Hal Atwood explores the real meaning of kindness, sharing three teachings on the subject.
I recently realized that I’ve lived most of my life without knowing the definition of kindness. For a long time, when I thought about what kindness looked like, I pictured the classic example of helping someone carry groceries to their car. I figured kindness had something to do with being friendly, perhaps with a pinch of generosity thrown in.
But what would be left if I peeled kindness away from action?
The Dalai Lama famously said, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” If kindness is so radical that it can define someone’s entire spirituality, then it has to be more than a good deed.
My partner recently went through a bout of severe anxiety. She was battling demons I couldn’t see. Wanting to fix her pain, I tried to become a rock she could lean on continuously, without hesitation and without limits. As I started to burn out, I slowly realized that the support I was offering my partner didn’t include kindness toward myself.
After that, my partner and I promised to proceed with a sincere willingness to protect and not cause harm to each other and ourselves. This was the definition of kindness I had been searching for.
The articles below explore the role of kindness in our lives. We must first feel love for ourselves before we can feel love for others. In this regard, self-kindness is a life-long practice. Likewise, understanding that we all suffer is the birthplace of compassion. As Sylvia Boorstein writes, “Life is so difficult, how can we be anything but kind?”
This upcoming holiday season, I hope we have the strength and the courage to be kind. Whether we’re helping someone carry groceries to their car, holding someone’s hand as they battle demons we cannot see, or taking a moment for ourselves, it helps to remember that we’re all on this spinning globe together.
—Hal Atwood, editorial assistant Lion’s Roar magazine
Valerie Mason-John shares a meditation for cultivating a positive relationship with yourself, and, by extension, the world.
Loving-kindness can be the beginning of compassion for ourselves and the way to end anger in our hearts and minds. It is what I have used to begin releasing the toxins of anger, hatred, and fear from my heart. It has been the alchemy in my life.
Judy Lief says the first step on the path is to see our own and others’ suffering. This is the birthplace of compassion.
By distancing ourselves from pain, we distance ourselves from one another. We lose the ground of connection that makes kindness possible.
In this profile from 2008, Steve Silberman interviews Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein. Throughout the challenges of her life — from a rough childhood to a post-partum depression — she has become a beloved teacher of Buddhist virtues.
Her attention was caught by an inscription she spotted: Life is so difficult, how can we be anything but kind? “I thought to myself, if that’s what they’re teaching here, I need to come back.”