Kindness arises, surely, from compassion, the most basic of all Buddhist qualities. It should not be mistaken for a mere softness of heart--the kind that is mocked by conservatives in their scorn for "bleeding heart liberals." Kindness needs to be practiced with generosity, but also with skill and discrimination. It should not be used to reward or condone self-pity, because then it would neither encourage nor support the change that might be needed. To use it unskillfully can as easily cause harm to others as to not use it at all.
And yet there is a great deal of un-kindness in the world today. We need only look at the words and actions of our politicians--much in the news, regrettably--to be aware of its toxic ubiquity in our national dialogue. It feeds on itself and breeds itself, infecting every aspect of our lives. It takes the form of incivility in the social context--from the halls of government to our city streets and highways, even in the intimacy of our homes. In our personal lives, it can range all the way from curt dismissiveness to outright cruelty and abuse.
I aspire to be kind. I am at my kindest when I am least concerned with myself, my own needs, my own beliefs and attitudes. In the course of an average day, I have many unkind impulses, many unkind thoughts. The least I can do it to try to notice them as they arise, recognize them for what they are, and having recognized, to transform them into their kind counterparts. As with most Buddhist practices, it's quite simple--but it's hard! (I find it especially hard to feel an ounce of kindness toward those "conservative" politicians: can I see things from their point of view? No! Can I imagine that they might be right, that I might be wrong? No! Do I credit them at least with sincerity in their beliefs, with good intentions? Perhaps kindness should also not be used to condone wrong-headedness.)
* * * * * * *
From my morning's meditation:
... breathing each breath
as though it were my last;
wishing, if it were granted me,
to cross that last threshold
refreshed, invigorated, freed
from all negative emotion;
body and mind devoid of stress,
ready for the next adventure.
This practice inspired by my current reading of Living Fully: Finding Joy in Every Breath by Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche. I'll have more to say about the book when I've finished reading it.
Metta to all!