask me how I’m doing, I just want to say:  “Gentler.”

It’s taken a very long time for me to start to be gentler with myself. Perhaps for the majority of us the initial moment we realize we could and maybe should be our own best friend occurs only at a very low point in our lives–when we can no longer afford to make our self adversary, but instead must become advocate.

Becoming kinder with our selves is a process. I think for me it started by watching what happened when I felt regret after an “unskillful” exchange with another. I began to pay attention to a sequence of thoughts about myself that became progressively less generous and increasingly more hateful–a whole lot of “yuck” turned inward. This was a first step in seeing where and when I turned against myself and how immediate the loneliness of that experience was. It was very painful. And I had to become realistic: If I couldn’t befriend myself, how could I expect everyone else to?

Someone once told me, “You teach people how to treat you.” I believe this is a very accurate statement. How people respond to us and treat us is how we are treating ourselves on the inside.

Forget worrying about everyone else for a while–where do we disregard our own boundaries? Where do we lie to ourselves; betray ourselves; act disloyally with ourselves? Where is it that we, in fact, aren’t kind, respectful, generous, considerate, and loving with ourselves? And yet we expect everyone we come into contact with to respect us, honor us, be loyal and unconditionally loving with us–or else!

Do we really believe that people in our lives should be  “unconditionally loving” and “nonjudgmental” even if we haven’t yet learned to give our selves that same courtesy?

A while back I was doing some yoga in the living room. I’ve practiced various styles of yoga for many years now and I go through phases where going to a yoga studio feels good, and phases where “living room” yoga feels better. So there I was one morning, stretching this way and that into whatever posture felt like the next, best one, and the next posture I flowed into was one that had me low to the floor and reaching a hand under a leg and around and out of sight behind me, where apparently my other hand would somehow find it.

But as I reached under and around and up through space my attention wandered and, no longer focused on my breath, my mind was lost in thought–so much so that when one of my hands opened and gently took the fingers of my other hand into it I was surprised. It was as if a kind stranger had suddenly taken my hand and had softly squeezed it. Warm tears sprung to my eyes. I squeezed back, shaking hands with someone I was pretty happy I’d be getting to know.

Who knew I could have my own back and my own hand at the same time? That’s Yoga for you.

And also Kindness.

– em claire


To Love Yourself

To Love your self start here:
Take your own hand, and
put it to your lips.
lay the soft of your cheek
to the round of your shoulder–
where the faint musk
of the enduring dreams
and the labors of your life
perfume you.

It’s a start.
It’s a beginning.

 Now the ache of your heart







“To Love Yourself”- em claire
©2005 All Rights Reserved

(Em Claire is an American poet whose work appears in her book Silent Sacred Holy Deepening Heart, as well as in When Everything Changes, Change Everything. She may be reached through www.emclairepoet.com)

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  • Mel Dee/Melanie D.

    Em ~ this is so outstanding! This is really what has been so on my mind this week. Exactly this. So thank you from my best friends bottom of my heart (me). I did as your exercise suggested and brought a tear to my eyes. Felt like true love. Well, it is ….as I am ‘gentling’. I love that!~
    Very Inspiring and again hit the nail right on the head. How wonderful to let that in & look very deeply at.
    To share: This week I asked the other love of my life …. “aside from your family and kids who do you love the most”. I expected, of course, “me”. You know…I was fishing for that …. To my surprise he said ‘me’ & ‘you’. I was a little chagrined…but was like “oh…right…cool”. He said…”you have to love yourself”. Of course we all know this…the verbatim of it but ‘to get it’ is experiential. So now when I text or write an ending and/or even saying goodbye…I say: “I Love Me I Love You”. It does something inside…I hear and think that myself creating that energy. Feels great! At first he thought I was being sarcastic (something I am letting go) … when really I was letting that in and owning it … loving it…loving me and loving you.

  • Laura Jean Pringle

    Aw! Great article, Em! I’m so happy for you to be coming to this place, and thank you so much for sharing your insights with us, reassuring us along the way. As the youngest child, and a bullied teen, I frequently felt that no one really cared about me, and it was up to me to learn how to emotionally nourish myself. As a result, I realized that all the love I ever wanted was right in my own heart. But, when I was looking back on what I considered to be mistakes and regretting them, it didn’t feel very loving. People don’t forget easily, and their judgment stings. I try to be gentler on myself, but my expectations are high. When I don’t live up to a preconceived standard, I am disappointed in myself. Recently, I’m coming to the conclusion that God doesn’t CARE what we do, and no matter what, everything is fine. Regret is a reflection on a past time which keeps us from our now moment. Each now moment holds endless opportunity, it’s what we really live for, and is infinitely precious. Only we have opinions about them, God does not!

  • Anne Stilwill

    Thank you for reframing the process of self-help with the vision of “gentling.” What an enormous paradigm shift for me! I will become kinder to myself in my self-talk which is always quite negative. I practice and practice to change it into positive self-talk but this new vision helps me greatly.

  • Katie Allen

    Em, what wonderful timing to read your message. I have been feeling this way, but did not know what to call it. I was experiencing some self-doubt in terms of thinking that perhaps I’m becoming too withdrawn. But now I know what I’m going through! Thank you for giving it a name you wise and wonderful woman!!

  • Steve Bolas

    Oh so true Em. Given that we are all ‘One’, others will inevitably reflect back to us the way we are feeling about and treating ourselves. Certainly as was mentioned in the CWG material, we clearly (when we’re open to it) reap what we sow.

    Steve (Gold Coast – Australia)

  • I Am I Am

    Lovely, Em 🙂 I love this. I do. I just do. This is what we need. We don’t need a thing. We really don’t. All we need is to know ourself as love. All we need is to become the aspect we truly are in Chista named Christ I Am’s one love heart. We are the heart of one love. We are Chista. We just are. We are gentle when we know we are life as Chista. We are love, when we are gentle with every aspect of us. We are love when we know we are pure unconditional love. It is easy in life to be who we really are in life, when we see all others as we see ourself. We are not usually gentle with ourself, as we usually are with others, but life is never usual once one begins to hear the call of Chista living the one trail life called oneness. We are the called. We are the answer to the call. We are spiritual beings having a phsyical experience here now. If we desire to lift to a higher level, we can lift in this day right here, right now by saying, “I see all as me. i see me as all as love. We are aspects of All Love. We are all love. We are a new age. wE are more than we ever knew we are. We just are. If we believe we are pure and unconditional love, we treat all life with this gentle love you speak of. We give all the benefit of the doubt and assume life is pure and unconditional love. We are I Am. I Am assumes nothing but love of all love. All love is always gentle. Thank you for you. Thank you for being gentle. What a life to say I Am this gentle with all life. Thank you for letting me see me as you. Thank you for letting me see you see me as you as the gentle aspect you are in I Am. We are I Am Hi

    Love, Love, Love to you,

    I Am I Am