Letting go of obligation has dramatic impact.
Sometimes, preparing a meal when I am tired and cranky and want to argue with the assertion that popcorn is not an entrée, I catch myself grumbling, and I stop for a minute. I sit down in a chair and take a deep breath. I feel my weariness and I lay my hand on my heart, and wait for a little tenderness to arise.
And then, moving more slowly now, I prepare the meal, noticing the crispness of the red peppers, the scent of the cilantro, the creamy smoothness of the avocado. And, on a good day, if I can let go of rushing, I can allow my desire to nourish myself or others infuse and guide my preparation of the meal.
And I swear you can taste the difference.
Because intent- HOW we do something- shapes and to a large extent determines the impact of our actions. Actions taken solely out of obligation lose the fullness of their ability to touch the other or the self with that which is healing, expanding and renewing. Tenderness becomes elusive, and the effort is exhausting.
This holds for self-care as well as care of others. I have a long list of things that I know are good for me: eating well, going for a walk, doing my morning practice. . . .But if I do them out of obligation (to some ideal or “should”) and without any real tenderness toward myself, I find I am going through the motions somewhat mechanically and the impact- the restoration of balance and energy- is diminished.
And yet, I don’t want to make this another “should.” Some days, all we can do is go through the motions- and sometimes that’s enough to make us available to the grace of a larger Mystery that carries us beyond obligation to our true and compassionate nature.
I am learning to catch myself when I move too fast, when I am driven by real or imagined obligations. I am learning, as the song says, to try a little tenderness with myself and others.
~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016