Living lifelong human care, development, education, learning and service for all.
“At this dusk” (After Matisse’s Bronze Dolls), Watercolour crayons on paper, 2001, Peng-Ean Khoo
Kindness came to me as a very surprising insight, after honesty. It is the time of the year when I am preparing for my talk and sharing with the OT students at SiT-Trinity College Dublin BSc programme, and after many turns of ideas, I came back to a continuity from my last talk. I had spoken about confronting the anguish within, and how honesty is the bridge towards the inner freedom that we seek. From what, I had no idea. I thought it was fear, but it has shame mushed into the inner pain, and I thought it was courage too, but in the end, I came to realise, it is – kindness.
Why kindness? Because, there is no freedom if we can’t look upon our own suffering and struggles, with kindness. Without kindness, there is a sense of pity, mockery, judgment, contempt and in the end, all that waiting embodies is a high suppression of impatience. There is a sense of still wanting to get out of the pain – of growth -, of the figuring, learning, discomfort, and of wanting to fast forward and skip the necessary suffering (from which is required authentic insight to emerge). Kindness has no time lines, nor targets, nor outcomes, nor goals, nor metrics of measure, nor words.
Kindness. Being kind to oneself. Looking upon one’s own insecurities, anxieties and inexplicable inner anguish – without a need for theory, developmental or otherwise, nor any labels, nor any need to suck it up, nor feeling better, nor being better, nor any justifications or framing of learning.
Sometimes we just come to this inner place of all woundings and there is no longer any description for it. Sometimes, this inner anguish simply just demands for us to take notice. And it is only when we look upon this inner pain with kindness, rather than disdain, that it starts to make sense.
Sadness. Look upon sadness with kindness. Not judgment. Not even with joy. I think the translation for karuna is actually kindness, not compassion.
As I start to be able to look upon myself with kindness, the expectations begin to lift. The I-can’t-do-it begin to dissipate. The burden of being – perfect – of having to solve it all – is finally shed. And it is through the eyes of kindness that we can finally look upon ourselves – with the liberating kindness of embrace – without bearing the pressure of anger, frustration, condemnation, guilt, shame, expectations – of I-am-not-good-enough, of I-am not-worthy and the need to prove worthiness. The need to be the favoured one, the honoured one, the amazing one, the one that stands out – the hero.
The liberation is from the gaze of myself upon myself all along.
That I do not need to be anything to be me.
That I had looked upon myself with such high expectations, and all I can be is fail that expectations, and I had turned this gaze on the world, and so all the world can do is fail my high expectations. And I had become grouchy, grumpy, unbelieving, bitter and sad to the point of anguish about this reality gap but the gap really is in my own high expectations. The world turns and is whatever it is. And it is always beautiful, if one learns to see with the eyes that sees only the poignant beautiful complexity and simplicity of life.
And the pain in my heart?
I don’t keep beating myself or the world up anymore. I don’t need to anymore. There is nothing to beat up. There is nothing to blame. No more aggressor to hate. No more victim to pity or rescue or reject. No more divides to straddle and peace-make. No more jockeying to be the winner or the saint or to be significant. No more living up to the narrative of heroes and saints that we draw up and put ourselves through to the point of exhaustion, failure, anguish and despair. No more feeling like a failure or a need to protect against judgment, condemnation and rejection. And abandonment. No more self-exile.
No more needing to protect against something false. Something that can no longer hurt me. Something that is not real. Judgment cannot be imposed by another on another. It can only be imposed by the self on the self. Same with labels.
How I see myself is how I see the world and how the world sees me. So, work on how I see myself.
And if I don’t answer to the labels by others, then those labels don’t matter. They don’t count. They don’t make me. The labels are not my identity. They are not me.
I am no longer living an identity of worthiness.
What matters is how I view myself. How I gaze upon myself.
I choose to gaze kindly.
I choose to gaze with deep kindness. The solitude which I have learnt to find tranquility in is the intimacy that everyone seeks. To connect within. If we can connect within, then we can connect without. The solidarity is made of the same quality. Of non-judgment. Of kindness.
Perhaps, kindness is translated as upeksha. It doesn’t matter. I am not going to grasp the Sanskrit. But I can grasp me.
I choose to gaze at me with adoration.
Perhaps adoratio means embracing the self with silent kindness.
August 9, 2017