Between the fighting and heart hurt consuming our news and attention and the numbness of our industrial work, it can be hard to be hopeful and joyful. So, is there a way? I think there is. It comes from cultivating our capacity for tenderness. As I have said many times, joy is not just a feeling. Joy is an intelligence, an anchor, a practice, a skill, and a compass. When we are embedded in joy as foundational for our well-being and our lives, our relationship with ourselves, each other, nature, and life changes in important ways. It is especially valuable for cultivating a healthy tenderness.
Changes From A Joy Practice
When we shift to a joy practice,
- we are shifting out of fear as our primary anchor. That means we also change the way we relate to ourselves and others. The system we have keeps us dependent. Many fears that we have come from a fear of being rejected by those we depend on. As a result, we may have developed ways of living and being that are very wary and defensive because we know that dependency is often not a good experience. We all carry the trauma of a system that tries to keep us in line and struggling for survival, whether through our original family and their ways or work or our institutions. Because stresses are increasing financially, socially, and ecologically, few feel secure about their situations, including those well off.
- One of the downsides of our system is the difficulty we have being vulnerable because, in a highly competitive, dog-eat-dog world, vulnerability can be expensive. If the cost of being vulnerable is too high, we will likely pull back. However, without grounded vulnerability, we easily make mistakes in how we live. Vulnerability is an important requirement for being in touch with reality, understanding all of our risks, not just the culturally created ones, and also being able to identify when our culture is missing the mark, which is happening a lot right now with deferred action on environmental issues among other important issues.
- Getting out of fear means reconsidering what we pay attention to and why. It means that we consider whether or not we are attuned to past ideas and fears or whether we are properly attentive to what is going on right now. If we are continually held back by old wounds and trauma, then we will likely have a misplaced idea about what is important and why.
- With a joy practice, your focus is on being constructive, caring and serving the common good. That means you chose your actions with the intention of creating results that will not only offer joy to yourself and others, but they will also be healthy and create thriving. What a wonderful gift to be able to give.
- Tenderness is a natural energy that helps you make choices that are constructive and caring and serve the common good. So it is actually nourishing and steers you to that which provides nourishment for you and others.
Tenderness Has Important Social Value
So often tenderness is considered a sappy energy, and it can be suggested that someone who feels tenderness is childish and weak. That is not what tenderness is about.
Tenderness is where you find a sweet spot. Let’s say you are working on a project with some others and need to arrive at a decision of some kind. Tenderness is an energy that tells you when you have arrived at the best solution, the one that works the best for most people or the one that solves the problem best. Tenderness is a wonderful energy for finding what is right in a practical way rather than serving dogmatic ideas about what is right. That is very helpful. So tenderness is actually an energy that tells us when something is right in a practical way.
Tenderness is an “us” energy, not a “me-me-me” energy. It takes others into account. It lets others in. It accepts others and their needs as legitimate. So there is a lot of acceptance in the energy of tenderness. When you activate tenderness as an important socially constructive energy, you minimize the social rejection that creates so much pain and hostility to the detriment of everyone.
Tenderness can be a wonderful way to solve problems with others, and make life work when working with others. It creates the spirit of friendship which is a hallmark of a joy practice. Tenderness like friendship are qualities and values that make life easier. Isn’t it time we stopped making it harder than it has to be?
Photo by Valeriia Miller on Unsplash