I don’t want to make you understand how I see things.
I don’t want you to think I have something you don’t.
I don’t want to have to be something I am not in order for you to like me or believe in me.
I used to. When I am unconscious, I still do.
What I do want to be is in relationship with you, and to do that means we each must be who we really are.
How can relationship ever really happen when we are pretending?
Falsity breeds separation.
We’ve been well taught how to be something we are not. And, the invitation is always here to drop all of that and simply be what we are.
I used to think it would be lonely here in this solitude of self. I now know it is full and rich.
Rilke wrote this:
“And this more human love (which will fulfill itself with infinite consideration and gentleness, and kindness and clarity in binding and releasing) will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.”
May we be these ‘two solitudes who protect and border and greet each other’ – with ‘infinite gentleness and kindness’.
“Grace is always falling like rain. We just have to be open to receive it.” ~Amma
Tenderness, Power and Grace
This is the third post in a series of three: Tenderness, Power and Grace. All three posts are deeply intertwined. They’ve been born from the deepest, most raw feelings I experienced as I let the images of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani (and the intense feelings of hatred and violence towards women and girls that seem to be so evident in our global community) wash over me.
I sometimes paint with Chris Zydel. It’s process painting, where the process – what happens during the process of painting – is the focus rather than the finished painting itself. On a Thursday, just after learning about Sakineh, I painted this painting, titled Grace is Everywhere. That was three weeks ago. Since then, I have been writing about what I experienced through the process of painting that day: tenderness, power and grace.
For whatever reason (maybe no reason at all), I waited until this last post to include the painting process. In this last post, I’m going back to the beginning. I’m taking us back full circle.
I had been filled with these intense emotions after reading and writing about Ashtiani. At that time, I wrote a post about the power we women have to create change…how the power of our coming together can change things. And, even though I know there’s power in circles and that we can effect change, I also felt powerless to do something myself, something to free this woman from the hands of tyrannical forces that hold such misogynistic views of women, and on a deeper level, powerless to change the way women are disrespected, oppressed and hated, the way children are of such seemingly insignificant worth in a society that seems to value greed, consumption and violence. Power and powerlessness.
The more I sat with these feelings, the more anger, frustration, and futility I felt at a world that seems to not be able to see, really see just how much unresolved distrust and fear there is simmering under the surface between the genders.
And so, when I arrived to paint, the process took over as I selected colors for my palette…or, rather the colors picked me: blood red, black, yellow, purple, and gold.
As I began to paint, the feelings spread out onto the paper: grief, anger and rage, powerlessness and power, hope and futility. They flooded the page through the paint.
Big, wide brushstrokes of blood red: stoning, death, power over the powerless.
Bright brushstrokes of yellow: the brightness of hope.
Swaths of black, deep dark black, so heavy they flooded the bottom of the picture: mourning and grief that could only be expressed with a black that was void of all light.
As I painted, I stayed with the feelings that appeared.
Tenderness that is Grace
Then, something else showed up. I felt a tenderness come through, a tenderness that wanted to be expressed differently – through my fingers rather than the brush. Quivering tenderness.
I put the brush down and submerged my fingers in the paint. The black paint along with this beautiful gold paint, a gold that flowed directly from the tenderness quivering in my fingertips. Black for grief and mourning in the immediate presence of the gold of tenderness.
As I painted, I could feel the word grace come forth as the gold began to make itself known on the paper alongside the black. Grace in the middle of death and grief. Then my fingers chose red and gold – grace appearing with power and powerlessness. As my fingers scooped up the yellow of hope, grace came along, too.
Grace appeared with everything I was feeling. It had a distinct ‘feel’ and color to it, as did all the other feelings; but the thing that stood out so starkly to me, was the deep wisdom that arose about the absolute necessity of feeling everything with conscious awareness, without pushing away any difficult emotions or aspects of the experience. Grace was not there in place of the dark emotions, it was there with them, alongside them, intermingling with them.
Grace made itself known through the direct and conscious willingness to feel the entirety of everything, and the depth of it all; this willingness was cradled by the process of painting itself.
Visceral and Palpable
The grace was visceral and palpable, and made me keenly aware of the possibility of knowing such grace in the middle of the darkest of our experiences. Even when things seem most without hope, grace is always present, falling like rain. Grace’s presence is not a question – it is always here; rather, it’s our willingness to be vulnerable in the most raw and uncomfortable places, a vulnerability that opens us like a flower, so that we can receive grace’s shower.
This willingness to see things just as they are, to feel the immensity of feelings associated with all that is happening to our planet, to the human race, to all living creatures can open us to receive the tenderness and wisdom of transformation. This grace brings the sweetest tenderness, palpable in the body and heart, a tenderness that is much more powerful than the tyranny we see today, because it is kissed with the rain of grace.
This willingness to see things just as they are opens us to see ourselves with tenderness, to see the creativity and love that resides deep in the folds of our divine robes of feminine flesh, and to know we are sacred beings with a sacred creativity to be shared. This is the soft power that we are here to bring forth at this time on the planet.
Just as the painting process held this process of revealing, so can any process of expression provide a container with which to know something greater than ourselves. Whether it’s painting, dancing, writing or any of the myriad ways we can express what’s within, whatever we choose can be the container that helps us welcome out what is wanting to unfold. It is being with all that arises, feeling it deep in the body, and allowing its wisdom to teach us a new way.
It helps me to know that grace is with me when I open to seeing what is happening here on our earth, in these places that feel too painful to look. When I know that grace is here, too, even in these places of darkness, I know I am not alone. And, I know the power of transformation grace offers. What if this life force, that is held in these darkest places could transform into light? into the light of awareness and awakeness? In this time of global shift, it is exactly this awareness we must learn to bring to even the hardest things to be with.
And, what about Ashtiani? What about grace for her, for others who are in imminent danger, others who are oppressed and victimized? I do know that if we’re willing to see directly into these horrors happening right now, if we don’t turn away, we can act in some way that can help change things. If they can’t act, we must. They may have no power, but we do, and our power lies in circles of people coming together.
Perhaps, grace is telling us that things can be different, but it will take us coming our of our own complacency to help change things for Ashtiani and others. Perhaps, this is the message within that quivering tenderness, that our power is in coming together to help support us all, as a global village to change things through a revolution fo tenderness.
This is simply my experience with grace and the dark emotions.
I’d love to know how you’ve experienced these dark emotions, and their power and vast potential to transform.
How do you experience Grace? What wisdom does it bring?
This is the last post in a series of three on tenderness, power and grace. All three posts are part of the Summer of Love Invitational, where the lovely Mahala Mazerov has invited bloggers to write about loving kindness.
It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender. ~ Jenny Holzer
The power of tenderness.
The tender skin of one touching the tender skin of another, causing an exquisite encounter, not possible in any other way.
The tender eyes that want nothing from the world, except to welcome and embrace all that generously spills into view.
The tender heart that loves simply for love’s sake, rather than for what one might get out of loving.
Some tender places of the heart can only be known in relationship, when one is willing to lay down arms, open the heart and wait, exposed.
I know the power of tenderness.
We all know the power of tenderness.
Revolution begins with changes in the individual. ~ Jenny Holzer
We already know, well, revolutions of domination, where ‘power over’ has all but brought the human race to death’s door.
We know the power of tenderness in intimate moments.
What if we were to realize that it is in our own self-interest to engage in a revolution of tenderness?
What if we were to realize that the power of tenderness is so much greater than the power of tyranny?
I, too, wonder how this might happen, how we shift from tyranny to tenderness.
Those that engage in domination and destruction stand in a perspective that sees tenderness as weakness, not strength.
But, I also know the only way to begin a revolution within is with a tender ‘yes’, a surrendered ‘yes’.
It begins with trusting that ultimately, the power of tenderness rather than the power of domination will be what saves us.
Which is the more powerful act?
Somewhere within each of us is a place that dominates and condemns – others and ourselves. This place is the most tender of places, because, it fears tenderness, yet longs to be showered with it. This place learned to dominate early. It learned to condemn and judge at an early age. When tenderness was what this place was longing for, instead it received judgment. Somewhere this place believes judgment and condemnation are the best way to be strong in an unsafe world; yet, if you check-in closely, what’s really going on is a longing to be touched with tender hands, to be seen, really seen, with tender eyes, and to be held and embraced by the most tender places of the heart. Hence, it is in your own self-interest to be tender.
We may fear being tender and loving will be seen as weak by those that continue to shower our beautiful world with hate, violence, oppression and greed. And as long as we see it as being weak, they will. When we know the strength of tenderness as a gift to ourselves, and when we see the powerful effects of the offering of tenderness to another, the perspective that ‘tenderness is weakness’ can begin to shift.
Try it. Feel the effects it has on you and others. Compare these to the moments when you judge and condemn others. Then, ask yourself, truly look to see, which is the more powerful act? Which way of being requires true vulnerability and fierce loyalty to love?
We’ve all judged and been judged. We’ve all condemned and been condemned We’ve all dominated and been dominated.We all know these experiences. What if we were to caress another’s ragged coat of life with the tender touch of one who knows these things intimately? This is the real revolution of tenderness that is poised to unfold.
This is the first post in a series of three on tenderness, power and grace. All three posts are part of the Summer of Love Invitational, where the lovely Mahala Mazerov has invited bloggers to write about loving kindness.