I recently spent the morning rowing on Humboldt Bay with two dear friends in perfect conditions; flat water, no wind, sun shining and so much birdlife. Even the seals were curiously poking their heads up alongside our boats to check us out. Mornings like this are full of connection and belonging. They’re the threads that weave and bind us to ourselves, to our families and friends, and to our communities and the natural world. It’s the stuff of spiritual practice.
In our meditation groups, we show up week after week to sit together, to practice together. None of us could do this without the other. Our practice depends on it. We could actually say that our lives depend on it, because they do. I depend on my weekly groups as one of the core supports for my life. Whatever our practice is, whether it’s in a formal setting, out in nature, reading a book, listening to music, talking with a friend, making a meal, it feeds our spirits and we can’t do it alone. We might we think we can, but for practice to really flourish, we need each other.
Each week in class our meditation practices include both mindfulness (insight) and metta, the practice of intentionally inclining the mind and heart towards goodwill and kindness. Another translation of metta comes from the British scholar John Peacock who says metta is “to grow fat with friendliness.” I love the images I get when I think of it like this. Even though we may think of mindfulness and metta as separate practices, in reality they are two sides of the same coin. Mindfulness is inherently kind, and being kind is by nature mindful, and like our relationships, they need each other to flourish.
Give it a try. Can you be kind without being mindful? When you are mindful is this not kind? It just doesn’t work because the intention is ultimately the same; to have a balanced clarity of mind and heart, and cultivate a soft resilience that allows us to engage our lives skillfully and wisely without rancor or contention. Yet being realistic, rancor and contention are inevitable, but with practice, we catch it earlier and don’t get as tangled up in its stickiness as we might otherwise. In fact, the Dalai Lama talks about these practices as “the process of internal disarmament.”
Mindfulness and kindness are intimately and inextricably linked. When we intentionally direct our lives towards kindness and awareness, our connections deepen and our sense of belonging grows.
A Rabbit Noticed My Condition
I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.
A rabbit noticed my condition and
It often does not take more than that to help at times-
To just be close to creatures who
Are so full of knowing,
So full of love
That they don’t
They just gaze with their
-St. John of the Cross