These words were spoken by Father Gregory Bole in a podcast (shared with us by our teacher, in a Tantra course I’m retaking). They captivated my heart – the Power of Extravagant Tenderness. It’s the subtitle of one of his books.
Father Boyle is a Catholic priest of the Jesuit order and runs gang intervention and rehabilitation programs. Working with those who have been in gangs and helping gang rivals become friends, he has immense wisdom on love, compassion, and tenderness.
His message allowed the wisdom of Tantra Yoga to sink ever more deeply into my cells. He spoke of how in some religions we are scorned for doing something wrong (our sins). This is to “help” us to become a better person. Although it may be effective, it is not healthy or healing, and this may leave us with deep guilt and shame.
You are love
His view (my paraphrasing and understanding) is that instead of striving to be a better person, recognize that you ARE LOVE and that when you make a decision/action that hurts yourself and others, you have distanced yourself from the love that you are. We are love, but then our circumstances, childhood, and environment have estranged us from that knowing (some of these gang members had experienced horrendous childhoods). He shares this wisdom with ex-gang members who may slip into an old pattern (although they may have made great strides in being a better person).
I grew up in Reborn Christianity, and remember it felt like I always had to strive towards something, to be a better person for God. And then when I learnt classical yoga, it was the same – it felt as though you are striving towards enlightenment, wanting to become awakened. It’s from a place of lack, not being good enough in this moment.
Tantra Yoga looks at life differently – we are the essence and manifestation of the Universe; this great Cosmic Energy decided to take form – in the form of you, me, others, things, etc. But we forget (this is the dance of forgetting and remembering). We have social and cultural conditioning, generational trauma, patterning and beliefs, that cloud our truest essence (fogging up this realization).
Father Boyle’s words align with Tantra Yoga because the Universe IS LOVE. So of course, we are love – this is our truest essence. And then our beliefs and patterning obscure us from love.
Let's take a look at self-love
How can we show ourselves and others love if we don’t know what love truly is? I’ve had some students say they don’t connect to the concept of self-love. I’ve heard people say: “Love yourself first, then others will love you” (which is not always helpful – we need to show love so people remember they are loved). Some of you who know me, know that I am very cautious in telling people to practice self-love (different from self-care).
For me, self-love is coming at it from the outside inward (I must not know I am love if I have to practice self-love). In certain situations, it may be challenging to practice self-love, one may not have received love and they don’t know what love is or feels like, or they only know that in order to receive love they have to give something to others first. But if we know that our truest essence is love, it will radiate from the inside outward.
The key is: how do we remember and connect with the truest essence of us which is love? So perhaps it’s a bit of both – showing yourself extravagant tenderness (love) to go inwards, connecting with your truest nature (which is pure love), and then radiating that extravagant tenderness (love) outward.
It takes extravagant tenderness to come to our mat, to sit in meditation, to observe the thoughts (that are perhaps of self-hatred, shame), to set up a Rest Nest for our Restorative practice or Yoga Nidra, all to move to a place of inner silence, stillness, spaciousness, love.
The more often I connect to this place (in Yoga Nidra, Restorative, meditation, moments of stillness in everyday life), the more I remember my truest nature and the more I can share this love and extravagant tenderness with myself and others. It’s a remembering of who I am and a remembering of who others are.
In my trainings, I always teach my teacher trainees to connect with the essence of Rest. So when we teach, we are in the seat of immense love and tenderness for our students – creating a space of safety, so they feel accepted for who they are, and how they show up in this moment. This current group of Restorative Trainees with Circle Studios is incredibly attentive, it fills my heart with joy.
And the last piece of the puzzle, as my teacher shared – Continuity. It’s one thing to theorize or know all of this. It’s another to truly practice this when others have wronged us, acted out of alignment with love, or don’t show love.
The path of the householder yogi is to practice this with our loved ones, family, colleagues, and friends (especially when they say or do something that is not in alignment – we show them deep love and tenderness so they remember).
And to also practice this with ourselves when we fall out of alignment.
So ask yourself:
– How and where can you give yourself the power of extravagant tenderness?
– And how can you offer extravagant tenderness to those around you?