Jonathan Prescott tells stories of kindness so we can feel kindness come alive in our bodies. But kindness is more than a feeling; it's an action, so we explore what kindness is and how we can cultivate kind actions that benefit everyone.
This week, we bathed ourselves in kindness. We enjoyed stories told by both the givers and receivers of kindness and felt the experiences in our own bodies.
Kindness is a lens through which we see (and interact with) the world. We always see through some lens or other, and kindness is a particularly helpful lens because it reveals life's underlying warmth and tenderness. It's a lens that sharpens, rather than distorts, our view.
Kindness is an ability, not a feeling. As we develop the ability to be kind, we discover that it has four facets:
Facet 1 - Compassion: Compassion is the active face of kindness; we see a need and act. We don't calculate or make a cost/benefit analysis. We see; we act; we let go. It feels wonderful to be spontaneously kind.
Facet 2 - Sympathetic Joy: English lacks a single word for the concept of taking joy in another's joy, but a friend suggests 'joynerosity.' Whatever we call it, this facet of kindness opens us up to infinite joy. If we only feel joyful about what benefits 'me' we don't have many opportunities to smile. But when we take joy in another's joy, an infinite number of joyful opportunities present themselves. Joy is suddenly everywhere!
Facet 3 - Equanimity: Resting in equanimity allows us to share that calmness with others. Our own happiness is self-centered only if we stingily hold it for ourselves. When we share our peacefulness, happiness becomes a gift that multiplies and spreads. Our own kind heart benefits the whole world.
Facet 4 - Generosity: To be generous is to loosen our grip. A clenched first withholds; an open hand offers. Generosity erases the distinction between giver and receiver. Who benefits more from my kind act, me or you? The more we give, the more our heart expands, the more we have to give, and the happier we become.
As practice deepens and settles our hearts, we learn that kindness is the undercurrent of all things. Kindness is what arises when its impediments are transformed. As Ram Das used to say, at root, we are all kind awareness.
Take care of your neighbor
Do it quietly
Without their knowledge
Without seeking praise
Do it in such a way that
They are unaware of your
This is the hidden gate
The one you have been
-- Rick Terwilliger