This revolutionary act of
treating ourselves tenderly
can begin to undo
the aversive messages of a lifetime.
Welcome back to our Co-Creative Mandalas blog!
Each month, we share insights, inspiration, and all the ways the cycles of the Great Mandala uplift and support you. We draw upon the metaphors and messages of each season to explore and celebrate our individual and collective journeys toward Freedom.
The Co-Creative Mandalas have a vibration that represents something about the natural world and the energy in the universe at this current time.
This month's mandala is Tenderness
How are you? How is you summer? Are you playing? Are you finding ways to weave self-care into the tapestry of you life?
Thus far, our journey around the Great Mandala has provided opportunities for exploring six qualities associated with our pathway to Freedom: Beginning in January with Inspiration, then moving through Equanimity, Emergence, Connection, Authenticity, and Generosity. Now, we consider Tenderness.
While many of us may be well-versed in practicing kindness and compassion toward ourselves and others, there's another component of caring for ourselves and others that can take our connections to another level: Tenderness.
Although seemingly simple, giving and receiving tenderness is an intricate dance between the mind, body, and spirit. From boosting your psychological well-being to fostering tranquility and spiritual harmony, it plays an irreplaceable role in life.
Are you finding these days, in the midst of personal and collective challenges, it's sometimes difficult to feel calm, relaxed, or at peace when faced with challenges, obstacles to peace, and the suffering of the human condition?
If you’re feeling the heaviness of the world more acutely these days, you are not alone. Humanity is facing more uncertainty than ever.
In the past, when shift happened, I ignored (or diminished) the feelings that come with challenges and mustered the energy to soldier on. This time, that's not happening. It's as if my mind, body, and spirit are saying "Enough"...it's time to stop, feel, and listen. It's time to "try a little (or a lot of) tenderness".
When you breathe and allow your body to relax, you generate the energy of mindfulness and with that energy you can embrace your suffering and hold it tenderly.
During recent conversations, I discovered that many of us are experiencing some degree of chaos that comes with changes and challenges (personally and collectively) that shape reality in a multitude of ways. Of course, not all change results in chaos. Even so, change can be a bumpy road or bring you to a full stop. For one friend, it's the grief that comes with the death of a loved one. For another, it's the fear that comes with the diagnosis of a chronic, debilitating illness. For me, it's the uncertainty the comes with not knowing what my business will look like in the future.
The natural, human impulse is to reach out--emotionally and physically when we see suffering. So, how can we help ourselves, and each other, to restore a quiet personal source of love and peace that blesses and empowers, and creates some ease for ourselves and each other in these bumpy days?
Every instance of tenderness is a way to remember and feel the presence and power of Wholeness. In times of stress or hardship, there may be no greater comfort. Tenderness doesn't have a script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it.
Tenderness may enter your life as a random kindness or unexpected blessing, or as someone treating you with patience and understanding or you feel your heart softening when you experience or see images or hear stories of someone listening, holding sacred space, and communicating the incredibly healing message of "You're not alone". Tenderness can be a powerful and transformative experience.
Tenderness is gentle affection that's deeply personalized.
Kobe Campbell, MA, LCMHC
What does tenderness truly entail? At a glance, the act of giving and receiving tenderness might seem as simple as extending a gentle hug or holding someone's hand. However, when you look more deeply and tap into your mind, body, and spirit, you'll realize it's a lot more than meets the eye. Tenderness requires a profound level of vulnerability.
Extending tenderness toward others is often easier than doing the same for ourselves. I'm reminded that growing up I wasn't taught to love and accept certain parts of myself, "those" parts that were unacceptable. But, I did experience tenderness, particularly from my grandmother. She gave both gentle, comforting physical touch and warmhearted words and actions.
My grandmother's expressions of tenderness were filled with warmth, kindness, and compassion. Even if I didn't name the emotions when I experienced her touch and her soothing voice, waves of gentle feelings flowed through my body. She had a way of comforting me, so that I felt safe. I cherish many memories of all the ways she expressed tenderness, including teaching me the art of caring for and growing flowers. I also remember the two of us sitting in a big wing-backed chair, me snuggled close to her as she read the Sunday comics to me. I think I was three years old. That's just one of my many cherished childhood memories of her.
Those memories remind me that everyone starts out innocently, wanting to be welcomed, cherished, be deeply listened to, and looked at and treated with tenderness. When I look at this photo of my three year old self, my heart melts with tenderness toward her.
When you think back to your childhood, what are the tender moments that you remember? Perhaps it was your mother's loving arms around you when you were scared, or your father's proud smile after a small accomplishment. These are the seeds of tenderness, planted early in our lives, shaping our understanding and perception of tenderness, and of the world.
Do you equate tenderness with physical touch – a warm hug, a caring hand on your shoulder, or another's hand in yours? Or do you associate it more with gentle words, a compassionate glance, or selfless deeds done by loved ones? I think the answer is pretty subjective and personal because tenderness can be a mix of all these experiences - physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Tenderness is often considered to be the epitome of warmth, kindness, and compassion that encompasses both gentle, comforting physical touch and a warmhearted attitude.
Tenderness is a concept that is difficult to explain or define in a single word. In an article by Stepanie Hertzenberg, she writes that the Tibetan Buddhist word for tenderness is tsewa (pronounced see-wa), radical tenderness. Tsewa has been translated to include "warmth" or "compassion", and an expression of open-heartedness.
She goes on to explain
Tsewa expresses itself in many ways. It can be felt as kindness, compassion, generosity, tolerance, courage, resilience, mental clarity and a wide variety of other positive emotions. To Buddhists, true tsewa is seen as the source of all goodness in the world.
I truly believe it would solve a lot of the problems in the world if we could all learn to see the good in ourselves and treat ourselves with tenderness—because we’d then be more apt to see the good in others and extend that same tenderness to them.
Showing Tenderness to ourselves is as crucial as expressing it to others. It involves authentic self-acceptance, kindness, and care. Tenderness can manifest in self-nurturing practices like remembering your younger self, and embracing her with love and affection, enjoying a favorite hobby, spending time in nature, or even taking a nap. It's all about listening to and taking care of what your mind, body, and spirit need and paying attention to what you value, to what matters to you.
Research shows that experiencing and expressing tenderness has a profound impact on our overall well-being, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual. Emotionally, tenderness can help establish stronger connections, nourish self-esteem, and cultivate resilience when facing life’s hardships. Physically, acts of tenderness can lower stress levels, improve heart health, and boost the immune system. Spiritually, tenderness can foster a sense of belonging, enhance inner peace, and facilitate personal growth.
In the same vein, tenderness towards others includes lending a helping hand, understanding their needs, and offering loving kindness. Empathy, seeing through others' eyes, and demonstrating humanity toward others have their source in tenderness. Often, the most tender thing we can do for another is show respect and genuine interest by deeply listening. Tenderness strengthens relationships and fosters mutual understanding, respect, and deepens our connection with others.
Incorporating more tenderness in our relationships begins with practicing being more tender with ourselves. starting each day by tuning into what you need instead of what you have to do and then meeting and exceeding those needs for yourself.
Tenderness is both emotion and action and transcends physical touch - it is an emotional gesture that can profoundly impact your well-being as well as the well-being of people around you. Whether it's listening, lending a helping hand, or taking personal care, I invite you to cultivate, practice, and extend simple acts of tenderness for yourself and others in your daily life.
This Co-Creative Mandala, "Tenderness", is from a photograph of wisteria (symbolizes Divine love). The colors are associated with the heart, third eye, and crown chakras. It asks "How do you treat yourself?" Are you gentle and loving? When you are kind and loving toward yourself, you remember your wholeness, which helps others do the same.
I treat myself and others with
a loving and tender heart.