Last September my friend Jennifer and I started collecting change in order to do something fun with it together. After some deliberation we decided to put our funds towards buying local flowers and passing them out for free to people as a random act of kindness (RAK). Between the two of us we collected about $90 in coins over the last year. My stepson Jaden joined us too and we had a three-man Random Acts of Kindness Brigade and set out yesterday at our local Farmer’s Market downtown. We had a great time!
We had some unexpected results as well in performing our RAK. I realized after our first round of buying flowers and handing them out to passers by that I was shying away from offering them to men. So when we stocked up with our 2nd armful of flowers to pass out I was set on targeting men to give them to. I saw a man sitting at a booth selling his art work and I went and offered him a bouquet. He gratefully accepted and then invited me to take one of his wonderful pictures (as seen in the above photo). A kindness in turn!
We also walked by a Downtown Ambassador who worked for the city and had a mobile cart with free info about Missoula, maps, bus schedules, and that sort of thing. He saw our signs and decided to give us a few free carousel ride tickets, which Jaden then passed out to a few kids on the street.
I wanted to share about an experience I had recently on our local fall retreat last weekend that served as a good reminder about how it’s never helpful or beneficial when I get caught in comparing myself to others. While I practice not to use words such as always or never I think in this case it stands true: it’s never helpful to self-compare.
On Saturday evening during the retreat instead of eating dinner with the rest of our community those of us who were OI members (ordained practitioners within Thich Nhat Nhan’s Order of Interbing) were asked to eat together, along with our visiting dharma teacher Terry Cortez-Vega, downstairs from the main dining area. We had some business to attend to after spending a few minutes in silence during our practice of eating meditation. Normally all of our meals during our local retreats are held in silence and we’re invited to practice eating meditation during them. Oftentimes during our retreats eating meditation instructions look something like this: After you take a bite of food put your fork down and chew slowly, savoring your food, until the taste has diminished. Then pick up your fork and take your next bite.
While I used to be an incredibly fast eater when I was young, to the point of having unspoken contests with my cousins to see who could finish first, I no longer consider myself an overly quick eater. Even so, the instructions offered above have never spoken to me. It’s much to sluggish and un-enjoyable for me to eat that slowly. I’m simply not a fan of putting my fork down after every bite and chewing each one long enough to lose its flavor. That’s not to say things can’t change. Perhaps one day I’ll connect with this level of slow eating. There have been many other elements of the practice and things we’ve done on retreats that I used to really dislike but have changed my tune on over the years. But for right now I alter the practice of eating meditation to suit what works for me and I have the greatest of confidence that that is precisely what we are encouraged to do in our mindfulness tradition. We do what works for us.