East meets West in the concept of kindness. In the East, we are encouraged to practice loving kindness mediation. I spoke about that at length in the talk today and folks asked me to repeat the phrases for the meditation.
Focusing on your heart center, repeat these phrases to yourself. May I be filled with loving kindness. May I feel safe. May I be healthy. May I experience ease and happiness. Stay with this for awhile, imagining yourself smiling as you soak up this blessing. Then move on to blessing other individuals and groups, in this sequence: benefactors of yours, individuals that you love dearly, communities that you value, neutral individuals (like a pedestrian going by or a clerk waiting on you), enemies or folks who seem to you to be spewing negative energy.
“Kindness is more important than wisdom. The realization of that is the beginning of wisdom.” Theodore Ruben
As this becomes second nature, you can use it to bless others everywhere you go, to redeem yourself from your own negative thinking, and to pray the news.
The West takes the concept of kindness into action. The premier story of kindness is the Good Samaritan. In this familiar parable, a man encounters a stranger who has been beaten, robbed and left for dead in a ditch. The Samaritan goes way out of his way to help the stranger. It’s significant to note what he doesn’t do. He doesn’t pre-qualify the stranger to ensure he is worthy of help. Sometimes, I admit, I am focused on wondering why a person is begging by the roadside and what they ought to be doing instead. That would be like the Samaritan evaluating how the poor guy in the ditch got himself into that mess. Even if he asked himself that question, he didn’t let it get in the way of his compassion.
Opportunities to show kindness are all about us and the more we open our minds and hearts, the more we will find them. We can increase our chances by being creative with our intention to be kind. One woman puts out drier lint for nesting birds every spring. An old man in Israel spent his retirement years planting fig trees so others could someday enjoy sitting under fig trees and eating their fruit as much as he had throughout his life. A cashier makes a practice of placing all her attention on the customer she is currently serving, treating them with great kindness, holding him or her as the most important one in her world, for the duration of their interaction. A shop owner not only puts a water bowl out for passing dogs but periodically changes the water so it remains cool and free of bugs.
What can you do to be more kind—even if you are already a kind person? Maybe you take over washing the dishes and let your child go outside to enjoy extra play time. Maybe you look for someone sitting alone at lunch and offer the kindness of your company. Maybe you sift through your closet and choose some extra nice clothes to donate to a homeless person or organization serving those who have very little. Maybe you take time to make a special dish for a potluck even though you could get by with something easy. Maybe you let a small child help with the baking or cleaning even though it will take longer. Maybe you volunteer for a Challenge Day to be part of the solution in replacing bullying with acceptance and kindness. (Go to Younityus.org for more details on that.) Maybe you take your dog for an extra walk or spend extra time stroking him. Maybe you plant flowers in your front yard as a gift for the neighborhood. Maybe you invite a homeless person to join you for lunch at a restaurant. Maybe you take a name off a Christmas tree in the mall and buy a present for that child. Maybe you put thought into encouraging words for someone who is feeling disheartened. Maybe you send a card or a letter to a child or an old person who rarely gets mail. The possibilities truly are endless.
What you do will surely hearten the beneficiary of your kindness, but you will get the greatest benefit. From better sleep to lower blood pressure, peace of mind, healthier hearts, greater clarity, more patience, and closer connections; the research is definitive that kindness pays off.
Rev. Jane Meyers Hiatt’s talk on 8/10/2014: Kindness | The Season of Spiritual Literacy