The Wealth & Wisdom of Tenderness

A note from Erin

Hi friends,
I’m writing from the spectacularly beautiful Casa del Sol at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. In just a few hours, we’ll begin welcoming the participants for The Way of Tenderness retreat.

the heart-shaped labyrinth at Casa del Sol 

During my spacious almost 12-hour drive here on Monday, I had plenty of time to contemplate. And I was so grateful to root deep into my heart staring upon these open lands and to consider the wisdom of tenderness.

I’m reminded of this excerpt of Rilke’s writings:
We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them.

And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

From Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations of Rainer Maria Rilke by John J L Mood. Norton, 1993.

I choose to believe the truth of this.

What if our capacity to maintain a tender heart is the greatest wealth we could ever carry?

Imagine: if you had all the money and all the things you want, the exact body shape and hair and skin you want, the dreamy life situation you want – but you were without a tenderness of heart, would you be happy?

On the other hand, if you have what you deem as an imperfect body, an imperfect life situation, a metric ton of worry for the future, or maybe even an incurable diagnosis, but if you are rich in authentic tenderness of heart toward all of it, would you be happy?

This logic is not common. Yet when I take it deep into my heart, it rings deeply true.

I was moved when I read in a recent article written by a man who is both an archaeologist who has studied societal collapse as well as a wilderness survival instructor, his advice for the challenging times that are likely ahead for our global population. Not stockpiling beans and ammo – but this:

“While the wilderness survival skills certainly can’t hurt, it will be empathy, generosity, and courage that we need to survive. Kindness and fairness will be more valuable than any survival skill. Then as now, social and leadership skills will be valued. We will have to work together. We will have to grow food, educate ourselves, and give people a reason to persevere. The needs will be enormous, and we cannot run away from that. Humans evolved attributes such as generosity, altruism, and cooperation because we need them to survive. Armed with those skills, we will turn towards the problem, not away from it. We will face the need, and we will have to solve it together. That is the only option. That’s what survival looks like.”
Read the whole piece here,

When we see Greta Thunberg in tears accusing those in power of stealing her hopes and dreams by downplaying or effectively ignoring the climate crisis, what moves us is not the science. It’s our tender heart that is pierced by this girl’s words and her grief.

What if the changes we’re being invited to evolve into in this uncharted territory of 2019 and beyond could each be understood as an invitation to deepen our expression of tenderness? Tenderness toward the land, tenderness toward plant and animal kin, tenderness toward one another, especially those we’ve considered “other?” Tenderness toward future generations, tenderness toward these blessed bodies we inhabit, tenderness toward it all?

Here are two poems from the luminous Fred LaMotte that speak to my heart, deeply, on this topic.
This planet will not
be healed
by powerful politicians
in big cities
who spend trillions
on a global strategy
that never quite begins.
They also burn
much fuel.
Earth will be healed
by villagers
who sing,
by backyard gardeners
like you,
who walk more slowly
right here,
who feel the green
through bare soles,
speaking fewer words,
each others anger
like mothers,
the heirloom seeds
of the heart.

~ Alfred K. LaMotte


Each one of us sees
the world through a lens,
the broken place
in our body,
which is the broken place
in our soul,
which is the world
we see.
To heal the earth
you must heal your broken place,
or let it break open
so wide and deep
it’s very openness
becomes the healing.
And when you meet another,
whether friend or stranger,
you must remember how
she is the world
in the shape of a wound,
and you must surely heal
to be healed,
not by long suffering
some collective dream
of global disaster,
but by intimate encounter
on the labyrinth way
one pilgrim at a time,
yes, by breathing
through your broken place
into hers.


– Fred LaMotte

May tenderness abound, friends.
May we cradle each others’ and our own anger like mothers.
We can do that. Let’s.

Holding love and possibility,

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.