In the post, Our True Nature, we looked at how, at our core, we are beings whose essential nature is love, compassion, and kindness. We also looked at how this perspective is prevalent in several major belief systems including Buddhism (the Buddha Nature), the Judeo-Christian tradition (created in the image of God), and Hinduism (Atman or soul).
What I want to look at now is the subject of tenderheartedness in relation to our true nature, compassion, and awareness.
I think the best bet for defining ‘tenderhearted’ is to define the word, ‘tender’. Merriam-Webster’s definition of ‘tender’ includes “very loving and gentle” and “soft in quality or tone”.
So we see that being tenderhearted essentially means being ‘lovingly soft-hearted’.
Tenderhearted as an adjective and an aspect
One of the reasons why I believe tenderheartedness is so important is because words like ‘love’, ‘compassion’, and ‘kindness’ are heard so often that they can begin to lose their depth and meaning.
Yet if we put ‘tenderhearted’ or ‘softhearted’ in front of these words, suddenly the depth of their meaning becomes vibrantly clear: ‘tenderhearted love’, ‘tenderhearted compassion’, and ‘tenderhearted kindness’. Tenderheartedness is, in fact, the authentic aspect of love, compassion, and kindness, otherwise we are acting out of a sense of duty or obligation.
Therefore because tenderheartedness is such an essential aspect of love, compassion, and kindness, it is itself an essential aspect of our true nature. But there’s a practical component to tenderheartedness as well.
The practical aspect of tenderheartedness
At the end of the post, Meditation (The “M” word), we arrived at the following steps or process for meditating:
- Paying focused (one-pointed) attention to an object or anchor of attention (the feeling of our breath),
- while maintaining a compassionate and non-judgmental, spacious awareness of our thoughts and feelings (the compassionate observer in the field of awareness).
- Then, when distracted from the breath, describe the thought or feeling that took us away (Ah, there is restlessness), and gently return to the breath.
Similarly, at the end of “Mindfulness – Exactly What the Heck Is It? we arrived at the following definition of mindfulness:
- Paying focused (one-pointed) attention to what we’re doing (or experiencing) in the present moment,
- while maintaining a compassionate and non-judgmental, spacious awareness of our thoughts and feelings (that’s technically the end of the definition but in practice we go to point 3),
- Then, when distracted from what we’re doing, describe the thought or feeling that took us away, and gently return to what we’re doing or experiencing.
These posts were helpful for a detailed explanation of the various aspects of meditation and mindfulness, but they can be a bit clunky to remember in our busy day to day lives. So here’s what to keep in mind: at their absolute basic level, both meditation and mindfulness are about two things: attention and awareness.
That’s it, attention and awareness. But that doesn’t really flesh them out quite enough to have any real meaning. So the way we can minimally flesh them out, yet still have maximal usage in our daily lives is with this acronym: FATA which can even be further shorted to just FTA.
FATA stands for Focused Attention and Tenderhearted Awareness. Those are the key practical aspects of both meditation and mindfulness.
In meditation we pay focused attention to the breath, while maintaining a tenderhearted awareness of our thoughts and feelings, and when our minds drift, we gently come back to the breath.
Similarly, in our everyday lives, mindfulness is paying focused attention to what we’re doing in the present moment while maintaining a tenderhearted awareness of our thoughts and feelings. And when our minds drift, we gently come back to what we were doing.
We can even boil it down further to just FTA: Focus and Tenderhearted Awareness.
FTA is an acronym we can carry in our pocket for use during meditation and then take with us as we endeavor to make mindfulness a daily, moment by moment practice: FTA – Focus and Tenderhearted Awareness. If we do nothing but remind ourselves to focus and maintain tenderhearted awareness of our thoughts and feeling in meditation and as we practice mindfulness in our daily lives, we’re miles ahead of the game.
The reason is because focused attention is crucial to successfully living in the present moment, and tenderhearted awareness is the gateway to applying tenderhearted love, compassion, and kindness to whatever negative emotion or state of mind arises within us.
And as we’ve seen before, tenderhearted love, tenderhearted compassion, and tenderhearted kindness begins first with us so that we can alleviate our own suffering, and then is applied to others so that we can try to alleviate their suffering with the kind of deep tenderhearted love and compassion we have been cultivating towards ourselves.
Yet there’s one more practical aspect to tenderhearted awareness: it serves as a gauge for the condition of our hearts because if we are not centered to an appreciable degree in either tenderhearted love, compassion, kindness or peace (or a combination of any of them), then chances are that one or more attachments have drawn us away from being in touch with our true nature. In that case, as we’ve previously seen in Letting Go: The Path to Peace, we need to remind ourselves to let go, let go, let go, within the field of tenderhearted awareness so that we can get back to our true nature, and back into focus in the present moment.
So as we’ve now seen, tenderheartedness is not only a key aspect of our true nature, it is also a gauge of where are hearts are in the present moment.
Meditation and mindfulness boil down to two things: attention and awareness.
We can flesh out the attention and awareness components of meditation and mindfulness on a very practical level with the acronym FTA: Focus and Tenderhearted Awareness.
Then, when we (inevitably) get attached to something, we remind ourselves to let go, let go, let go, within the field of tenderhearted awareness so that we can return to our true nature of tenderhearted love, tenderhearted compassion, and tenderhearted kindness, and back into focus in the present moment.
That’s it for now, thanks for stopping by and see you soon.