In the words of the 14th Dalai Lama, “My religion is kindness”. I believe that kindness and compassion make up a huge portion of the path to spiritual liberation. The idea that compassion can be cultivated is the foundation of my spiritual practice and life. And as I’ve been on this journey I’ve learned that in addition to there being virtues to cultivate there are also (MANY!) non-virtuous habits to untangle myself from. On the surface some of these habits seem quite unconnected to how kind I am. Like rushing.
But the truth is: I’m not always the person I want to be when I’m running 10 minutes late.
About a year ago, I walked passed a man (I presumed to be homeless) lying under a shopping cart in the middle of a deserted street. My first thought was that he was hurt…or dead. My second thought was less of a thought and more of a pang of anxiety and fear that pierced through my gut. I think I’d been worried that if he was hurt or dead I would 1) have to see it and 2) have to do something about it…and I wasn’t sure what. That discomfort (based off of my own self centeredness) propelled my feet forward and away from him -at a quicker pace. I can’t remember where I was trying to get to or what I thought was more important than helping fellow being who may have needed immediate medical attention. All I know is that I was more than halfway down the block before I finally stopped and turned around. When I got back to that intersection he was standing and pulling his cart behind him. I asked him if he was okay and he said that he was and that he’d just been fixing his cart. He smiled at me. A beautiful smile I don’t think I deserved. I’m not sure what that encounter was for him (if anything), but for me it was a lesson in the power of pausing. It was that full stop in the middle of the sidewalk that allowed me space to think and feel and put things into perspective. It was what I needed to beat down fear and to turn anxiety and dread into compassion and action.