THE POWER OF TENDERNESS

“I’ve been trying to awaken for many years, but still I don’t know how to surrender.”


This question of how to surrender most often comes when the exhaustion of trying to awaken reaches its peak . . . trying to do a spiritual practice, trying to meditate, trying to be mindful, trying to open, trying to accept.

When trying exhausts itself, the possibility of surrender comes to the forefront. And then the question arises: “How to surrender?” But this question comes from the wrong place. It’s not a matter of how it can be done. There is no formula for the mind . . . the mind cannot do it or understand it. When a circumstance is challenging, when life rocks our world, when there is loss or pain of some kind, surrender becomes impossible because the mind does not want to surrender to a circumstance and to an experience that it really doesn’t want.

It’s more useful to turn your attention to tenderness. Tenderness is the same as surrender. It’s not about having loving thoughts or sending thoughts of compassion toward that which is the cause of your pain and suffering, whether it be another person, a circumstance in your life, or a world event. It’s not about using the mind to “practice tenderness” or to “do tenderness.” Tenderness is what remains when you stop giving attention to the narratives in your mind. When something happens in your life and you experience a feeling you don’t like, the habitual tendency is to wrap a whole bunch of narratives around that experience: “This shouldn’t be happening,” “I shouldn’t be feeling this,” “They shouldn’t have done that” and so on. These narratives create resistance. These narratives create the clenched fist. These narratives create the suffering. When you stop giving attention to the narratives, what remains is a kind of quietness. It’s a space, a softness. It’s not a weakness, but an openness.

Tenderness is the openness of an inner silence. This silence can’t be created by the mind and its attempt to change experience. It can’t be created by having positive thoughts. It can’t be created by having loving thoughts. Silence has nothing to do with thinking, because whether the mind engages in positive thinking or negative thinking it’s still producing a narrative, it’s still mounting an attempt to try and fix something.

Tenderness is what remains when there’s no attempt to fix anything. I’m not suggesting that you avoid tending to circumstances that require your care and attention. I’m talking about your inner experience in response to circumstances, which is where the suffering is. The suffering is not in what happens, but in how you respond to what happens.

Surrender doesn’t necessarily mean the discomfort goes away. If there is an agenda—an expectation that your suffering comes to an end—then it is not surrender. True surrender means you fall into a deeper place within yourself, irrespective of your feelings. In your depth, there is no division—there is only the deepest acceptance, there is only openness. Openness is the space within which everything happens—and who you are is openness. Beneath the divided mind, beneath the mind that spews out narratives, there is only openness. This openness is the tender place within you that simply and utterly meets what is here as it is. So, instead of trying to change what’s happening on the outside—instead of trying to fix a relationship or trying to fix the world—change your relationship to your inner experience because that’s where true change begins.

The simple teaching of tenderness has the power to change everything, from the inside out.

  • Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

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From the forthcoming bookFalling Open in a World Falling Apart - Published October 2020 - Pre order via the link