“Gentle” is going to be my word for 2017.
I resolve to be gentle, excessively gentle.
A new year’s resolution implies a determined effort to make a change, of which I certainly could consider—to be more patient and generous, to eat more healthful, to exercise, to lose weight. There is an endless list of shoulds, musts, shouldn’ts, can’ts, more of this or less of that, but I resolve only to be excessively gentle. Resolve, itself, is such a dogged, unwavering word, so instead I call this “being gentle” my un-resolution.
I’ve been giving this “being gentle” idea some thought during the sacred waiting of Advent. So often, I try to hurry through the darkness of life, times that are painful, (seriously, who wants to hang out there?), but during Advent I feel I have permission to rest in the womb of darkness, taking time to prayerfully reflect on a very difficult 2016.
Although I want to move quickly through my discomfort, and those around me prefer this as well, I have felt incapable. The lesson of Advent is that birthing cannot be hurried, especially of the Christ; perhaps, this resting gently in my own darkness could have something to teach as well.
So how can I learn to be more gentle with myself and others? This is the question I sought an answer to during a SoulFully You Advent retreat. With the help of compassionate friends and the insightful SoulCollage® process (called readings), I am discovering how I might move more gently into 2017.
Reflecting on, praying with, or “reading” your cards is a process that never fails—if you have questions, God provides answers that are tailor-made using the images that have spoken uniquely to you. We begin by randomly selecting three Soulcollage® cards from our personal collection, cards made months or years earlier, taking turns with questions and reflections.
I ask my first card, How can I learn to be more gentle with myself and others?
I am one who looks down on the universe and upon a scene of the Garden of Eden. We are a part of the whole but also in relationship. I am one who is the light of Christ; I can look upon the universe with love and light, just as God does. I am one who can be more gentle, remembering we are all connected with the light of Christ shining through each of us. Being gentle with others means withholding judgment, being content with myself and looking lovingly upon myself and others. I am this child who looks upon the scenes of daily life with acceptance, with the feeling that God is well-pleased. “God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
I ask my second card, which is quite different than the first, How can I learn to be more gentle with myself and others?
I am one who is deserted, depressed, angry. I am one who feels knotted up, spinning out of control, losing my head, going in a million different directions. All negativity and darkness flow from a small place (in the lower left corner of the card). In the doorway is a pile of trash, things that are thrown away. I need to let things that need to be thrown away, be thrown away. I do not need to let the darkness, either outside or inside of myself, consume me. I am one who can give voice to these dark things, not masking it. I can let the darkness be what it is without holding on to it. I am one who can face the shadow side and not ignore it. In the darkness of the doorway from which all negativity flows, there is still light. I can face everything head on and reside in this place where trash, the darkness, is also present.
I ask my third card, How can I learn to be more gentle with myself and others?
Unsure whether this card is really finished, I am attracted to the stability represented by different types of stones, all having endured the test of time. I am one who gathers strength in the mother/child connection; I can mother myself through the storm of life. I see the darkness and light in everyone, knowing that no one is ever “finished”. I am one who is strong, committed to stability and grounded in faith regardless of my situation. To survive, to thrive, there must be a convergence of both dark and light in myself and others. I draw strength by resting into the stability of my faith, my God and constant companion.
Looking holistically, the theme of light and darkness in each card cannot be missed. It can be a harsh reality to accept that there is always a little darkness in one’s life, but, there is inevitable light amidst this darkness that gives hope, purpose, and meaning. I feel affirmed that patiently wading through the dark waters of life will bring healing, a sense of being “finished”.
After reflecting on the insights of my SoulCollage® reading, I felt another card needed to be created, titled—Just Hang It Up.
I don’t have to “wear” everything I’m given. Perhaps the old and worn, even the cherished, can be hung up for a while; not discarded, but set aside. Instead place “it” carefully on a hanger, still a part of my personal collection of wounds and wonders. One cannot keep wearing what is from the past; sometimes we just need to hang it up, to let it rest. Perhaps this is the way to learn to be excessively gentle–hang up the past, forgive, move on.
What is the “it” that can be hung up? I’m still praying and seeking answers about the “it”, but I have an idea. “It” is shame—shame that comes from criticism, disappointment, expectations, being silenced, feeling too much…all of these too much, not enough kinds of feelings that lead to discontent, a lack of self and other acceptance.
Our darkness can be carried in the heart as shame, unless perhaps, we treat ourselves gently and pray for healing. I’m just starting this journey, I am not “finished”—and in the time I’ve written this post, I have participated in nearly everyone one of the “its” listed. But there is an awareness that I can let some of “it” go. I can just hang “it” up. I can be gentle with myself. In the words of John O’Donohue,
“At first your thinking will darken / And sadness take over like listless weather. The flow of unwept tears will frighten you. / You have traveled too fast over false ground; Now your soul has come to take you back…Draw alongside the silence of stone until its calmness can claim you. Be excessively gentle with yourself.” –an excerpt from “A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted”
May you move ever so gently into the new year.
Take time for silence. Listen.
Take solace in your faith. Pray.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Be excessively gentle with others.
And may your 2017 be blessed!
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