There is a lot of talk about love. There is a lot of talk about kindness. There is a lot of talk about something we might think is a high-potency spiritual blend of the two called lovingkindness. Oh, that’s the kind of kindness I want!
Everything we say about these things is one degree removed from the thing itself. But here I go in my infinite unkindness.
Lovingkindness is the absolutely emptied, undisturbed, vast and open state of mind we realize through meditation practice. Here she goes about practice again. I’ll find my brand of kindness somewhere else!
There is nothing else.
At the bottom, beneath it all, without any intention or elaboration, is lovingkindness. It is what we are; it is what everything is, as it is. When you actually experience it, not just talk about it, you find out for yourself. These days some people in the “help” business might sprinkle the mumbo-jumbo of Buddhist lingo on top of their talk to give it a little spiritual flavor. But unless you practice, the language alone is unfulfilling. It is inauthentic. When you serve it, no one can taste the truth. What is true?
Being is love; being is kind.
It is immediate and eternal. It is ever-present, absent the insidious self-centered spin we persist in putting on things.
Kindness is the long, gentle, never-ending curve we walk on.
Kindness is what we breathe. Kindness is what we eat, when we are not swallowing the bitter aftertaste of our own unkindness. The kindness of real food is what nourishes and sustains life, which is an act of love.
The meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg wrote a beautiful spiritual memoir called Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. To see the title, you might think, as I once did, that lovingkindness is an art, that it is revolutionary, or that it is an elevated form of happiness. At the recommendation of someone else, I sent the book to my mother when she was in treatment for her terminal cancer. I sent it with good intentions, as anyone would. I was hoping for a way to change the outcome of her life. She might have tried to read it; I don’t have a clue. But without finishing it, she gave it back. I’m glad she did. She didn’t need help in the lovingkindness department. But I did. A while later I read it myself and found out something.
Good intentions are the enemy of kindness.
You can’t do anything with kindness. If you do, it’s not kindness anymore, but the imposition of an expectation. Our expectations are implicit judgments that may be hidden to us, but obvious to everyone else. This is a subtle and persistent characteristic of our thoughts and feelings. When we are motivated by our own thoughts and feelings, we give people inducements to think and feel like we do. We want them to be like us. But sharing our egocentric thoughts and feelings is not kind. And believing our egocentric thoughts and feelings is most unkind to ourselves.
Kindness comes from silence. Not the silent treatment, that simmering fury, that toxic resentment; but the nonjudgmental silence of letting things be.
Silence is the kindest thing of all.
In silence, we do only what needs to be done, which is the pure kindness of love.
It’s about time I practiced it. That would be kind to us all.
This is the second in a series of posts that I am reprising in the spirit of Asilomar, the breathtaking patch of Northern California coastline which inspired them in the first place. It is my attempt to motivate you to join me there on the Monterey Peninsula on Saturday, Feb. 12 for the Plunge at Asilomar, my next one-day retreat. Read more about it, and then register to attend.
Photo: The long, gentle curve of Asilomar.