by Jonathan Hilton
As I sit in one of my favorite coffee shops, and think about what I want to express today I am inundated with a lot of thoughts. First, the book I am currently reading, Buddha’s Brain, by Rick Hanson. This is a great book, by the way, that I encourage any seeking mind to read. Today I was reading about kindness. My thoughts drift to the times in life where I have come up short in showing the kindness I should have.
I am sure that most people experience regrets about the things they have experienced in the past, but it really made me look at people differently today. In the book the contention is made that when you look at someone’s actions, the action is one small snapshot of a person’s life. There are at least 10,000 events and circumstances that have led them to this particular place, doing this particular thing, even if it is mean, evil or just annoying.
“All joy in the world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy.” – Shantideva
This thought caused me to look at the anger and frustration I have carried against people I perceived to have wronged me in the past. In each case, when you start going back over the 10,000 things in their life that led them to do whatever hurt me, I could suddenly see the confrontation, slight or insult as the singular act that it was.
Kindness Leads to Understanding
When you start to think this way you can gain some sort of understanding for almost any action. Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to commit violence or steal from somebody, those actions are the result of a lifetime of conditioning. The hardships, the poverty, the lack of a supporting home or parents that might have built self-esteem.
There was nobody there to teach the difference between right and wrong. This does not mean that you condone the action, and just happily move along on your way. It means that you can approach that person with a mental attitude of kindness and understanding rather than from one of hate. There are 10,000 reasons that person committed that crime, or treated you poorly. What 10,000 things have happened to you to justify reacting with hate, discrimination or separation?
Could The World Use More Kindness?
I think that everyone would agree that the world could definitely use a bit more kindness. (OK a lot more kindness) It really isn’t that hard to change your thoughts from one of anger, frustration and hate to one of understanding, patience and love. It simply involves focusing on a different thought.
The premise of the book, Buddha’s Brain, is that there are actual physical things you can do to allow your natural neural pathways work for you and make you feel much better about yourself and life. No surprise that meditation is a required method. I am a novice meditation participant, and I find it fascinating. It is suggested that maintaining thoughts like May you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be happy or may you truly be at peace.
Kindness for All
I have come to believe that kindness is for everyone no matter what they do to you, how they hurt you or even how bad they annoy you. Am I perfect? Not even close, I often find myself judging someone because of their clothing or attitude. Once I become conscious of it I try to stop paying attention to those thoughts and start thinking of 10,000 reasons and extending kindness in my mind.
When you do this it is easy to see those young kids who are being loud and rude, as the small children they were a short time ago, and the not so pleasant experiences they must have endured to get to this place. That doesn’t excuse the poor behavior, but it stops me from contributing to it.
You can’t stop hate with hate, or violence with violence or poor behavior with more poor behavior. Only through the use of love and its powerful weapons of understanding and kindness can these actions be changed. So extending kindness to those who you might consider annoying or even your enemy is paramount to your own growth. To do anything else is to build a resentment inside of yourself. As the old saying goes, “Resentment is like ingesting poison and wait for someone else to die.” The only person hurt by it is you.
Deliberately Spread Happiness
I think it is very possible to increase the amount of kindness you bring in the world with a little concentrated effort. It just takes some focus throughout your day, to look for situations where you can perform kind acts. They don’t have to be Earth Shattering, but small kindnesses will build upon themselves, not only inside you with feelings of happiness and joy, but in the hearts of others that you are kind to. The example you set could change someone else’s life.
What led me to write this today? There are at least 10,000 reasons, I hope you understand.
“Kindness is the direct antidote to ill will.”
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
― Henry James