More Thoughts on Kindness

I am curious about the connection between kindness and not knowing. I have been listening to Pema Chodron’s beautiful wee audiobook Practicing Peace in Times of War. She talks about peace coming about when we soften that which is hard in our heart.

Where am I hard in my heart? Where do I feel tight and constricted, shut down? I feel it when I am afraid and when I feel certain that my fear is justified. I notice that my fear is connected to a sense of certainty – a sureness that I know what will happen in the future or a sureness that I am right about something. When I pause and allow my heart to soften, I feel a loosening, a relaxation of that tight grip of my beliefs that would paint the world in brushstrokes of right and wrong, good and bad, worthy and unworthy. It reminds me of Rumi’s beloved words:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

When I am in that place I cannot feel righteous and I cannot make anyone into an enemy. It does not mean I have to become complacent or stop caring about the world. But I can care gently, with an intention to understand and to connect rather than to divide and separate. I can see the inherent worth of each person.

It is not always comfortable to step into connection with others this way. I am so accustomed to separateness and division, to that sense of superiority by thinking I am right and they are wrong. But I do not want to live that way. I need to grow this muscle because ultimately I value being curious and open to others’ ideas and perspectives, I care about meeting person-to-person rather than seeing someone through the filter of my judgements. And I sense that this softening is really, really healthy for my central nervous system. Like in the lines of the Rumi poem where the soul lies down in the grassy field, there is a sense of relaxation and surrender. This seems to me to be an incredibly potent act of kindness to myself and to others.