“Let Kindness Flourish
From Sea to Shining Sea.” (From a poster created by VIMS sangha member Doris Hampton)
Since the November presidential election, there has been a noticeable uprising of public and personal, spoken-aloud commitments to kindness. I read it in letters to the editor. I hear it from friends and acquaintances. I see it on posters, like the ones shown here in this newsletter. I feel it often––in public forums and in the grocery store––and I know its active stirrings in my own heart. This growing sense of friendliness and a felt-sense of connection with all others is NOT coming from ignorance, or a denial of the contentiousness and cruelty we are witnessing in our own and other governments around the world, in our neighbors and in our fellow citizens, and especially in our own emotional reactions. Rather than coming from denial, the recent surfacing of kindness seems to be coming more from seeing the hatred around us and within us in a clearer, starker way.
As we witness the effects of such animosity on ourselves, as well as on others, the decision to be kind becomes fueled by compassion.
“I have seen the effect of hatred on the faces of Southern sheriffs … the faces of white supremacists … the faces of Ku Klux Klan members … and, I refuse to bring that ugliness onto myself …” (Martin Luther King).
The choice for kindness is also being made from wisdom and insight. It is a skillful response to the fear, disillusionment, and shame we feel in regard to our nation, and, at times, in regard to ourselves. Remarkably, this heartfelt response is also contributing to the rise of a desire for greater awareness of the present moment. People are making efforts to learn more about how we came to this confusing juncture in human evolution. So many of us are wanting to explore the institutionalized roots of injustice; to understand about the problems and benefits of our immigration policy; to examine the roots of the wars in the Middle East; the causes and conditions of the longstanding, continuing racial and ethnic persecution in the United States.
As we continue to explore and adapt to our growing sense of the “new normal,” many of us are making a stronger commitment to our meditation practice as a place to gain some moments of rest from the confusion. Please trust that, even if we are barraged by the proliferation of thoughts and preoccupations fueled by strong emotions each time we sit, the gentle practice of settling the mind––again and again––towards a place of rest is invaluable. In the midst of the internal busyness, this steady practice can give us insight into ourselves and others. Done regularly, it can allow kindness, friendliness, and wise action to gain a stronger foothold in our daily lives––enabling us to a further understanding of, and an ability to act in keeping with, the ancient truth that
Hatred is never conquered by hatred,
But only by the willingness to love does hatred end.
(Dhammapada, version Ajahn Munindo)