Entries in kindness (3)



Well, what does that mean? Does it mean that if you love then you can do anything that you choose to do? Is love really that powerful? Don't we humans need more checks and balances to keep us in line? Don't we need protection from ourselves vs having the license to do anything that we want? St. Augustine in a sermon about God's love for us said "love and do what you will." The meaning seems to be connected to St. Augustine's belief that God's love would transform those who opened their heart's to it and then they would follow God's will and do good things. So then they could do what they wanted as they would want good things for themselves and others. This might be an answer for the critique of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" pointing out that if you do bad things to yourself then you could justify doing bad things to others...if that were actually what you wanted to do to yourself or others. 

So. what does this have to do with us? Over the last 30 plus years helping people with a variety of problems but virtually all were feeling stressed and were self-critical and hard on themselves. I tried to help them to be kinder to themselves and to be more self-aware. I have found that when we are more self-aware, we are more likely to see the good parts of ourselves and are then more able to let go of some of the self-criticism. So maybe part of the "love" in "love and do what you will" is our choosing to be kinder and more loving towards ourselves and then we would be kinder and more loving towards others. If we do this, we will then feel less stressed. What do you think?



In an earlier blog I mentioned research by Ms. Fredrickson and her colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that involved one group receiving training in metta meditation while a control group did not.  The metta meditation really seemed to help that group feel better and be more positively connected to others.  This type of meditation has also been used to successfully treat people with Borderline Personality Disorder, a disorder that is difficult to treat based in part on the negative and unstable relationships these people tend to have.  

So, what is this metta?  Metta is described as an attitude that recognizes and respects all sentient beings [all living things capable of having feelings] and wishes them well.  It requires that we recognize that all sentient beings are united in their desire to find fulfillment and escape suffering.  This then allows us to feel friendly, compassionate and even loving to others.   

The practice of developing metta involves first cultivating this attitude and experience of life towards ourselves.  Then toward family members and good friends.  Next toward neutral people and then toward difficult [hard to like] people.  The final practice involves feeling this loving kindness toward people who do very bad things.  It seems that when we withhold our kindness towards anyone, it becomes a weight or burden for us to carry.  I may have mentioned the following story in another blog.  However, since it concerns carrying things I will repeat it.  Two monks were walking down a muddy dirt road and saw a very nicely dressed woman standing  on the side of the road.  She would get her dress muddy if she had to cross the road  One of the monks went over and carried her to the other side.  Five hours later, the other monk asked why he did that.  The monk who carried her stated that he had carried her for 30 seconds while the other monk had carried her for 5 hours.

Here's wishing all of us the joys of letting go of our burdens that keep us from experiencing metta.




The above was recommended in a children's book ; Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, that I read recently.  The book is about a boy with a severe craniofacial anomoly.  In other words, his face is very distorted, startlingly so. The boy is teased and the book portrays how he and his family, friends and classmates deal with his different appearance. The boy at one point wishes every day were holloween so that everyone could wear a mask everyday. This book reminded me of the short film ; "Butterfly Circus" where a man born with no limbs learns how to believe in himself and no longer feel ashamed of himself.  In this film, the limbless man is called "magnificent."" I asked my son about this and he said that "we are all magnificent."

How often do we lose sight of this regarding ourselves and others?   Do many of us even believe that we are magnificent?  There is something wonderful about all living things, including us.  Maybe we are able to see this about ourselves and others when we are in the presence of people who are different.  Maybe if we all are a little kinder than necessary, we will be able to see how wonderful we are.