I believe in knowing and being true to myself, in being respectful and tolerant of others and, above all, in practicing the religion of kindness. By being quiet enough inside to pay attention to the details of life, I can appreciate special moments of kindness that come my way, like when the moon appears as a golden coin in the night sky, or when I receive a tender note from my husband or even a smile from a stranger. These moments that feel like whispers saying “ I love you; I’m glad you’re here.”
What has made this possible for me is something I learned many years ago when I began a daily meditation practice, a way of going within. This has been the touchstone of my life and has helped me become familiar with myself – an essential self that is hard to describe but is not my personality or intellect. By becoming still, I am able to have an awareness of a quiet place inside that feels like an inner spring or well, a place where kindness comes from. It also works somewhat like an internal compass that helps me move toward things that feel right in my world, making a connection to myself and others. I try to begin each day with this practice, which often means rising at or before dawn.
However, when my children were young, this wasn’t always possible. I would go days, sometimes weeks, without waking up in time to meditate. After quite a while of this, I noticed that I didn’t feel right; I was more on edge, away from myself. It was then I realized that my practice was essential to my well-being and to the well-being of my family. I believe a mother is like the hub of a wheel. If she’s wobbly, the rest of the family will be in for a bumpy ride. One day I called my kids together and explained that if I missed my morning meditation, I would like to take an hour or so later in the day. I explained that this was really important to me, and they understood.
That was it. In the weeks and years after that talk, if I was crabby or moody, negative or short-tempered, they would say, “ Mom, it might be a good idea for you to go meditate for a while.” I had to laugh. They saw the difference. And I did too–a difference that not only allowed me to be kinder toward them, but also to appreciate their kindness toward me.
I believe that kindness is the elixir for the human race. It helps the human wheel spin gently and smoothly. It can be obvious or subtle — like someone holding a door open, or a driver allowing you to merge into traffic. It can be a tone in someone’s voice, not the words but the tone. It’s something that I cannot demand from anyone. It has to be given willingly — the milk of human kindness. As strong as I sometimes feel, I feel fragile too. Both attributes co-mingle. Kindness to myself, kindness to and from others strengthens me, softens me, inspires and nurtures me. Humankind, the words just seem to go together.
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