Healing Begins with Tenderness

We want to feel better. In fact, we want to feel amazing and free and enthused. Jazzed. Free. Whole. We want to drop the crap, to be safe and to feel sound. We want to heal. We want to heal for real. We want to heal for good.

Healing begins with tenderness.

I learned this recovering from my unplanned, deeply unwanted C-Section that left me with, what I deemed my ‘I was sawed in half by strange men because I’m a broken failure of a woman and I’m a selfish, moody bitch for feeling anything other than gratitude for the safe birth of my son’ scar. In my effort to heal, as quickly and perfectly as I possible, I found the beautiful self-care technique, Maya Abdominal Massage, that I faithfully performed every day I could (still do twice a week). I’d begin the passage called ‘digging for potatoes,’ and you bet I’d go rummaging around my guts for those potatoes, intensely kneading my belly, face clenched, determined to root up any lumps of scar tissue, and while I was at it, any buried trauma, denial, self-hatred, fear, etc., pummeling myself trying to erase a wound.

The day I caught myself ‘caring’ for my scar with vigorous self-bullying, I had to laugh at my misguided, ironic technique. We want to heal.  We want to repair the tear, wipe off, feel better, and move on with our life experience backpack fuller. But taking aim at our hurts (or at another person’s) with a closed fist doesn’t work. In fact, it makes things worse, reinforcing imbalance, magnifying faulty thinking, further inflaming swollen tissues, hardening the injury with more and more scar tissue.

Healing is transformation. It is change, movement, regeneration, and sometimes, resolution. This means that it won’t be like it was before. To begin to heal, the pain must be approached. And just as you would meet a new baby, the pain is best approached with presence, patience and gentleness.

The How To

(The order of these actions and attitudes is flexible. Trust you’ll know in each moment.)

Start Tender

Perhaps a soft touch or voice, a smile, listening very closely, waiting, expanding into something sharp or someplace dark. Deal with it (them, yourself, her, him) as though you’re holding an infant child, a new puppy or gorgeous budding flower in your hands. We’re all just finding our way in our bodies, in this world, in these hours.

Tenderness doesn’t negate the often called for discipline and/or Power, nor does it mean the path ahead will be cushy. It’s just the style best suited to the task.

Start with Love

Keep the word LOVE in mind and behind your eyes when you’re: helping, cleaning, paying, waiting, speaking, looking, listening, approaching difficult moments, running with the wind or feeling the walls closing in — when you feel overwhelmed, tired, mad, sad, afraid, enthralled, jealous, jilted, wronged, amped up, and oh so joyous. Everything will be different. You go first.


Remember to remember your breath. Breath is paramount. Simple, in and out, sometimes delicate, sometimes rolling and heaving, always moving.

Make it deep, make it quiet, make it continuous, make it feel good. Breath connects us with all Life. Let it take you there. Breath nourishes cells, brings what’s needed, takes what’s not, the wind from an open window blowing through a musty room, the waves in the ocean, the warmth that melts rock to lava.

Approaching pain (and fear, disappointment, anger, frustration, rage, grief, fill in the blank) tenderly won’t make you a weakling doormat loser. It will take you deeper and light you up. Starting from love will remind you of what you’re made of. And remembering to breathe will change everything.

When I realized my approach to healing was off and adopted my new mantra of tenderness, I discovered a deep well of magnetic love and resource. I came face to face with my darkest parts, the place where the Goddess’ shadow is cast in the light that illuminates the Treasures of Life and Death.

As Pema Chodron says, “…if you touch that soft spot, you find the vast blue sky.”

I still give great effort to my abdominal massage, breathing through the hard spots in my gut. But I do it with sweetness and trust, without an agenda or timeline. My scar represents one of the most important events of my life. It has been a tremendous teacher. It may never fade and may always feel kind of itchy. Maybe all of emotional energy swirling around in my abdomen will never completely unwind. Maybe it will.

Tender is the place to start — to approach the doorway to expansion and freedom from the hallway of the crappy situation. This is how the shitty, inconvenient, painful, unfair, horrific, grievous curves we’re thrown, which, by the way, everyone will have in some way or other, transform (sometimes eventually, sometimes only kind of) into beautiful lessons connecting us to our Brothers, Sisters and Spirit. And then we see how all of it is unfolding toward the Good.

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