Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Nicest Way to Do the Holidays: Smile and Change the World


"None of the means employed to acquire religious merit...has a sixteenth part of the value of loving-kindness. Loving-kindness, which is freedom of the heart, absorbs them all; it glows, it shines, it blazes forth."

The Buddha, Itivuttaka Sutta


That's quite a precise break-down of the power of being nice, don't you think? I wonder how he knew? I tried it out myself at one time and I never looked back, so I'll pass it along to you as something of a challenge: The challenge to show as much sincere kindness as you possibly can to everybody you meet. It's kind of a tall, but not impossible order, and can help quite a lot at this time of year – what with all the demands on your holiday cheer.

Of course The Buddha knew the difference between being spiritual and being religious – that it's a little like comparing apples to Christmas ornaments. Going to church defines you as being a type of "believer," while showing loving-kindness to everyone you meet makes you more of a "practitioner;" after all, in the world we live in you're really less what you look like and think you are, and much more what you actually do and how you behave.

Take this little holiday challenge and try it yourself, from now through the new year, and watch what happens. You'll suddenly find yourself a part of a slightly invisible conspiracy of kindness. Of identification and compassion. Friends you never knew you had will show up everywhere, and then disappear just as beautifully and mysteriously – leaving you with only the one requirement, to con-tinue the chain of kindness.

First you'll be amazed, then you'll wonder, then you'll experiment more intentionally, then you'll probably never go back. It's that remarkably powerful, and will change your world that much. You can't help but be grateful for the really wonderful way people treat you when you show them unconditional loving-kindness. Then you'll find you're happy all the time, because gratitude always precedes happiness.

How does it work so well (sixteen times better...)? Simply because being kind to others takes the focus off of who your (very important) ego thinks you are, and places it on someone else's well-being – which as it turns out is really yours too. It will become easier and easier to show unconditional Love all the time, because Love is all unconditional already – it only becomes conditional when self-importance makes demands of it.

We all want Love and companionship. Compañero. We're all the same person, really. "No we're not!" your ego says, "I'm not at all like Dick Cheney!" (God bless 'im) Well, I'm sure that's true, and you may have a bit of a point after all, namely, should everyone get the same lovingly kind treatment, no matter how big of a jerk they are? Well, dammit, ideally yes they should (now that's "tough love"). But if that level of unconditionality is impossible, then let's look for a rule of thumb to go by:

"Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked."

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, 1.33

So three out of four ain't bad. Just don't pay no mind to the Mr. Cheneys of the world. Better yet, see if you can find some Love in your heart for him, because that's how we will all evolve together. We're all becoming more and more able to share in the medium of Love that actually lives just beneath, swims all around, and courses right through us. It's the solution staring us in the face all the time– that reflected look of a stranger waiting for kindness. Gratitude and compassion are the doors to realizing it in every moment, and when we're kind to everyone we meet, all the time, we open up to this force of evolution that's flooding our plane of existence. We're opening the gates to it for ourselves – and for each other.

"Heaven arms with Compassion those whom it would not see destroyed"

The Tao te Ch'ing, 67

And for you competitive types who may see kindness as something of a disadvantage, kindness is actually a winning strategy. There's lots of people out there who've known it all along, you know, usually the people who are enjoying life, and almost always smiling. Compassion doesn't prevent them from being successful – it enables them to find spiritual realization, which is the real definition of success. To remove the obstacles to Love, and to  expand and grow and flow with Life.  Ho ho ho!

Take my holiday challenge, won't you? Turn your frown upside down and look into the nicest mirror you've ever seen...You might never look back.

Happy Holidays!


"How To Survive Life (and Death)," is available from Conari Press, or at all major booksellers––but ask for it from your local bookshop. It's the gift that keeps giving, life after death after life after...

2 comments:

  1. Great advice. I've actually been practicing this all year and it's been such an eye opener. Being an introvert, I used to try to be invisible. For example, checking out of the grocery store, I'd try to get through without any small talk (while still being polite) I was so uncomfortable in the presence of other people. But now, I make it a point to smile and make eye contact. It has changed me. I now enjoy being around people and seeing if I can make someone's day better with a compliment or just an acknowledgment of their presence. I feel a part of the world suddenly instead of trying to hide from it. Lovingkindness is truly medicinal.

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