771st Week: Meeting Cruelty with Kindness
Recently, a colleague posted an article to Facebook that more deeply explores the importance and power of cultivating kindness. The article is by Sharon Salzberg, the esteemed Buddhist teacher, and it offers suggestions about how we might create a deeper and more readily accessible relationship with kindness, even in the presence of cruelty. She also describes how kindness affects our internal quality of life and state of being, something that I have experienced in my own relationship with kindness.
Here’s the link to her article, “How to Be Kind When Confronted with Cruelty”, and I feel it’s worth your time to read it and explore her wise suggestions. Even for those of us who practice kindness regularly, what Sharon offers in this article can nourish and deepen that treasured relationship.
In her article, Sharon says the following:
“Practicing kindness doesn’t at all mean that we will like everybody or acquiesce to everything that he or she does. It doesn’t mean that we become complacent or passive about naming wrongdoing as wrong or about seeking change, sometimes very forcefully, with our whole heart.
“We use the practice of loving-kindness meditation as a way to recover our innermost knowledge of the fact that we’re all linked, as we dissolve the barriers we have been upholding and genuinely awaken to how connected we all are.”
So, it’s important to remember that being kind doesn’t mean being weak or having no power. It’s important to be able to perceive and register what isn’t kind, what doesn’t feel good, what needs to be changed or, if change isn’t possible, to be lived through with an awareness that supports rather than diminishes us.
Orienting to kindness nurtures a positive sense of relationship with ourselves and the world around us. To be kind naturally elicits a sense of connection and is a heart-centered expression. It’s a way to stay focused on, and strengthen, your relationship with heart perception and awareness.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to read Sharon’s article and bring kindness into the coming week with even more frequency than you may do already. Notice if there are new or unexpected places where you can turn to kindness as a response or as your internal state. Also notice where it’s not possible at this point to access kindness and where kindness arises most easily. When you notice these responses, can you bring kindness and compassion to yourself for where you are able to be at that moment?
As with all these practices, there’s no right answer as to how to do this one or what to discover. Instead, it’s the next opportunity to deepen awareness and to become even more aware of how your own thoughts, feelings, and actions affect the quality of your internal and external life.
And, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through as the familiar habits of mind they usually are.