Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Stage 4: Comfort of Self


We’re now at the fourth stage of our journey from despair to delight, and it’s beginning to get a little easier.  Here is today’s sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins:  

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.

A couple of clarifications - Hopkins often uses adjectives to stand in for nouns, as in line 6, ‘comfortless (world)’.  And he likes to create new words, such as ‘betweenpie’ in the last line.
           
There is a sense of interior space in this poem, of having (at long last) a little room to rest, to breathe, to grow. And a great message, that we deserve kindness and love.

Hopkins is beginning to be gentler with his ‘sad self’, giving himself a break from his incessant internal critical chatter.  It’s time to ‘call off thoughts awhile elsewhere’.

We can do the same.  We can take time out from tormenting ourselves about why we feel so unhappy.  We can resist our negative thoughts. I can stop yelling “Just pull yourself together, stupid” inside my own head.  You can recognise your own worth. You can realise that it’s alright to feel the way you do. 

For Kristin Neff, self-compassion has three basic elements: self-kindness, in place of self-judgement; common humanity in place of isolation; and mindfulness, observing rather than identifying with our negative thoughts.

We can be compassionate to ourselves – have pity on our hearts - just as much as we are towards others. We can treat ourselves just as well as we treat our friends and the people we love.

I love Hopkins’ phrase ‘leave comfort root-room’. It’s about giving ourselves permission and space for a sense of ease and well-being to set down roots and begin to grow.

Maybe it’s time for a duvet-day - or two….

And then, who knows, joy may (increase in) size and catch us unawares.  Hopkins’ evocative image of God’s smile, distilled within his new word ‘betweenpie’, is of a brightly dappled sky seen between dark mountains.  For him that brings memories of the hills of north Wales. For me it conjures up childhood days of sunshine over Glendalough in Ireland.

 We can help our own smiles to grow. One way that works for me is the meditation technique of visualising a constant, infinite stream of warm, spacious, liquid sunshine; pouring in through my head; slowly and gradually filling my body, from my toes all the way upwards.


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