Sometimes, there are things you know and understand. Intellectually, you grasp the validity and value of these ideas, and practices; you are able to see their truth and wisdom, but don’t feel that you have any sort of relationship with them. Suddenly, you have some sort of visceral experience, make a physical connection, or maybe just an “aha” moment, and you have an insight into this thing you’ve known and understood in a pure, theoretical way, and you get it on a whole different level. You have a gestalt sense of this concept that transcends your previous understanding, creating a deeper appreciation.
I have this happen, and often it is when I’m working with my fabulous Tai Chi instructor. He can tell me the same thing for years, and I hear it, but until I have the foundational experiences, I don’t really get it. Then, all of a sudden, my body moves in a new, more complete way, the words have a context and it becomes an experience instead of an idea.
I also have this relationship with understanding the value of mindfulness. I’ve been working with mindfulness for many years. I explore bringing it into my daily activities, I cultivate it in my meditation practice, and it is integral to my work with clients and students. I have seen the concepts and skills I have learned and developed through these activities becoming contextualized, seeing them in new relationships and settings. I think I have integrated them into my life, and then, unexpectedly, in their spiral path, they again resurface in yet a deeper, richer way. Sometimes these realizations are so profound, they literally take my breath away.
My most recent revelation that allowed me to grasp mindfulness more fully is that it has the gifts of increasing the likelihood of being kind, and that this kindness extends not only to others, but to yourself.
When you are in a mindful state, you are more present with your circumstances, and more cognizant of your physical and emotional responses to them. It is a platform from which you can see with great clarity the profound dimensionality and complexity of the causes contributing to each event. It is much more difficult to be reactionary and judgmental in response to others when you are faced with the deep intricacy and profound humanity of each difficult, volatile or contentious situation.
This clarity is wonderfully comprehensive. It provides a deep and moving ability to see the suffering that has led to your present set of circumstances, both yours and others.
Against this backdrop, the root causes of the reactions you experience to stressors that may be less than kind stand out sharp and clear. It becomes apparent how much of your unkind behavior springs from old hurts from which you yourself are suffering. You are able to see starkly which of your buttons are being pushed, and that they are most likely being triggered unknowingly and unintentionally by others.
Standing in this place of mindful awareness provides an all-important split-second of insight, allowing you to put a reaction or response into proper context before letting fly words or actions that might be hurtful.
That split second is also often just the right amount of time required to allow yourself the luxury of letting your heart be open to the hurt and suffering of the other. Aggression, sarcasm, manipulative behavior or rudeness really is a manifestation of another’s pain, or fear. As you cultivate mindfulness, the space opens up for you to see this, and respond with gentleness and kindness.
That moment, no matter how seemingly brief, can provide the proper buffer for turning unskillful action into no action, allowing an explosion of uncharitable energy to dissipate harmlessly instead of spreading destruction and embarrassment.
This ability to make a space for perspective, calm, and compassionate vision is something that is developed over time. Find ways to regularly bring a mindful state to your day and stealthily and subtly that sense of clarity will begin to find its way into the difficult places in your life, opening up spaces to see, to breathe, and to find perspective. There you discover many windows for kindness.