We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy.~ Satchidananda
Loving relationships with friends or family are the basic training ground for cultivating kindness. Most of us know the feeling in our heart-minds for people we care about. It is that feeling of warmth and acceptance that we aspire to cultivate and expand in loving kindness practice. Although we started the project with practices that emphasized the experience of kindness for ourselves, that is not the first place we personally experience it. Typically, we become aware of it as the connection we feel with our earliest caretakers. In the metta sutta we are told that we are to care for others just as a mother cares for her child. Even if we have had troubled childhoods, most of us can find someone or something like a pet or loving family member that we can use as the seed for deepening our kindness practice. That's where we start.
Here are a few links for short teachings from the Palouse Mindfulness Course. If you have taken the course, these are worth watching again. We mentioned this course at the beginning of the month as a good go-to introduction to Mindfulness. Dr. Potter is always editing and adding new material so it is worth it to check back periodically and see if there is anything new.
Each month, he also does a special program for graduates of his MBSR course. This one, from the January 2019 graduate meeting, is on the theme of cultivating kindness. He posted links to some new videos and some familiar ones on the theme for the month. Click the link and see what he recommends.
This meditation, called The Garden in your Heart, is just over 17 minutes long and is a classic loving kindness meditation with Ayya Khema. According to Leigh Brasington, Ayya Khema (1923 – 1997) was the first Western woman to become a Theravadin Buddhist nun. Although mostly known for her teachings about how to achieve deep states of concentration, a large collection of her guided meditations on loving kindness are available on-line. I found this page on Leigh Brasington's website which lists many of her talks on cultivating kindness on dharmaseed.org.
A Thankful Smile
A thankful smile
pours pleasant butterflies
into a warm jar,
which lights the body
for hours to come.
Giggling and glancing away
to hide the blushing
fuels the light in me.
It takes so little
to catch those butterflies,
to light yourself
and warm another soul
At the same time
Lovingkindness is a deep knowing that every individual’s life is inextricably interwoven with all of life and that, because of that connection, we need to take care of one another – not out of sloppy sentimentality or a sense of obligation, but out of wisdom that recognizes that when we care for others, we are really caring for ourselves. - Sharon Salzberg
Matthieu Ricard is a writer, photographer, and monk who has been referred to as the world's happiest man after his brain activity was measured at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Matthieu received a PhD in molecular genetics from the Pasteur Institute in 1972 and instead of becoming a college professor, he chose to become a monk and practice Tibetan Buddhism.
Matthieu is going to be LIVE this coming Monday September 14th on Insight Timer at 7 AM discussing Healing The World With Altruism. Here is the link I was given to share the program. But, you don't have to wait until Monday to hear him talk. His TED talk, How to let altruism be your guide is 16 minutes and you can watch it right now by clicking here. If you like the photographs, you can see more of them here. I would love to have you join me on Monday morning at 7:AM on Insight timer for his live talk.
There is actually a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the support of Random Acts of Kindness through programs at schools for all ages through High School. Their mission is to make kindness the norm in schools, workplaces, homes & communities. I particularly liked this four minute video called The Journey of Kindness through Martial Arts which showcases a martial arts program in Colorado that requires random acts of kindness to move to higher karate belt levels. If you're an educator, there are lots of materials to use in your classrooms on their website.
And what would the practice of lovingkindness be without the influence of Sharon Salzberg? In 1974 Sharon was one of the co-founders of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and she has been teaching lovingkindness meditations ever since. She even came to Wilmington in 2016 to share her teachings with us.
I first discovered her when I listened to the CD that accompanied Meditation for Dummies (now in its fourth edition) about 20 years ago. I find her voice to be soothing and comforting without distracting from the content. Listen here to this 20 minute classic guided meditation with Sharon Salzberg. Her latest book, Real Change, was just released September 1, 2020.
In Asian languages, the word for mind and the word for heart are the same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention. Jon Kabat-Zinn
In this clip of an interview between Dacher Keltner and Jon Kabat-Zinn, we see Jon's understanding of the intimate connection between mindfulness and compassion. Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, and the founder and faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center. He hosts a highly rated podcast The Science of Happiness and you may also enjoy his TEDx talk on the Science of Happiness and Kindness.
According to what I read at Lions Roar, Jack and Trudy were married in 2016 after years of friendship and teaching together. Both are long-time Insight Meditation teachers and practitioners. I have known about Jack for many years and am delighted to find Trudy's teachings. Here is a 12 minute meditation on forgiveness, a prerequisite for kindness. And here is a whole page of her other meditations to explore.
By Naomi Shihab Nye
You can hear Naomi read the poem here.
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
“If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately.”
Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,"
said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bitse-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”— Maya Angelou
Savannah Walters, one of two local students completing the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification program with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield will be leading a 20 minute loving kindness meditation on Zoom tonight at 6 PM. It will be followed by a short period of Q & A and then an opportunity to share something you have found helpful in supporting your own kindness practice. Savannah is also completing her Yoga Teacher Training at Longwave Yoga. We are very proud of her. Here is the link to join us on Zoom.
Ananda was Buddha's assistant for the last 25 years of his teaching. Because of his exceptional memory, he was able to recite all of the early discourses after the Buddha died so they could be preserved by the community. In the Pali Canon's Upaddha Sutta (SN 45.2), there is a conversation between the Buddha and Ananda in which Ananda enthusiastically declares, 'This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.' The Buddha replies:
'Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.' (Wikipedia)
If you're looking for a gift book to give as a random act of kindness or just something to make you feel good, this might be the right one. Charlie Mackesy has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press. Given 5 stars by over 12,000 raters on Amazon, this book is destined to join classics like Winnie the Poo.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”— Dalai Lama
I was surprised to find several videos in which someone having a birthday decided to use their birthday as an opportunity for Random Acts of Kindness. I just put "youtube happy birthday kindness acts" into my google search bar. Here are three that came up and there were more.
20 Random Acts of Kindness On her 20th birthday, a young woman was inspired to be kind. Her brother filmed her doing 20 acts of kindness. It's only a 3 minute clip and it will make you smile. She is having such a good time..
My 38 random acts of kindness is a TEDx talk in Soweto from 2013. Botlhale Tshetlo desribes the 38 acts of kindness she chose to do in this inspiring presentation. Her accent makes it a little hard to follow but well worth the trouble. Kindness can be everywhere.
40 for 40 - 40 acts of kindness for my 40th birthday. Kristina Kuzmic goes through them pretty quickly. Maybe you could use one of the ideas. Again, it's just 3 minutes long.
Emma Sapella is the Science Director at CCare, the Stanford Center For Compassion And Altruism Research and Education, and has written a book called The Happiness Track. She has done a couple of TEDx talks and been invited to Google to present her research. This is the version of the loving-kindness meditation that she and colleagues used in research at Stanford. There are other meditations on this page as well.
The Beauty of Random Acts of Kindness is the title of this TEDx talk with Christiaan Triebert. Christiaan is a journalist on the Visual Investigations Team at the New York Times. One piece of the job is to look closely at images from the internet to see if the images match the claims that are made about them. He describes himself as a retired hitchhiker and has traveled thousands of miles on his thumb. See the talk to view his photos and hear him tell some of his stories about kindness on the road.
The Surprising Reason We Don't Hitchhike Anymore - Cheddar (a youtube channel) explores the problems with hitchhiking in this clip from October 2019. Many places in the world are still safe for hitchhikers. See what he says the issues are and maybe you will gain some faith in humanity.
by Edgar A. Guest
One never knows
How far a word of kindness goes;
One never sees
How far a smile of friendship flees.
Down, through the years,
The deed forgotten reappears.
One kindly word
The souls of many here has stirred.
Man goes his way
And tells with every passing day,
Until life's end:
'Once unto me he played the friend.'
We cannot say
What lips are praising us today.
We cannot tell
Whose prayers ask God to guard us well.
But kindness lives
Beyond the memory of him who gives
Whatever you intend, whatever you plan, and whatever you have a tendency toward, that will become the basis upon which your mind is established. (SN 12.40) Develop meditation on lovingkindness, for when you develop meditation on lovingkindness, all ill will will be abandoned. (MN 62) translated from the Pali by Andrew Olendzki
SAVE the DATE
October 10th and 11th from
9 AM to 11:30 AM New York Time.
It is less than a month away.
Cristina Feldman has developed a modern interpretation of how to cultivate four heart qualities; kindness, joy, compassion and equanimity that were practiced in early India by Yogis and followers of Buddha. In July, only three months ago, I attended a Zoom course on these practices called Mindfulness and its Extended Family which Christina offered through the European Center for Mindfulness in Freiburg Germany. I had to get up at 4:00 AM but it was a lot easier than flying to Germany for the program. Thank you Zoom.
I was so impressed by her presentation that I wrote to her the next day to ask if she would do the program again for us in the states. Remarkably, she said yes and yesterday we finalized the date and time. We haven’t worked out details of cost, how to sign up etc. I wanted to let you know as soon as possible so you can put it on your calendars.
After personally working with these qualities for 50 years, Christina has developed a view that extends the practices into a format that is accessible to western audiences who are less familiar with meditation techniques. The book, Boundless Heart, outlines these practices. You may recall that I recommended her book as part of your own commitment to cultivating kindness on Day 2 of our Boundless Heart program.
I am very excited for our community to be able to provide a platform to present these teachings that are so needed in today’s conflict loaded world. I hope you will join us on Zoom. I will send the link and registration information in an e-mail on October 1. If you got this e-mail, you will get that one.
In 2011, I wanted my yoga students to have a way to learn the basics of meditation so I put together a booklet that summarized the core techniques as I understood them. I think they still hold. Not much has changed in the technology of meditation in 2,000 years. You find a quiet place, a reasonably comfortable position for your body, you bring an attitude of kind acceptance to your mind and you select a focal point that reflects which heart/mind quality that you want to work with. You may select something like mindfulness of breath or whatever is happening in the present moment or you may want to deliberately spend time in a state of heart/mind that you aspire to, like loving kindness.
To apply meditation to the cultivation of loving kindness (metta) simply means that when we sit, we make a deliberate effort to bring to mind the experience in our heart and mind that we know as the subjective experience of loving kindness. We can do this with the assistance of words that make us feel kind; warm, accepted, safe, or loved. We can do this with phrases; “May you be safe, May you be happy, May you Live with ease.” Another way is with imagery by bringing to mind a being that spontaneously makes you feel the experiential quality of loving kindness. This could be your child, your beloved pet, a deity that you are devoted to. These are all variations on the theme of cultivating loving kindness. The effect of this practice is the reduction of ill will when the areas in the brain for loving kindness begin to override the areas for ill will. We can all use a bit of kindness in the world today.
If you have only meditated with someone else guiding you, here is a general structure for a self-directed meditation practice.
1. Set a timer for however long you think you want to practice. Five minutes is enough to start.
2. Settle into a relaxed posture that you can hold with stillness and not fall asleep. Stay there. Try not to move; not to blink, not to swallow, not to scratch the itch that will inevitably arise. Just try to be completely still but be kind to yourself and move if you must.
3. Bring to mind a word, a phrase or an image that brings the experience of loving kindness alive for you. Keep the experience fully in your heart/mind as long as you can.
4. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the experience of loving kindness. Don’t judge or blame your mind. Its job is to look for trouble and it is just doing its job. We are training it be more kind.
5. When the timer goes off, pause a while and just notice how you feel. You may feel nothing different the first several times. These practices take time to fully develop.
The more you practice the better you will become at discerning the patterns of your mind. It is from that knowledge that we can make wiser decisions about how to engage skillfully in our lives.
Apparently, some of you did sign up to participate in this project but the software didn't automatically add you to the list. Many of you did get added so I still haven't figured out what happened. If you want to be added to the list for the last half of this project, please contact me personally and I will manually add your name. email@example.com.
The ideas that have lighted my way, and time after time, have given me new courage to face life cheerfully have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth." Albert Einstein
I am grateful for technology, despite its drawbacks. Zoom has been invaluable as the Covid crisis emerged and kept us away from normal face to face social connections. Before Zoom, we had YouTube as a video technology platform. Televisions, radios and cell phones have changed the way everything is done. Who knows what will come next? It often feels like it will be more bad news. However, you can still find inspirational videos on YouTube to reinforce your kindness, You can choose to watch them instead of the discouraging ones. Set your intention to look for good news. Here are a couple to start with.
Here is a story about a man who helps a child and many years later is able to return the kindness.
A short story on - kindness is an animated clip about a friendship between a dog and a fish. The dog is so cute!!
One of the opening stories in Ajahn Brahm's small book titled Kindfulness is from a business school. The professor filled up a jar with large stones and asked his students, "Is the jar full?" His students, of course, said "Yes." He took out a small bag of gravel and proceeded to pour gravel into the jar on top of the large stones. "Is it full now?" he asked. The students were getting the picture and said "No." He took out a bag of sand and added sand to the jar. "Is it full now?" he asks again. This time the students are wondering what else he could add to the jar. They watch while the professor takes out a glass of water and pours the water into the jar. Finally, the jar is full, and the professor asks, "What is the point of this demonstration?" One student suggests, "You can always fit something more in." "No!" thundered the professor emphatically. What it shows is that if you want to get the big stones in, you have to put them in first." It was a lesson in priorities. Ajahn Brahm asks us "Can you find space for the precious stone of kindfulness?"
Brahm is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia. His sense of humor is illustrated in the titles of his books; "Who ordered this truckload of dung?" and "Don't worry, Be Grumpy." Here is a short clip of him reading his description of why we need kindfulness on top of mindfulness. Here is a longer talk from 2013 on Kindfulness that is a classic.
Ajahn Brahm is also known for supporting the establishment of monasteries for women. In 2009, Ajahn Brahm along with Bhante Sujato facilitated an ordination ceremony for bhikkhunis where four female Buddhists were ordained into the Western Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha. This was so controversial in Thailand that he was "expelled from the Ajahn Chah Forest Sangha lineage." For scholars, Bhante Sujato has a free online textbook called The History of Mindfulness that explores the earliest layer of teachings through the seven languages in which Buddha's teachings on mindfulness have been preserved.
Stay tuned: Tomorrow we will be applying what we have learned through our practice of kindness for ourselves and our friends to begin the practice of kindness for the people in our lives who are more difficult.