Practicing kindness to myself is advanced spirituality as is friendship.
To practice kindness to myself is just that – a work which demand practice. Like running or chess, we practice and practice and it gets better and better and some days we simply have a bad day and fail.
For me practicing self-kindness means that I am kinder to the people around me – less reactive, less bitchy, less judging of others.
To practice self-kindness I simply sit for an hour or so in the morning. Sometimes it is 20 minute and sometimes it needs to be 2 hours. But regardless of the amount, I sit and pay attention to my breath. as it come in I think the word “Jesus” and on the way out I simply notice, with gratitude that another breath was given to me so that I may live another dozen or so seconds. When I fail to stay focused on my breath I become curious rather than angry (a trick which also improves life when not meditating.)
Sometimes the thoughts enter my mind that this is “wrong” or that is “wrong” and my mind becomes a weed-filled garden in which the good fruit and vegetable-bearing plants are being starved of light and soil-nutrients by the masses of growing, writhing, undulating, squeezing weeds which, if simply plucked early, would not so threaten the good plants which need to thrive in order to feed the planet and its inhabitants.
And then there is friendship. Yesterday I spent much of the day with a friend. We tend to find each other when we are in the same city and we share courage with each other. We vent and, as our Jewish friends might say, kvetch. We laugh hard and well. We wonder at what is possible. We begin to migrate from complaining to fixing.
I think we need both meditation and friendship in such a tumultuous time in our planet and our church’s existence. At least I do. We need mindfulness, which casts kindness onto our selves by ourselves. And alongside that solitary action within the Holy Spirit, we also need courage-sharing with the people we love and trust. It is possible that one despairs at reading this. Perhaps you have no meditation practice and perhaps you have not done the hard, vulnerable work of making friendships (“make” is a verb). But that’s ok. Today can be different. Today you can spend five minutes grateful for each breath. Today you can call a friend and invite them to eat with you soon. At its best, Church is simply mindfulness and friendship in the context of Glory and adoration. But Church is the rest-stop, not the hike.