In today's "Thought for the Day" Dan, our Primary Counsellor, considers kindness and it is needed more with the unusual, and unforeseen, situation we find ourselves in.
The highest wisdom is kindness - Berakhot, 17A (from the Babylonian Talmud)
A significant part of enlightenment is the awakening to the simple and profound truth of kindness; there is an implicit bond connecting all beings in an immense web of life that we are all participating in and sustained by. Wisdom is always a practical matter and kindness, as it is understood across spiritual and psychotherapeutic traditions, is both a practice and a fruit.
As modern human beings, we spend so much of our short lives wrapped up inside of ourselves, engaging with the never ending and oft-repetitive inner conversations of the labyrinth of the mind; the ultimately self-focused anxieties and preoccupations making up the negative aspect of our collective obsession with the need to be loved. The very hardening of our hearts. But there always remains a divine wellspring of kindness and love within all of us, however much we sometimes imagine life has run us dry.
By deliberately turning our attention inwards, not in self-interest, but towards the fountain of feelings of kindness and love for the world we have within our hearts, we whisper awake a deep wellspring of compassion. One ancient practice is to simply repeat a loving phrase silently throughout the day or to call to mind frequently an image, icon or person you associate with the deep qualities of loving kindness. In doing so, the discursive mind is quietened (even if for a short moment) enough to move beyond it momentarily. One might ‘gradually come unwrapped’ to others in a spirit free of the need for personal affirmation and with a heart a little less hardened.
In these unusual times of fearful pandemic, we are living a common (pan) experience together. There is much to observe and learn about ourselves in relation to the ethics of kindness. A kind act is sometimes something of a ‘grand allowing’; Making space in your heart for someone's difference or otherness, when suddenly (and unintentionally) spending more time around them. This is a particularly generous form of kindness, one that resists the discursive mind in favour of a dimension of heart-kindness that recognises our interconnectedness. As the late psychiatrist, Thomas Szasz, once remarked; “be careful to free a camel from his hump or he might no longer be a camel”. Instead, move beyond an ego-rooted kindness and begin to trust in interdependence the way a bird trusts the tree it builds its nest in.
What might you practice today to share the fruit of kindness to a world in need right now?
The thought for the day is a short reflective writing relevant to the art of suffering well (enough) in difficult times, for parents and staff of Alice Smith. If it offers comfort amidst adversity, read the text and call it to mind when needed (even if just a short phrase from the larger text), allowing it to soak into the marrow of your bones and merge with your breath. Remember, we are all in this together…
Take good care, Dan