Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.
Since life can be abrupt and harsh, it’s a constant challenge to meet experience without shutting down. If we’re too guarded, we’re never touched by what matters. On the contrary, it seems that to be touched by what matters, we need to develop our gentleness.
Gentleness and Co-dependence
Receiving depends on gentleness, which relaxes our boundaries. It lets us interact with what comes our way. It lets us lend some of our shape to what’s before us. Lending our shape in this way allows for a momentary joining, through which we can feel the aliveness that flows between things. When rigid, we close and bounce off each other. When gentle, we open, to exchange energy and life-force.
Yet even gentleness, taken to the extreme, has an underside, which we all struggle to avoid. Without steadfastness as our anchor, we can give ourselves away completely, through the dissipation of our center and through over-compliance. In this, co-dependence is the shadow of gentleness. The examples are everywhere and commonplace: not voicing truth to power, always putting our needs last, being nice instead of authentic, hiding who we are instead of expressing who we are.
Remarkably, being human is dynamic, not static, and so we are always beginning, as the maps we draw are out-of-date by the time they dry. We are left squarely in the practice of being human, which requires us to course-correct constantly. As one steering a boat is always adjusting the tiller to approximate the true course—first left to right, then right to left, we have to steer our way back and forth between steadfastness and stubbornness, between gentleness and co-dependence. Until, drawn as we are to the surface, we sink below the noise of our blindness, where the heart can see.
A Question to Walk With: Begin to tell the story of the gentlest person you have known as well as the story of the most co-dependent person you have known. Describe one way you are gentle these days and one way you are co-dependent. What’s the difference?