Posts Tagged ‘Kindness’

a beautiful day

June 22nd, 2013    -    13 Comments

Nowadays I spend most of my time sitting in a chair pounding into a keyboard. It’s long and silent work, and I lose myself in it, but I know where to go for a kick of adrenaline. I click over to a social media site where I’ll find a new skirmish gathering speed, inciting the community’s opinion, anger, and rebuke. I understand why we do that—I, too, can be self-righteous—but I am battle fatigued. The world cries for compassion. It craves acceptance and belonging. It needs our attention, a kind word, a smile, a wave, a handshake, or a hug. Are we against everything? Angry at everyone? Sometimes it seems the only thing we’ll speak up for is a fight.

I push back from the fray and step out into the garden where the leaves rustle and bend in gentle rhythm with the wind. The air is fresh. The sky is blue. It’s an amazing place we live in when we’re not at odds with it. Who can contain the love that this one life brings with it? It is boundless.

On the street outside the gate, a woman walks a dog. I’ve glimpsed them nearly every day for what must be years. Her dog is old and the woman goes slow, the two now inseparable on the steepest part of the hill.

“It’s a beautiful day,” I say.
“It sure is.”

Someone once asked Maezumi Roshi why he practiced.
“To make my heart tender.”

– from Paradise in Plain Sight, coming next spring.

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best friends

April 1st, 2013    -    9 Comments

il_570xN.318379070The other morning I opened an email from a reader. I asked her if I could respond via the blog so other people could benefit. All our problems are the same; what is different is whether or not we face them in an openhearted way. When we can do that, problems resolve themselves.

I am sure you get this all the time but first off thank you so much for Momma Zen and your blog. Both have brought me to laughter and to tears.

Reaching the place of tears and laughter—the starting point of our common humanity—is my highest aspiration. When one person cries, we all cry. When one person laughs, we all laugh. Now you can see how compassion works: in our shared tears and laughter.

I started studying Buddhism when I was 18. My dad was dying and my boss had a copy of Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. It took me a while to get through, but since then I have always been able to find a Buddhist book or teacher to help me.

What a coincidence. I, too, read that book early in my practice and it was a wonderful companion for me during a time of loss. The Dharma, or teaching, always works in what appears to be a mere coincidence. Whether you’re handed things you like or things you don’t; something that makes you happy or sad, laugh or cry; whether you are consoled or confused; you are always receiving the teaching. Disappointment is the greatest teacher, because it gets right to the source of our problems: our attachment to having our own way. We usually don’t finish those books or stay with the teachers who disappoint us, but life continually and directly delivers us this lesson: the moment it’s not the way we want it.

My best friend and I had a falling out two years ago. We tried to go back to normal but I feel like it hasn’t been the same since. We’ve drifted apart. I am in disbelief. I never thought I would lose this friendship.

Now we can see what a good teacher this friend has been for you. Things don’t go the way we think. People don’t act the way we expect. We cannot control the outcome of anything no matter how much we wish, hope, try or want. Right there is the turning point toward a deeper understanding of love. True love is letting go. Not trying to change someone else. Not trying to control the outcome. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do.

I try to feel compassion, and practice tonglen or a metta meditation for my friend, but what can I do for this sad, empty, hollow feeling in my chest?

My teacher Maezumi Roshi said, “There is always something we can do.” The most important thing to do is practice acceptance. Take care that you do not try to conjure a certain outward feeling or impose a manipulation of any kind. Compassion is complete acceptance of things as they are, free of a self-serving agenda.

Within that acceptance, you can practice atonement. Offer an apology. Forgive yourself as well. Do not ignite anger or resentment by assigning blame. A genuine apology always restores harmony. Take complete responsibility and offer it without expecting an outcome.

Add your friend’s name to your prayer list. Dedicate your meditation to her. Look carefully at your motivations and intentions. Have no expectations. Simply devote your practice to your mutual well-being. Express your love and care without any need for reciprocity. We do not practice to change people’s hearts; we practice to open our own.

In short, be a best friend.

If you do these things freely and for their own sake, you will have made a friend of yourself. Your heart will soon be filled with love and gratitude. And then something will happen. It always does. Nothing stays the same. The Dharma works by itself when we stop trying to make it work.

Please stay in touch and share this with a friend.

Best Friends necklace by Jewel Mango on etsy.

 

talk to strangers about the weather

January 4th, 2012    -    10 Comments

Whenever I see something I’ve written reflected back this way, I know the message is for me. That’s the case with this excerpt from Hand Wash Cold, which is being recirculated right about the time I’d rather hole up with my own precious self, doing what I want, when I want, how I want. So right now is a good time talk to strangers about the weather, especially since it’s 88 degrees on January 4.

Do you want to live in friendship or fear? Paradise or paranoia? We are each citizens of the place we make, so make it a better place.

At the grocery store, give your place in line to the person behind you.

Ask the checker how her day is going, and mean it.

On the way out, give your pocket money to the solicitor at the card table no matter what the cause.

Buy a cup of lemonade from the kids at the sidewalk stand.

Tell them to keep the change.

Roll down your car window when you see the homeless man on the corner with the sign. Give him money. Have no concern over what he will do with it.

Smile at him. It will be the first smile he has seen in a very long time.

Do not curse your neighbor’s tall grass, weeds, foul temperament, or house color. Given time, things change by themselves. Even your annoyance.

Thank the garbageman. Be patient with the postal worker. Leave the empty parking space for someone else to take. They will feel lucky.

Buy cookies from the Girl Scouts and a sack of oranges from the poor woman standing in the broiling heat at the intersection.

Talk to strangers about the weather.

Allow others to be themselves, with their own point of view.

If you judge them, you are in error.

Do not let difference make a difference.

Do not despair over the futility of your impact or question the outcome.

Do not pass while the lights are flashing.

Trusting life means trusting where you are, and trusting where you’ll go, and trusting the way in between, as on a bus trip, the driving left to someone else. It’s bumpy but remarkably reliable.

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here because of you

December 19th, 2011    -    12 Comments

To the woman pulling out of the parking lot on Friday who rolled her window down and said, “Are you Momma Zen?”
To the ones who asked.
And the ones who came.
To the one who wrote, “If I’d known what your workshop was about I wouldn’t have come.”
To the people who traveled across states and south from Canada.
Who saw a sign that said, “turn here.”
And even though it was far they thought, “It’s not too far.”
For the airport rides and the spare bedrooms.
For the reunions and first meetings.
The coffee, the breakfast, the dinner, the talks, the tears.
For the last-minute cancelations.
For the names I didn’t remember.
And even the “constructive criticism.”
For not saying, “You’re older than I thought.”
For the sun in Asilomar, the rain in Pittsburgh, the old friends in Houston, the new ones in DC, the love in Georgia, and the stars in Colorado, oh the stars in Colorado.
For meeting your children. For bringing your mother.
For looking me in the eye.
And for sending me on my way.
To the man at the Zen Center on Saturday who said, “I’m here because of you.”
That’s only half of it.
I’m here because of you.
I’m here because of you.
I’m here because of you.

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tiny favor

December 13th, 2011    -    115 Comments

Back in September 2010, I was surprised one morning by what turned up on my computer: a generous review of Hand Wash Cold on the Tiny Buddha website.

You may know how relatively unschooled I am at social media, and if not totally unschooled, at least unconvinced. Still, I knew that hitting the Tiny was hitting the Big, at least on the computer.

I wondered how someone with so much media muscle — more than 235,000 Twitter followers, 70,000 Facebook fans, and 12 million web page views — could do something so selflessly kind?

The answer is, by being tiny.

I hope I can be twice as small in returning the favor.

Tiny Buddha founder Lori Deschene has a new book out, Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions. I’m offering my pristine review copy right here as a giveaway, and you’ll want to do yourself a favor by commenting to enter by this Friday. (If you win, I promise the book will arrive to you by Christmas.) It’s a great gift for yourself or a friend, full of good old fashioned common sense and new-fangled how-tos. It captures some things you might have seen whiz past you on the web, and some things you’ll want to reflect on for more than a blink of time.

Lori is a smart and fluid writer (no wonder she has made a career as a web copywriter) and she weaves in crowdsourced contributions from her Twitter followers (like me) on such hefty topics as pain, change, love, money, fate, happiness and control. But the gem here is something that can never be quoted in 140 characters: the true story of Lori’s transformation from a recluse to a community builder, from a self-loathing misfit to an inspiring changemaker. This is a story we all share in one small way or another — it is the story of the Buddha’s leap over the wall of delusive, egocentric thought. This is the journey we all make, little by little, without a map, toward our complete potential. Taking that leap is the only way we can ever do good.

For starters, the book has shown me how to do something great today: return a tiny favor.

This one’s for you.

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Leave a comment on this post by the end of the day this Friday, Dec. 16 to enter the giveaway. Favor yourself with an extra entry by posting this tweet:

RT@kmaezenmiller Giving away @tinybuddha book here: http://bit.ly/szQIre

The winner of this giveaway has been notified. Thank you for participating.

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The long curve of kindness

January 5th, 2011    -    50 Comments

Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4

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. read more

returning the gift

October 4th, 2010    -    68 Comments

Between the giver, the receiver and the gift there is no separation – Maezumi Roshi

The world can seem stingy, competitive and cruel. Or it can seem generous, welcoming and kind. A single gift can make the difference, and it always comes back to us. The gift we offer is the same gift we receive. Like the coffee we put into our cup, what we pour out is what we drink in: all of it an inseparable extension of our own hand.

The world I share with author Katrina Kenison is welcoming and kind, because she is, and she brings that out in me. It does me no good to bemoan how rare this quality is in any of the realms I occupy. Cups look empty until we fill them again.

In Katrina’s two books, Mitten Strings for God, and The Gift of an Ordinary Day, she welcomes us into a world infused with natural wisdom. She is the kind of mother we all are, aiming to change her family life for the better amid the inevitable undertow of change itself. She doesn’t pretend to know how. She doesn’t make any self-satisfied assessments. She simply follows her instincts into blind curves and doubt. Settle into the pages of her memoirs and what spills out is the fullness in every mother’s wistful heart. read more

kindness, milk and cookies

June 11th, 2010    -    9 Comments

I wake this morning in Seattle – Tacoma, to be exact – where I am soaking up the hospitality that greets me every place I arrive for a reading, a talk or a Mother’s Plunge retreat. Tomorrow’s Mother’s Plunge with 34 women is the multiplied outcome of a single kindness. By kindness I don’t just mean the command to come, but one person’s compassionate effort and initiative to make this event happen.

This is how we save the world. This is how we save ourselves. With living kindness, the kindness that walks on your own two legs, finds a room for people to gather, hosts a tired traveler in an upstairs bedroom, brews coffee and bakes cookies and makes the world a better place.

In that spirit I offer you this simple treatise today, an excerpt from Hand Wash Cold: read more

You are kind

December 16th, 2009    -    10 Comments


Christine Mason Miller (Swirly Girl) sent me a surprise package with this deck of inspiration cards. They are exactly what I needed, and I put them in a bowl on the kitchen table where I will choose one each day to forgive myself for the day before.

Last night at my library talk, a woman came in smiling and sat down in the front row. “I am a fan,” she said, and my heart unfurled like a welcome mat. Everything went okay after that.

My friend Jim in Mongolia (really, how many people can say that) asked me to record a dharma teaching for his English students, and then he posted the mp3 on this site. Have a listen if you haven’t heard the last of me. (You haven’t heard the last of me.)

Kindness is my home. It’s a really big home, and so nicely decorated.

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