“Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness.” Seneca
One of our favorite practice sayings is, “Be kinder to yourself than you think you should be.” As with many such sayings, what it seems to be saying—while fine as it stands—isn’t actually what it’s saying. It appears to advise a person to be kinder to themselves than they think they should be. Who are those people? Who is the “you” who is going to be kinder to “you” than “you” think “you” should be? We have a sense that there’s more than one “person” involved here, yes?
What we understand, intuitively, is something quite challenging to understand intellectually. The “you” that is kind is not the “you” of either the illusion of a separate self (ego) or the “you” of the authentic human incarnation. The “you” that is kind is synonymous with Center, That Which Is, All That Is, Life, the Universe, God, the Unconditional. Kind is one word for That. Love, goodness, gratitude, generosity, and joy are some others. Each has a slightly different “feel,” but all are expressions of the same “source.”
The “you” that is the recipient of the kindness is the authentic human incarnation. The “you” that thinks the human being should not be given kindness is egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, the illusion of a self that is separate from Life.
So, what that saying is actually saying is, “From Center embrace the human incarnation in unconditional love even though the voices of ego are saying the human being doesn’t deserve to be loved unconditionally.”
Kind/kindness is one of the ways the Unconditional feels to a human being. Loving, open, warm, embracing, understanding, sympathetic, peaceful, accepting, generous, grateful, happy, fulfilled, satisfied…. Yes? (We can go there just reading those words.)
First, we practice moving to kindness for the human incarnation (oneself), and then we practice extending that kindness to all beings. Learning to be kind, practicing kindness, is actually easier than “getting to Center.” There’s no mistaking kindness. It can’t be highjacked by ego. Kindness is tangible, palpable, and is felt by all, beyond culture, language, or circumstances. It is a universally understood communication.
Recently I heard a woman who proudly owns and wears a Make America Great Again hat opine that what this country really needs is a hat that says Make America Kind Again. For all the reasons outlined above, I instantly agreed.
And so, we have them. Below is a picture of said chapeau with a beautiful American flag, blue with lovely white letters reminding us of the opportunity we have to do our part to help a country and her people enjoy the kindness that is available to us, each and all. And in the words of Epictetus, who echoes our favorite practice adage, “You become what you give your attention to.”