The Discomfort of Kindness

3 07 2011

Yesterday I was reading a book about practicing mindfulness and compassion towards oneself. I was just about to drop the remaining 300 pages of it when I came across this exercise that asks me to remember (and re-experience) an incident when someone was kind to me. Remember their tone of voice, their facial expression, what they said, how I felt . . .

I already know that kindness is a trigger for me. I am aware that I am insatiably starved for kindness, so I thought this exercise would be helpful. However, I could not remember any such incident. This is not to say that no one has ever been kind to me, but I just could NOT remember. I remembered impressions, bits and pieces, incomplete fragments, but not one full experience. The interesting thing is that the impressions I did remember were not full interactions: a sentence over the phone, an email, but not a face-to-face interaction. And I didn’t feel much. I just wanted to get up, to stop the exercise. Of course, I pushed myself and dug further, but only found more discomfort. I don’t really know what to make of this: Am I blocking? Not only that, but I also found that I got EXTREMELY uncomfortable and before I knew it, my eyes were watery.

The second half of the exercise is where I am supposed to remember a time when I was kind towards someone. What did I say? How did I feel? What did I do? Again, I could not remember. Again, I was lost. I used to be a kind person, a well-wishing one, one who could put herself in others’ shoes very easily and feel for them, or at least want to alleviate their pain. After some point in time, which I cannot identify, I lost this ability. Sure, I’ll help, IF I can, but kindness is another story. This must be what “disconnect” is. “You are you, and I am me. You feel what you feel and I feel what I feel and each of us cannot possibly know how the other feels. So you stay in your world and I will stay in mine (be it problems or blessings). That’s just life: tough.”

I closed my doors of empathy and my kindness well suddenly dried out.

To feel kindness towards me — to practice that — when I am not well, when I haven’t done well, I know that that is key for me. But that is something I haven’t the faintest clue how to go about doing.

Eyes watery, memory blurred, emotions stirred, I closed my book and attended to more pressing matters.

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