“The reason why I want to talk about tenderness and conditioning together is that they really go hand in hand – they are not separate.
In that real openness of the Present – when you are really at rest – tenderness naturally is.
Tenderness is not something that is acquired. It is the natural movement that arises in the openness of presence.
I’m sure that all of you know real moments of tenderness when you are genuinely caring about the well-being of others and the well-being of the planet.. when you are naturally present.
We all know these moments. But we also forget that! And that forgetting is what I am calling conditioning.. the forgetting of the natural state of presence, of tenderness.
When I say “conditioning”, I mean habits, habits of the past.
I mean “What stops you from being Here.. from being Present?”
Some of our habits and tendencies of not being present have been around for a really long time, perhaps for many lifetimes and generations. So it’s not surprising that in those moments, conditioning is much more familiar to us than Presence.
But what I really want you to remember is that everything arises here.
Our goal is not to get rid of or eradicate conditioning. That’s not what we are doing. We are talking about right understanding..about freedom..not about getting rid of anything.
In every moment, we really do have the choice..the choice to become present. Even though that’s not what the momentum of the past conditioning is telling you. And that’s where our inquiry practice is. That’s where the opportunity..the possibility is..to become present, to become tender.
You could notice when there is no tenderness. You could ask yourself, “What would it be like to be tender with myself in this place?”
It is so powerful when intense conditioning is arising and yet in the midst of it, you are still able to remain really open. Tender and present.
And the more we experience tenderness and become familiar with it, the more we can discriminate when we are in the momentum of the past and when we are actually present.
We might not realize we are in conditioning because it is so normal and habitual for us. But we could look inside and see, “Wow! Tenderness is not here!”
So when real Tenderness is here, there is no conditioning. It’s not possible. Conditioning might be arising, but you are not in the momentum of it.
We can use this as a simple way of discriminating. Is tenderness present? No? Then conditioning is present.
It is so amazing to notice…..that you are either in presence or conditioning. You can’t be in the momentum of both at once.
So a few more words about tenderness, because it’s really important that we understand it is a natural quality, not something we acquire. It is not something we practice. It is not something that we have to become. It is not something we have to do as a good spiritual being. That would be a real misunderstanding.
The tenderness I am talking about is very different than the ego-based tenderness which is “niceness” or “softness”.
That niceness or softness is really on the surface. It has a limit. You can only be nice and soft up to a certain point. Until something or somebody or a circumstance touches a boundary that is within you..where there really is a separation from Presence. And then you are not soft or nice anymore.
I’m talking about a real quality that is available in your own being.
It’s not about “softness”, it’s about being real. And tender is how it is in the heart of everything.
Ed note: Neelam is a guest teacher on NDL; “Thanks Neelam,” for your ongoing contribution to this emerging movement of grace in awareness.
Please feel free to comment here or to contact her directly
for more details and insights: https://neelam.org/new-events/