Going running on two separate weekend days for the first time in months has left me physically wrecked. Those of you that know me will probably find the suggestion of me going running fairly amusing, but it is in fact true, I sometimes voluntarily run around the place. It's a surprisingly good activity for the mind, in that generally whilst trying to avoid falling over, collapsing, overheating and so on it's impossible for your mind to form any coherent thoughts. I will probably be walking like John Wayne tomorrow, though, as I subjected my body to the routine I would have tried six months ago before I more-or-less gave up on running. And it was not easy, although I do know it will get easier. The attraction of a quiet mind is obvious to some people, generally those with active, restless thoughts that play out unbidden regardless of context (and often in utterly unhelpful ways!). Some people naturally have less turbulent inner workings, apparently, and it's hard to map one way of experiencing life on to another. Some people's children, for example, sleep, cooperate generally, eat the food they are given (rather than demanding the stuff in the cupboard by pointing and shouting).
Anyway, all of this is a preamble. The running, since three years ago, has been a way of managing the contents of my mind, largely by blasting them so hard with effort that they melt away altogether. It's a form of self-kindness, perversely I suppose in light of the physical challenge of actually hauling my carcase out of the house and dragging it a few miles round the houses. It requires time, too, which has been in short supply for a variety of reasons recently. I can thoroughly recommend running as a way of switching off those bits of your mind that you don't like, although it is on a similar line to the dad-joke which tells you to drop a sledgehammer on your foot to take away the pain of a minor scratch.
Being kind to yourself is one thing, but being kind to others is another entirely. Some people are so focused on the one that they forget the other, and I'm talking about both ways round. I have had to learn to be kind to myself over years, because my natural inclination is not to be. But I have always had a sense, an instinct of how to be kind to others. It deserts me, sometimes, from stress, pressure, tiredness, disappointment, but it will always come back. And sometimes, often immediately after a moment of unkindness, it is that ability to forgive - internally, for my own actions - that I have really struggled with. I'm not especially good at bearing grudges, because I'm far too lazy for that, but it turns out that my own inner workings are, basically, a set of grudges against myself. I think that recognition is helpful, because it highlights where some pressure might be relieved. But it's so firmly in-built it's probably going to live with me for the rest of my life. Forgiveness is in short supply in my dealings with myself. I know that is probably something that is fairly common, but making it explicit probably isn't.
So, in common with a really good teacher, I suggest forgiving whatever trespasses or sins are committed against you. But I would take that thought and extend it: you can forgive yourself, whatever the transgression. It does not require a weighing-up of the rights and wrongs, it does not need to take into account the intention of an act with a negative outcome, it does not need to examine anything further. An act might not even have to be wrong to receive censure, as someone who was once punished for, in his own words, 'ducking a snowball', can doubtless confirm. Set out to be kind and allow yourself to be satisfied that that is enough. Repentance looms large for Christians, but that is about some external power's forgiveness. The trick is learning to live with yourself, because you've got to do that for the rest of your life. I'm learning, and I've still got some way to go, in all possible sense.
It's not just about living forever, Jackie. The trick is living with yourself forever.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought