Kindness as a Soul Practice
- Wednesday, 03 February 2010
When a natural disaster takes place in the world, as has happened in Haiti, it seems that for a while, there is nothing else to talk about.
The pictures and the news fill our newspapers and media, and even if we have no connection to the people of Haiti, we are suddenly in it right along with those who are there. If we are a feeling type, and allow ourselves to actually feel it, we cannot help but be touched and possibly overwhelmed by the terrible pain and suffering.
I am not comparing our long-distance experience with those who are there and have suffered great loss and pain. What I am proposing, however, is that for anyone who claims to be living a soulful life, we have no choice but to be in "it"—whatever is happening in the world—with the survivors.
Those who are on a spiritual path often find the world to be too much. So we might stop reading the newspapers or watching the news and attempt to shut out the pain and suffering that's out there. I am at times guilty of this right along with you! There are times when cutting back on the news is a healthy practice, but a total media "fast" as part of a spiritual practice removes us from the world at a time when the world needs more spiritual people than ever.
We can't be "hot-house" healers or so spiritually delicate that we can't interact or live in the real world. We need to be active and take action to "repair the world," a concept found in Judaism's "tikkun olam." And baby, the world is broken!
I have no easy prescription for what action you might take.
For some, the action of helping repair the world can be to pray with intention for those suffering. As Adam the DreamHealer from British Columbia, Canada, has shown, intentional healing works!
For others, it will need to be something more physically active like helping rebuild Haiti or our local neighborhoods through Habitat for Humanity, or sending food, clothing, or financial support.
It is the same in dream work. It's not enough to have ideas and insights as to what our dreams mean; we have to do something real with those insights. We have to take the creative raw material of the dream and bring it into our waking life and do something different than we usually do. With dreams, our souls are giving us a way to repair ourselves, a microcosm of sorts, just as we need to repair the macrocosm of the greater world through our spiritual practices.
But however we choose to repair the world, I suggest we consider the Dalai Lama's statement: "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."
Instead of ‘Om'ing in isolation (I'm all for meditation and do it myself), meeting each person with kindness will do as much to help you evolve spiritually than any other practice we might take on.
And we don't have to be 100% all-kindness, all the time. Those who are on a spiritual path are most definitely a work in progress, as everyone is. So start your kindness practice by being kind to yourself, and forgiving yourself if you aren't kind as often as you'd like to be. Then gradually expand the kindness outward to your immediate family and friends, teachers, strangers, and eventually include your enemies and all sentient beings.
This is a simplified description of the Buddhist practice called "Metta Meditation" (see, I really do encourage meditation!), which is often translated as "loving-kindness." You can practice this in your imagination during meditation, but don't stop there. Let your kindness to others be real and in the world.