“It is hard having Trump as president because he is mean, and everyone thinks they can be mean.” Jade – 8 years old
My niece said this one day in January after school. It broke my heart, and reminded me of my own thoughts and that it does seem like kindness is at an all-time low.
I am not sure if that is true. It just seems that way. I assume media companies make more money if they highlight the cruel and disturbing rather than the kind and thoughtful. If I look in my neighborhood, my family and at work, I see intentional acts of kindness all around me.
Yet, I find kindness not to be so simple. I learned from living in the Midwest that there is a politeness that disguises itself as kindness but is not. It can be a shield to mask true feelings and prevent truth from surfacing. There is an inauthentic kindness that can arise from pity and feeling sorry for others. We see a homeless man in a wheelchair on the sidewalk asking for money. Our generosity might arise from real compassion. It might, however, be from pity so we throw the money in the cup, never making any human contact, and dash away. Kindness can also be a mask for obligation: I must take my neighbor’s dog for the weekend–I do so not from a place of kindness or connection, but from a place of obligation, which is a weapon of scarcity.
In my meditation practice this month I am focusing on cultivating a kind awareness. For me, I seek a relaxed state where I stand in my own essential goodness and make authentic moves toward connection and generosity. To be clear, that does not mean that I will agree with everything you say or that I won’t give you feedback that might be hard to hear. It does not mean I won’t protect myself if you wish me harm. It does mean that regardless of how I am treated this month I make a commitment to hold a stance of authentic kindness because I know that kindness is always available (even when we are angry, lonely or tired) through practice. One of my teachers, Larry Yang, has a great rubric for living inside of kindness regardless of the circumstances. When you are at work, parenting or posting to social media, feel free to ask yourself:
Can I be loving?
If I cannot be loving,
Can I be kind?
If I cannot be kind,
Can I not cause harm?
If I cannot not cause harm,
How can I cause the least harm?
We at Seven Stones invite you to join us this month to cultivate kindness at home and at work. Here is a 15-minute meditation practice that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
If all of us take a stand for kindness this month maybe my niece won’t be so worried about the larger world.