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An Experiment in Mercy

Updated: Jan 28

Grief is a great teacher of radical yin.

When our life is shattered or we experience an earth-shaking loss or profound disappointment, often we can’t bring ourselves to do anything. There’s a movement into stillness and darkness. There’s a deep need to go inside ourselves, to rest and rest and rest.

After Erik died, all I wanted to do was lay face down on the earth. I fantasized that some giant, mythic momma would come and just carry me around in her kangaroo pouch so I could do absolutely nothing.

A friend suggested maybe I should volunteer at a soup kitchen or find some way to be of service, to gain some new perspective. But in those early days of grief, I knew that my only job — as much as was possible — was to go into the rich darkness, to simply soften enough to be with reality as it is. Not to try and change it or make myself feel differently. Just to sit in it.

Yin (the Feminine) is mercy, softness, surrender, digesting, healing, deepening.

Yang (the Masculine) is structure, direction, asserting, clarifying, discipline, agency.

For a while I thought my masculine was entirely off-line. Any oomph to “do” anything was entirely absent. But then I realized that my masculine was still there, very quietly holding me.

I’ve noticed that when we open to the deep rest of yin, we can find our true impulse. When we soften, sink down, have mercy for ourselves in this moment no matter what we’re experiencing, our true and sweet yang can rise up.

Most of us have a yang that has been twisted by conditioning, that forces us forward, that can be mean when we simply want to rest or go within.

When we let ourselves soften, we can find a yang that serves love just was much as yin does.

There’s something awe-inspiring and mysterious and holy that comes to pervade everything when these aspects of ourselves get into sweet relationship. And we have so much more access to our own life force energy.

As many of you know, Erik and I were huge advocates of tenderness. Erik often said he didn’t discover true tenderness until he was in his 60’s. Once he discovered it, he became a tenderness ambassador recommending it to everyone. I’d sometimes come upon him talking to a young man on the street, asking, “Are you getting enough tenderness? Are you being tender with yourself?”

Here’s an experiment in honor of Erik and our own sweet selves: Tuck yourself in sweetly tonight. Hold yourself like a precious babe, like a tender lover, like a dear friend. Let yourself do nothing but rest in kindness.

And, if you’re called, join me in a future Inner Marriage Class:

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