Loving kindness is not usually associated with business and optimal performance. But in every realm of our lives we are there as people. As people we are in relationship with ourselves and the others around us. The more we can express the innate qualities of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, the healthier and happier we become. The healthier and happier we are the more we are likely to optimally perform whatever it is we do.
Recent research indicates that kindness is inborn as well as learned. It is heartening to know that most people are motivated by being kind to others. It makes sense for a social animal, such as we are, to be wired that way. It's our nature.
Indiscriminate Kindness - Equanimity
Problems arise when we limit our kindness only to people we like. Then we cut off our love for everyone else. In the extreme, people who love their families and countrymen, co-religionists or members of their tribe, justify killing and harming others. Sometimes they harm others for their own good, saving their soul or saving them from their own evil tendencies, or for the good of society or mankind.
There are too many mind-boggling examples from the inquisition to the Holocaust; Rwanda to Bosnia. Sunnis kill Shiites the same way Catholics and Protestants slaughtered one another in Europe centuries ago and in Ireland more recently. White, possibly well meaning, Christians kidnapped aboriginal children to assimilate them into "civilized" society. Buddhist monks lead mobs to kill Muslims in Myanmar. Christian Priests promote violence against gays in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Can we be indiscriminately kind? Can we be loving and kind and compassionate even to people we don't like? Can we forgive our enemies and wish good things for them? Seems unnatural, and ideal, doesn't it? Yet, is it something to aspire to?
Tomas Borge, a leader of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, is an example of how this ideal can be reality. He explains: "After having been brutally tortured as a prisoner, after having a hood placed over my head for nine months, after having been handcuffed for seven months, I remember that when we captured these torturers I told them: 'The hour of my revenge has come: we will not do you even the slightest harm. You did not believe us beforehand; now you will believe us.' That is our philosophy, our way of being." He went on to co-write the following poem:
My Personal Revenge
My personal revenge will be the right
of your children to school and to flowers;
My personal revenge will be to offer you
this florid song without fears;
My personal revenge will be to show you
the good there is in the eyes of my people,
always unyielding in combat
and most steadfast and generous in victory.
My personal revenge will be to say to you
good morning, without beggars in the streets,
when instead of jailing you I intend
you shake the sorrow from your eyes;
when you, practitioner of torture,
can no longer so much as lift your gaze,
my personal revenge will be to offer you
these hands you once maltreated
without being able to make them forsake tenderness.
And it was the people who hated you most
when the song was language of violence;
But the people today beneath its skin
of red and black [the colors of the Sandinista flag] has its heart uplifted.
The challenge we face as humans is to not only cultivate loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy, but to extend them to all beings equally; even to people we dislike and who have done us wrong.
As individuals we can commit to overcoming our often justifiable negative feelings towards those we dislike. We can commit to continuously reminding ourselves of our commonality. We can use mind changing visualizations and meditations to implant new conditioning and new values. We can commit to teaching our children to love and not to hate, under any circumstances.
There is a popular meditation practice that is used to promote loving kindness, compassion and equanimity. It helps to cut through the habits and beliefs that get in the way of the natural expression of these qualities. It's like priming the pump. We cultivate loving kindness so the natural quality shines through the layers of conditioning that keep it hidden.
Begin by finding a comfortable erect and relaxed posture.
Breathe in and out for ten breaths with your attentions at the center of your chest. Let go of any unnecessary tension. Notice any thoughts, feelings or sensations, sights, sounds or smells and keep the attention on the breath as it enters and leaves your body. Be gentle with yourself. Relax.
Visualize or bring to mind an image of someone you love; someone who is easy to be loving and kind to. Wish for them that they may be happy, that they may be healthy and that they may be free from suffering. Slowly repeat these thoughts directed at your loved one at least three times. Feel the breath at the center of your chest. Let go of tensions, let go of any thoughts that may arise and keep your attention on the thoughts of loving kindness.
Shift your image to yourself. Visualize yourself. Wish for yourself that you may be happy, healthy and free from suffering. Repeat these thoughts directed at yourself. Feel loving and kind towards yourself.
Feel the sensations that come with thoughts of loving kindness and good wishes. Notice any thoughts that might arise to get in the way of your intention to generate loving kindness. Let them go and bring your attention to your wishes for yourself.
Now, bring to mind people you know casually or not at all, people you may pass on the street or who you see on the way to work. Wish for them what you wish for your loved ones and yourself, happiness, health, and freedom from suffering.
Open your heart to them and expand your vision to include an ever widening circle of people everywhere, whatever their conditions.
Wish for everyone health, happiness and the peace of mind that frees them from suffering.
Breathing in and breathing out, let your mind and body be filled with loving kindness.
Bring to mind someone you dislike. Wish for them what you wish for everyone else - happiness, health and freedom. Welcome them into your circle.
Direct your thoughts to all beings everywhere. Let go of anything that takes you away from loving and kindness.
Feel yourself filled with loving kindness and let it spill out through every pore to everyone around you.
© 2013 Pitagorsky Consulting