Go Kind

This post is me attempting to relay a case and point in the most skillful way possible. And as I am actively investigating the importance of understanding the differences between INTENTION and IMPACT, I put value in not sharing too much in the way of specific details here, so as to do my best to protect the identity of the particular person I’ll be highlighting because even though my intention is good, I’m aware I may still create a negative impact on this individual or those who know of this local band/singer.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a locally held outdoor event with live music. As the first band started to play their first song, a woman came on the scene from stage left. From her looks, energy, and swagger, it appeared highly likely that she was a homeless resident of Missoula. She was also yelling violently to herself as she approached. She then proceeded to yell obscenities at the band up close.

Now, to me it was clear to anyone paying an even modicum amount of attention, that this woman was mentally un-well, sadly unbalanced, and suffering greatly. However, I realized in short order that I might very well be the only one on site that saw the unfolding situation this way.

During the song, as the woman was front and center yelling at the band, the lead singer called out sternly over the mic: “Can someone get this f***ing lady out of here?!” As I considered a possible action I myself could take to help diffuse the situation, she wound up moving along on her own accord and that was that.

When the song ended, the front man/lead singer gave us an account of what transpired between them and the woman. He told us what she was saying and how she was yelling specifically at him. His takeaway was that she clearly didn’t like him. He also said something to the effect of how everyone was welcome at the event but that we were all gathering in peace and love and that woman was not acting in accordance with the vibe being created and had to go. Before striking up their next song, he said: “We’re just gonna keep singing and spreading the love.”

I thought to myself: Hmm. Interesting. So, not only did he take the random woman’s yelling as a personal affront to his character but he also saw fit to curse at her, criticize her publicly, and then declare that he’s invested in spreading the love?

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Avalokiteshvara

Statue of Avalokiteshvara at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC

 

We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and open-heartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person.

– Chanting from the Heart, Parallax Press, 2006, p. 30

As mentioned in my last post, I plan on sharing my journal entries and the answers to the three questions I put together for use in our newly formed Bodhisattva Reflection Group. Today marks the end of week one in our five week practice. It never ceases to amaze and delight me how powerful it can be to put even just a small amount of intention into something in particular – whether it’s practice related or otherwise. Simply reading this Bodhisattva verse each day over the last week was enough to spur a number of insights and understandings.

It’s like when you go from never hearing about, say, visiting Yellowstone National Park and then when you start setting your sights on wanting to venture there, you suddenly find yourself encountering mentions of it all over the place. I find most things are like that, and working with the Bodhisattvas is no different.

Now, I didn’t journal every day. I journaled when I felt called to. Here’s what resulted:

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Fused

I find myself wonderfully infused with a wealth of fantastic sources of input over the last few days. I’ve started reading the book pictured above: You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney. I watched a really good talk given by an OI member in Thay’s tradition at Google on the nature of self-compassion. And I watched another talk given by someone my husband has been getting into lately, an author, speaker, and neuroscientist named Sam Harris. Three powerhouse gents, I would say. Each one taking his own slant on helping to support the human collective.

From the good to the bad to the ugly, we are each an assembly of the scattered sources of input fused together into one collection we call the self. And it’s easy to forget the importance of closely monitoring what’s coming in through our sense impressions. Because it all matters. Every single drop of it. It all makes a difference in how we show up in life – and how we continue to show up in life.

Here’s an excerpt from the book I mentioned and picture above, which I found so glorious that I read it aloud to both my husband and 18-year-old stepson on separate occasions:

You see, being smart is a much more complicated and misunderstood state than you believe. Most of the time, you are terrible at making sense of things. If it were your job, you would long since have been fired. You think you are a rational agent, slowly contemplating your life before making decisions and choices, and though you may sometimes falter, for the most part you keep it together, but that’s not the case at all. You are always under the influence of irrational reasoning. You persist in a state of deluded deliberation. You are terrible at explaining yourself to yourself, an you are unaware of the depth and breadth of your faults in this regard. You feel quite the opposite, actually. You maintain an unrealistic confidence in your own perceptions even after your limitations are revealed.

David McRaney from You are Now Less Dumb

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From OI member Tim Desmond’s talk at Google, published on February 23rd, 2018:

“There’s a capacity that we can develop that allows us to stay human. To be able to stay present. To be able to care and stay connected in whatever situation we find ourselves in.”

He goes on to talk about how this capacity is that of generating mindfulness. Later, he speaks about how we must pair both qualities of compassion and equanimity together, in order to be in balance. Compassion without equanimity leads to burnout and compassion fatigue. Equanimity without compassion leads to lack of empathy and indifference. To pair both together means to say: Whatever is going on is okay, and I’m here for you.

If you’re interested in checking out Tim’s talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV9VeNE_R1g

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Four Sublime States of Mind

Photo by local photographer and sangha friend Bill McDavid

Photo by local photographer and sangha friend Bill McDavid – http://www.billmcdavid.com

In the book I’m currently reading entitled Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun the author speaks about the Four Sublime States of Mind.  “The Buddha often spoke about four states of mind as the four “Brahma-viharas”: the divine or god-like dwellings, the lofty and excellent abodes in which the mind reaches outwards towards the immeasurable world of living beings, embracing them all in these boundless emotions.” (from vipassana.com).  The states of mind are: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. 

“These four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings. They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revive joy and hope long abandoned, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism.” (from vipassana.com)

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Daily Practice, Day 3

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Day 3 – I’m finding that blogging each day has been helpful in keeping me accountable to my intention to sit everyday.  My hope is that over time I will be able to transform my need to be accountable in order to sit and have it become part of my daily routine.  I am confident that it will happen if I continue to be diligent in this early stage.

After my sit this morning I read: Invoking the Bodhisattvas Names, the first 6 of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings and another passage in the Discourse on Knowing the Better Way to Catch a Snake.  Here’s a passage from Invoking the Bodhisattvas Names:

“We invoke your name, Manjushri, We aspire to learn your way, which is to be still and to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people.  We will look with all our attention and open-heartedness.  We will look with unprejudiced eyes.  We will look without judging or reacting.  We will look deeply so that we will be able to see and understand the roots of suffering, through the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is.  We will practice your way of using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, thus freeing ourselves and other species.”

The last sentence spoke to me.  In thinking about using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering I see clearly how often we cause ourselves to suffer based on a simple misunderstanding.  It is easy to think that our perceptions are accurate and true – and not only that, but real and concrete, something permanent.  Seldom do we clearly see things as they are, people as they are.  And without clear sight we cannot have understanding.  And without understanding compassion cannot be born.

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) teaches us to ask ourselves, “Am I Sure?”  When I encounter someone who is being rude to me and I immediately think of what a jerk that person is, am I sure that I know what is actually going on for that person?  When we can stop and ask ourselves, “Am I Sure?” our situation has the power to change right away.  Looking deeply I can see that I cannot possibly know what is going of for another person on every level.  When I get in touch with the nature of interbeing it is easy to see that we are each a lifetime of experiences, relationships and emotions.  Much life have we each led that has created this moment in time.  It is a deep practice to not be so sure.

sure

Random Acts of Kindness Week

randomkindness

This week, February 11-17th, is Random Acts of Kindness Week.  And while of course we don’t need a reason or a special week to perform small random acts of kindness and would certainly benefit from practicing regularly throughout the year,  having a few days set aside with this intention can be a wonderful community motivation towards taking better care of one another and widening our sometimes, maybe usually, self-involved state of mind.

When we take care of others we are also taking care of ourselves and when we take care of ourselves we are also taking care of others.  This is the heart of the teaching on interbeing.  We are all connected.  To say that we are separate from someone is not entirely correct and along those same lines to say that we are the same is also equally incorrect.  We are both the same and different in many beautiful ways.  When we get in touch with our connectedness as a human community we are also getting in touch with our own true nature.

It is easy to think that small acts cannot possibly add up to much and that it takes grand gestures to affect change.  Just like a bucket sitting out in a drizzle gets filled up to its brim one drop at a time our seemingly small acts of kindness are not only extremely significant they ripple out much further then we might think.  Please do not underestimate your impact on those around you and your environment.  One smile can be like the sun shining through a thick gray sky, offer them freely and often.

My-actions-are-my-only-true-belongings.-I-cannot-escape-the-consequences-of-my-actions.-My-actions-are-the-ground-on-which-I-stand.Thich-Nhat-Hanh-Quotes

The more we practice anything the more we keep practicing.  Let us practice kindness to ourselves and others everyday so as to cultivate understanding and compassion from deep within us.  Yes, that’s right, I also put ourselves into the mix!  Every practice we do starts with us.  Often the most challenging person to offer kindness and care to is ourselves so please remember to practice with that person too!

After some rooting around online here are some ideas I found to start our week off with, and I added some of my own too:

  1. Send someone a hand written note of thanks.
  2. Make a card at home and send it to a friend for no reason.
  3. Buy a lottery ticket for a stranger.
  4. Put some coins in someone else’s parking meter.
  5. Buy a coffee for the man on the high street selling The Big Issue magazine.
  6. Cut your neighbour’s hedge.
  7. Walk your friend’s dog.
  8. Give a compliment about your waiter / waitress to his / her manager.
  9. Send someone a small gift anonymously.
  10. Stop and help someone replace their flat tire.
  11. Let someone jump the queue at the bank.
  12. Pay for the drinks on the next table at a café.
  13. Treat a friend to the movies for no reason.
  14. Give a huge tip to someone when they least expect it.
  15. Hold the train door open for someone rushing to get in.
  16. Give up your seat for someone, not just an elderly person.
  17. Write notes of appreciation at least once a week.
  18. Talk to a homeless person and have a “normal” conversation.
  19. Pick up some rubbish in the road which would otherwise be lying around.
  20. Compliment a work colleague for their excellence.
  21. Recommend a competitor to a potential client.
  22. Give another driver your parking spot.
  23. Give a piece of fruit to a delivery person.
  24. Help an elderly neighbour carry the rubbish out.
  25. Tell all your family members how much your appreciate them.
  26. Leave a copy of an interesting book on a train / bus.
  27. Buy an inspirational book for a friend.
  28. Send a thank you note to a person who has helped you in the past.
  29. Smile a lot.
  30. Pay for someone’s coffee at a coffee bar.
  31. Donate used books to a children’s shelter.
  32. Return a shopping cart.
  33. Buy a flower for someone you don’t know.
  34. Visit an animal shelter.
  35. Be kind to someone you dislike.
  36. Give out candy :)
  37. Thank your mail carrier.
  38. Shovel snow for a neighbor.
  39. Bake a cake for a neighbor.
  40. Do something to water your own seeds of joy.
  41. Practice deep listening.
  42. Collect food for your local food bank.
  43. Put a sign up in the back window of your car with a smiley face or other nice message.
  44. Remember to be kind to mother earth as well: use your own shopping bags at the grocery store.
  45. Give a treasured item you own away.

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