As I write this week’s practice, we’re about a month into “sheltering in place” here in New York City. For all of us, the whole world of human beings, this is a time of challenge beyond what many of us would have imagined possible. The fact that we are able to be connected around the globe is a previously unimagined gift of being able to move through this experience as a connected human family.
I had an experience this week that touched me deeply and I want to share it as the theme of this week’s practice that I’d like to invite you to explore. I got an email through my website and it was from someone who had noticed that I hadn’t posted a practice last week. She hoped that I was okay and wanted to make contact to be sure everything was all right with me.
As I read this unexpected email, my heart filled with gratitude and warmth that this person cared enough to be in touch and to check in with me. It got me to thinking about how powerful it is when we care about and for one another, what a balm it is to the heart, and how such an act can fill someone with a sense of connection, warmth, and gratitude.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay attention to where you feel, and then act on, care for others. You most probably won’t be able to do something in person, although I have heard of countless acts of kindness where people have shopped for groceries for those who are too vulnerable to be out and about, of people making masks for organizations that need them, of people texting one another to check in and make sure everything is okay, of people making phone calls to elders who are shut in and don’t have families. The list goes on and on and each time I read or hear about these acts of caring and kindness my heart fills up even more.
When I was in the organic grocery store this morning, I felt such gratitude for the people there who make it possible for me to get food each week. Caring in the public sphere means wearing a mask to cut down on the possibility that we may unknowingly be transmitters of the virus, even when we feel perfectly healthy. We remember others and offer acts of kindness as we wear our masks around one another when out in public walking around, which we are accustomed to doing a lot here in New York City. The way we give each other literal physical space when outside also falls into the category of offering care and kindness. My heart is so touched when I see people who are afraid and jump away from others and I honor their fear by moving even farther away from them as we pass by each other. Care and kindness…moving through the world with these qualities in the foreground of awareness.
For sure, you want to be safe yourself, so this practice underscores care for self as well as for others. Check in with yourself and notice the ways in which you treat yourself with care and kindness. This is as important to the practice as what you do for others. I know that I and many of my colleagues naturally orient to serving others and it’s a big practice to make sure we treat ourselves as well as we do those we serve.
As with all these practices, there’s no right way to do this one. Instead, it offers yet another opportunity to be consciously aware of how you move through the world, of the quality and tone of your internal experience, and of where you place your attention and awareness. Please remember to bring curiosity along as your constant companion and to pat judgments gently on the head and allow them to move on through. These times are stressful enough without adding what amounts to ongoing negative self-hypnosis when judgments and self-criticism are either taken seriously or pushed against. The stream of consciousness continues to flow all the time, so any thoughts that arise that don’t serve your practice of care and kindness will just move on through if allowed to do so.
And, most of all, please be safe and well…