‘Tender’ is a word I loved when I was a young child living in England. It makes a beautiful curve that feels like a caress, it touches without grasping, its ending is open. It’s all feeling. 

When tenderness is felt and expressed there are two, touching and being touched delicately.  Delicately and with so much presence that the two may melt into ONE life being lived. Tenderness is a celebration of the amazing beauty being created by the ONE. By allowing and expressing tenderness our world is endowed with depth, with mystery. We desire tenderness so much because it brings us back to our own heart, to the core of BEING.

Mostly, there is a painful lack of tenderness in our lives, from the very moment we were born. We endure a lot of hardness, of roughness, and later we can’t help passing these on to others. Most of our problems raise from this lack. When we receive enough tenderness, this gives us the reassurance, the confirmation of BEING we need so we can trust and surrender to life, care for life.

‘Happily, being very common, tenderness is never unavailable and far away.’

I learned that when I desire more tenderness in my life, the foremost thing to do is to see how violently I handle myself. I use myself as an object that has to function in order to obtain something, to be someone. And if I don’t function I punish myself by pushing even harder. Every moment I can see and feel my own violence, every moment I dare to stop where it’s painful and uncomfortable, space arises for the tenderness of life to touch me. Tenderness needs space and presence, it can’t breathe in a hasted field.

Happily, being very common, tenderness is never unavailable and far away. It is present in the middle of our everyday lives. Immersing in a warm bath, drinking fresh water, feeling the wind in your hair or enjoying the softness and reliability of the bed you lay on – this all can caress you deeply.

Of course, we also long to be touched tenderly by others, but we can’t control when and how this happens. Often, we are touched with an intention: the other wants something from us. This feels uncomfortable and our body and heart remain closed. Sometimes, we are touched tenderly, but our body is too rigid and our mind too busy to receive the caress.

‘A tender approach to yourself lets care come to any place that needs it.’

It is not always easy to allow and express tenderness. I assume this has something to do with the possibility of being ashamed and rejected by another. When being tender, we have to live with our vulnerability. That’s scary. Tenderness takes a lot of courage. It aligns our heart with what living in a body means, with how breakable life is.

‘Tenderness’ sounds really soft and it is. Yet, allowing and expressing tenderness is definitely not naïve or romantic. It takes a fierce commitment to face your fears so you can open to the touch of life. You don’t look at your fears and deficiencies in order to judge yourself or to struggle to be ‘better’. No, a tender approach to yourself sees the aching and struggling and lets care come to any place that needs it. And I believe this really is the only thing to be done. Everything else happens by itself.