December 19, 2017 Group Meditation Part 2 of 2
This talk happened December 19, 2017 at the Boundless Love Project’s Group Meditation. Before listening to the talk, we suggest you listen to this guided loving-kindness meditation, which preceded the talk.
Kindness: The Love that Befriends
* An expanded and revised version of the talk
“Meet every situation with love, and you will be able to handle it. If someone does the meanest thing to me, I feel the deepest compassion for that person and pray for that person—I do not hurt myself by a wrong reaction of bitterness or anger.”
This is a quote from the Peace Pilgrim. She was born in New Jersey in 1908, with the name Mildred Norman. Although she never belonged to, nor attended, any place of worship, she experienced several awakening incidents that led to her full enlightenment.
Awakening experiences are moments of deep, penetrating insight that transforms a sizable portion of a person’s ego into love and wisdom. Sometimes, but not always, these awakenings are accompanied by extreme bliss, visions, a voice, and phenomena that goes beyond the scope of traditional scientific understanding. Often a person will go through several of these insights on the path to awakening.
One happened for Mildred when she was 30 years old during an all-night walk through the woods. This led her to transition into a life of service. Another one happened at age 44, while thru-hiking all 1,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail. During this one she had a vision of herself as the Peace Pilgrim, the name she would adopt and go by for the rest of her life.
On January 1, 1953, wearing a blue tunic with the words “Peace Pilgrim” on them, she started walking the United States. She vowed to remain a wanderer until humanity had learned the ways of peace. Just as the pilgrims and disciples of old did, she renounced all of her possessions, owning only what she wore and carried. She carried no money, she walked until given shelter, and fasted until given food.
Everywhere she went she spoke to people, reporters, and whoever would listen on the need to live with love. She wrote, “My appointed work is to awaken the divine nature that is within. This is my calling, to open doors of truth and make people think, to arouse others from their apathetic and lethargic state, and get them to seek out for themselves the inner peace which dwells within.”
During the next 28 years until her death in 1981, she walked over 25,000 miles in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico.
This talk is on the Love of Kindness. As a beautiful example of the power, strength, and courage of kindness, Peace Pilgrim and her teachings will be highlighted in this talk.
Summary of The Last Talk
In the last talk, we learned that love arises in all moments where the mind is free of delusion. A mind free of delusion, is a mind that can be intimate and close with all that arises in the present moment. In this intimacy, one can appreciate, connect, and be at one with all life around them.
We also learned that the mind really only needs to be free of active delusion, for love to arise. Thankfully, strong and steady mindfulness has the power to deactivate any present delusion by seeing the falseness in it. Therefore, moment-to-moment mindfulness allows us to live from a state of love, intimacy, and connection.
There are four aspects of our inner love to keep in mind. First, love is intrinsic to our essential, formless nature. Love is our true home, our residence, our dwelling place. Just as you cannot remove heat from fire, you cannot remove our love from us. Our inner love cannot be tarnished, destroyed, or separated from us. But it can be hidden from us. Just as clouds can block the sun’s radiant warmth, the delusions in the mind can block us from knowing the warmth of our ever-present love.
Second, our love is infinite, inexhaustible, boundless, and unconditional. Just as the sun shares her life-giving warmth with “both the evil and the good,” our radiant love desires to share its healing love with the “just and the unjust alike.” The love that moves through us is a freely given gift from life. Just as we freely received this love, nobody has to do anything to earn or deserve our love. We give it unconditionally to all. Love is the most personally satisfying and skillful way to respond to any situation, so why limit whom we share our love with?
Third, commit to bring the intimacy, closeness, and mindfulness of love to every moment of your life. Working with love as a deep intention like this will help you liberate your inner love from the prison of delusions that hides it from you. One way to do this, is to see every thought, word, and deed you do as an act of love for all life, yourself included. Of every thought, word, and deed, ask “who or what does this serve?” If what you do harms yourself or others, or is unsustainable, then set it aside and refrain from doing it. Actions done from intentions of love and service to all life generate a sense of joy, peace, or ease while you are doing them. Keep some of your awareness in your inner body and let these felt experiences of ease, joy, and peace show you when you are living from love and when you are not.
Fourth, our love arises in our experience in four different ways. Just as water can be solid, liquid, or gas; love can be kindness, peace, compassion, or joy. In our inner field guide of the mind, love is the plant family while kindness, peace, compassion, and joy are the different species of love. Now that we have a good overview of what love is, let’s look more closely at these four kinds of love, starting with Kindness.
Kindness: The Love that Befriends
Kindness is the quality of being friendly and gentle. Kindness is the love that befriends. Treating others with respect is effortless and natural when we see and appreciate their worth, value, and beautiful qualities. When we cherish, value, and adore others, we naturally wish them the best in life.
Wishing other people, beings, or life forms our best is one way that kindness manifests in us. When an opportunity arises to make other’s lives more wonderful, we do it gladly with joy in our hearts. As Peace Pilgrim says, “Serve as much as you can, do as much as possible to help others.”
All of these aspects of kindness are encapsulated in the Buddha’s example of a mother caring for her newborn baby. The mother sees her baby’s innate worth and value: he is a treasure, a miracle, and a bundle of joy to her. She freely lavishes her attention and adoration on him. She considers all of his needs, and generously provides for him in a gentle, warm-hearted manner. Caring for him gives her great pleasure. If the occasion arose, she would gladly give her life to save him. Her desire to protect and nurture her son, gives her great power, energy, and creativity to do so.
What We Are Calling Kindness Others Call Love
All of these aspects described above are what we call kindness. In some wisdom traditions, what we are calling kindness is called “loving-kindness.” However, the intimacy and connection of love, as we define it, is an essential ingredient to all four kinds of love. Thus we could call peace, “loving-peace;” compassion, “loving-compassion;” and joy, “loving-joy.”
Moreover, what we are calling kindness, many often simply called “love.” So we can think of kindness as “love proper,” or “love love.” I mention this because many of the quotes about love used in this talk, are speaking about what we are calling kindness. For clarity, outside of other people’s quotes, I will only refer to this type of love as kindness. When I mention love that will only refer to what arises in the moments where the mind is free of active delusion. As you already know, the words we use are not important; it is the meaning, experiences, and truth behind the words that we must concern ourselves with.
Let’s turn now to examine how kindness feels in the body, as this will aid us in being mindful of when it is present and when it is not.
How Kindness Feels
As we said in the last talk, neither love, nor its various forms like kindness are an emotion. They are states of being; essential aspects of our true nature. As such, on an absolute level of reality, kindness is always with us and cannot be lost. However, on a relative level of reality, in moments where active delusions are present, we can be cut off from that kindness and not feel it.
A good sign that you are tuned into kindness is when the body is calm and relaxed; unencumbered by emotional disturbances. Physical pains such as backaches may be present, but the body will be at ease, open, and spacious. In other words, when kindness is present, the body is free from unpleasant emotionally-based sensations.
At other times, kindness arises along with more actively pleasant felt sensations. Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön describes the sensations of Kindness like this: “It is gentle and warm; it is clear and sharp; it is open and spacious.” You may also feel kindness as pleasant tingling, vibration, sense of energy, or flow of subtle movements. Sometimes kindness feels like you have an aquarium bubbler inside of you, or like a thick oozing of warmth spreading throughout the body. You may feel all of these sensations at the same time, or only one or a few of them at a time.
These sensations of kindness often arise from the heart area, the space in and around where your physical heart reside. In what is known as pervasive rapture, these sensations of kindness may be felt in every atom, molecule, and cell of your body. They can also emanate from your heart area to radiate out of your body in all directions, or be directed towards those whom you offer your kindness to, as happens when you pray or do loving-kindness meditation for others.
Again, even if you do not feel anything, if your mind is free of delusion, your kindness is there and working. Try to keep some of your attention always rooted in the sensations you feel in the body. In this way, you will notice when delusions are present because unpleasant, emotionally-based sensations will be present. You will also know when kindness is present by noticing an absence of unpleasant, emotionally-based sensations, or better yet, by feeling the very subtle, pleasant sensations of kindness.
Knowing how kindness feels, we can start to explore which egoic delusion attempts to disguise itself as the love of kindness, and which egoic delusions are transformed by kindness.
Near and Far Enemies Explained
Having a sense of what kindness is, it is also vital to know what kindness is not. Egoic delusions attempt to disguise themselves as the various kinds of love. In this way, delusions piggy-back on accepted and worthy ideals, confusing and distorting them, and increasing our personal and collective misery in the process.
Buddhists call the delusions that the ego mistakes to be the various forms of love “near enemies.” Love is our essential nature; our natural resting place; and our true home. Near enemies are so named because they attack us right outside of our home, where we feel safe and do not expect them. As such, these near enemy attacks are more challenging to see and defend ourselves from.
Other delusions are called “far enemies.” Far enemies live off in the wilderness, a great distance away from our home, where we would expect our enemies to live. Far enemies represent the opposite polarity of love. As such, far enemies are more obvious to see and easier to avoid.
As always, our best defense from our enemies of delusion is our mighty protector mindfulness. By knowing what to look for, we can start to see, investigate, and tease out what is true and pure love, and what is egoic delusion, whether near or far. In this way mindfulness befriends these near and far enemies with kindness. It gets to know them, sees the falsehood in them, sees how they work to cause suffering, and through this gentle intimacy, transforms them into love and wisdom. Our loving mindfulness “defeats” and “eliminates” our enemies of delusion by befriending them nonviolently with love, reconciliation, and transformation.
Kindness’ Near Enemy: Greed
The near enemy of kindness is the delusion of greed. The ego thinks that because we need, desire, crave, or lust after someone or something, that this means we “love” them. Pay attention and you will hear this confusion echoed in many love songs and romantic comedies.
When Cheap Trick singI want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
they are singing about greed, not love.
How do we know when the delusion of wanting is corrupting our love? Lyrics from the famous Beatles’ song gives us a clue: “I want you so bad it’s driving me mad; it’s driving me mad.”
When wanting, craving, or lust is present, there will be an unpleasant feeling in the mind or body. That emotion has an agitated, restless, compulsive, or addictive quality to it. It wants to take control of you and act through you. It wants to make you behave unskillfully in a way that will harm yourself or others. The power of these unpleasant feelings can feel so strong and unpleasant that they, as the Beatles so eloquently put it, “drive you mad.”
The Everly Brothers’ song, “Love Hurts” is another ode to the delusion of greed, wanting, craving, and clinging:
Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds, and mars
Substitute “greed” for “love” in these lyrics and the truth becomes more apparent. If your “love” hurts, you are actually experiencing the mental delusion of greed. Greed means the mind is focused on what your ego thinks it wants, needs, or must have from the relationship. Greed means your ego wants the relationship to fulfill you, make you whole, and provide you with security and stability. But given the constantly changing nature of all things, including relationships, the ego is demanding from the relationship something that it cannot provide. This is a setup for disappointment and heartache.
Relationships give us an opportunity to love, to be kind, and to help and serve others. This allows us to feel our inner love, peace, compassion, and joy, which is our true refuge, our true home, and the stable foundation on which we can build our lives on. This foundation is not dependent on those we love being faithful, obeying our every wish, treating us a certain way, or living forever. We can love unconditionally. How this intention of love manifests will vary from situation to situation, but it will always be kind and skillful.
When we are in relationship to someone, we must honor and cherish them. When that relationship ends, we must lovingly let them go. “Associations formed in this earth life are not necessarily for the duration of the life span,” writes Peace Pilgrim. “Separation takes place constantly, and as long as it takes place lovingly not only is there no spiritual injury, but spiritual progress may actually be helped.”
Worry is Not Kindness
Another version of greed that is often confused with kindness is “worry.” The ego tells us that we “worry because we care,” but that is not true. Take it away Peace Pilgrim:
Worry is not concern, which would motivate you to do everything possible in a situation. Worry is a useless mulling over of things we cannot change….
If you’re worrying, you’re either agonizing over the past which you should have forgotten long ago, or else you’re apprehensive over the future which hasn’t even come yet. We tend to skim right over the present moment which is the only moment God gives any of us to live. If you don’t live the present moment, you never get around to living at all. And if you do live the present moment, you tend not to worry. For me, every moment is a new and wonderful opportunity to be of service.
Greed is Greed, Even When What it Wants is Skillful
It is important to note that, when the delusion of greed is present, what that greed wants is irrelevant. The greed may want very skillful things such as your loved ones to be safe, or free from addiction; or the greed may want to end some form of violence and injustice; or the greed may even want you to become enlightened for the benefit of all beings and all life. Regardless of how skillful the greedily sought object is, if what you want causes stress, anxiety, frustration, worry, or other unpleasant sensations to arise, and you do not see them as the delusion they are, you are strengthening the delusion of greed in you.
True Kindness is Free of Greed
The true love of kindness only heals, nurtures, and supports. True kindness is also very pleasant and generates only skillful actions. Kindness contains no wanting whatsoever.
As the Peace Pilgrim wrote, “Pure love is a willingness to give, without a thought of receiving anything in return.”
Kindness generously and freely offers blessings of peace, love, and joy to others. When we offer these blessings without any concern for the results they have, and with no expectations of receiving anything in return, we experience love, peace, and joy.
When our “kindness” seeks to control others, or get something in return, it is not kindness, it is greed, and it does not feel pleasant to us or to those who receive it.
The ego is one of the strongest, most cunning, wily, and deceptive forces in the universe. Thankfully, your love and mindfulness, when trained and cultivated, are even stronger. Love and mindfulness will overcome your delusions if you make this a priority in your life.
Use your mindfulness of thoughts and body sensations to note when greed is present, and when it is absent, and when kindness is present, and when it is absent. Through this, you will cultivate and grow your kindness, while weakening and transforming the near enemy of greed into your cherished friend of wisdom and love.
Peace is the Antidote to Greed
If greed arises in you, the antidote is peace: the love that allows things to be as they are.
I have spent the majority of my life single. Innumerable times, the greed for intimate companionship with a special someone has arisen in me. Now, the desire to share my life in a mutually-beneficial relationship with someone else is a very wholesome, beautiful, and skillful desire. But when that healthy desire demands specific outcomes, becomes impatient, or has that compulsive quality to it, it becomes the delusion of greed.
This greed is unhealthy and feels unpleasant. It makes me mistakenly think that I must, or need to, have a relationship with someone to be happy, fulfilled, or know love. It causes me to look for my happiness externally in the world of things where it cannot be found. True, lasting, and real happiness comes from within.
When I see that greed for a relationship is present, I can mindfully bring in peace, the ability to calmly allow things to be as they are. The peace mindfully and intimately sees, feels, and examines the greed in me. What thoughts are causing the greed to arise? What emotions are these greedy thoughts causing? What is the delusion in the thoughts? Can I simply rest with peace and ease with these unpleasant feelings without acting them out or trying to repress them? What thoughts about this situation are more skillful and allow me to be happy, peaceful, and calm with things as they are, right now? A skillful reflection that brings me much peace when greed for a relationship arises, is my kind intention to be joyful and happy whether I am in a relationship or not.
By using mindfulness, peace, and investigation in this way, the delusion of greed is befriended, transformed into love, and overcome. This is why peace is considered the antidote of greed. We will talk more about this in the talk on peace.
Kindness’ Far Enemies: Hatred and Fear
The far enemies of kindness are hatred and fear. Hatred includes anger, resentment, animosity, and ill will. Kindness wishes the best for others. Hatred, on the other hand, wishes others pain, suffering, and misery.
As Peace Pilgrim accurately reflects, “There is something to that old saying that hate injures the hater, not the hated.” During my college years, I was an activist for many causes. There was a very sincere desire to help people, animals, and the environment. But the ego in me, corrupted this skillful desire to help victims by twisting it into hatred for those people and institutions that my ego decided were the cause of the harm.
Thankfully, due to some grace or good fortune, during my freshman year in college, I felt the hatred in me very clearly. I was in my dorm room by myself. Mulling over the cruelty and violence endured by innocent beings, my mind was stewing in thoughts of how people who harm others should to be punished, going over scenarios of just how they should be punished. The mind was full of hateful thoughts, and I remember feeling the hate inside of me. Hate felt like a corrosive toxin that was poisoning my body and mind. I reflected on how this state of rage, vengeance, and anger incapacitated me and my ability to take effective action to serve those I desired to help.
Seeing this clearly, wisdom arose in me and saw the need to let go of that intense level of hatred that I was holding. The wisdom in me simply let go of it. A nice chunk of my ego’s conditioned hatred fell away soon after. Since then, it has been a slow and steady process to mindfully weed out any remaining conditioned hatred, anger, resentment, and ill will that still reside in my ego. To my delight, states of hatred arise less and less frequently, and when they do, they are often more and more sublet versions of these mental and emotional states.
Kindness Transforms Fear
Fear is another far enemy of kindness. Peace Pilgrim walked alone across the United States for 28 years. Here is what she has to say on the subject of kindness overcoming fear:
If you have a loving and positive attitude towards your fellow human beings, you will not fear them. ‘Perfect love casteth out all fear.’
One test happened in the middle of the night in the middle of the California desert. The traffic has just about stopped, and there wasn’t a human habitation within many miles. I saw a car parked at the side of the road. The driver called to me saying, “Come on, get in and get warm.” I said, “I don’t ride.” He said, “I’m not going anywhere, I’m just parked here.” I got in. I looked at the man. He was a big burly man—what most people would call a rough looking individual. After we had talked a while he said, “Say, wouldn’t you like to get a few winks of sleep?” And I said, “Oh yes, I certainly would!” And I curled up and went to sleep. When I awoke I could see the man was very puzzled about something, and after we had talked for quite some time he admitted that when he had asked me to get into the car he had certainly meant me no good, adding, “When you curled up so trustingly and went to sleep, I just couldn’t touch you!”
I thanked him for the shelter and began walking away. As I looked back I saw him gazing at the heavens, and I hoped he had found God that night.
No one walks so safely as one who walks humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith. For such a person gets through to the good in others (and there is good in everyone), and therefore cannot be harmed. This works between individuals, it works between groups and it would work between nations if nations had the courage to try it.
You can’t defeat darkness with darkness. Only light transforms the darkness. The ego does not trust that love and kindness are strong enough to protect us. In truth, love and kindness, being in alignment with the fundamental laws of life, are the best forms of protection. When we cultivate our kindness through training, mindfulness, and practice, our hatred and fear naturally transform into love and wisdom.
As the proverb says, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Let’s look now at ways that we can light our candle of kindness that drives out the darkness of hatred and fear.
Lighting Your Candle of Kindness
There are several mental attitudes that will help you cultivate, grow, and liberate your unstoppable kindness. First is recognizing that all feeling beings and all life wants to be happy and safe. Second, is seeing the inherent worth and value of all life. Third, is recognizing how all people, beings, life forms, and situations serve our spiritual growth. Let’s look at each one of these more closely.
All Life Wants to Be Happy
When we reflect on the universality of the fact that all life wants to be safe and happy, kindness arises. Regardless of a being’s race, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, economic class, education level, species, or any other distinguishing factor, all beings want to be safe and happy. Regardless of a person’s beliefs about politics, religion, ethics or morality, all people want to be happy. Regardless of if a person is loving, kind, and skillful, or hateful, cruel, and unskillful, all beings want to be safe and happy.
Even those beings whom harm themselves are doing the best they can given their conditioning. People who smoke cigarettes, cut themselves, have an eating disorder, commit suicide, or engage in other acts of self-harm, are not purposefully trying to harm themselves. They are imprisoned by their delusional conditioning. This conditioning confuses them into believing that these acts of self-harm will bring them the peace, happiness, or joy they seek, even if only temporarily. Despite their self-harm, these people also want to be safe and happy.
All beings and all life want to be safe, happy, peaceful, and respected. This is true across the board. Contemplate on this reality frequently and kindness will arise: Just as I want to be happy, all beings want to be happy. Just as I want to be safe, all beings want to be safe. Knowing the truth of our shared need to be peaceful and happy, helps us light a candle of kindness which transforms the darkness of hatred and fear into light and love.
Everyone is Worthy of Love
After the creator made the heavens and earth, waters and lands, plants and animals, humans and all of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” This has not changed. Everything and everyone is still “very good,” valuable, and worthy of our kindness and love. The more we see the good in everyone and everything, the more we drive out the delusion that resides in our mind and body.
All of us belong. Every being and every thing belongs. The same life-force energy and intelligence that animates and informs every cell in our body, is also found in all creatures, and all life forms, regardless of whether they are animate or inanimate. When we see the good in other people, beings, and life forms, we naturally befriend them, wish them well, and treat them with kindness. When we appreciate everything and see how we are all interdependent with each other, we see the oneness, the unity, and the harmony of all life.
Peace Pilgrim described it like this: “I feel beauty all around me and I see beauty in everyone I meet, for I see God in everything…. My happiness overflows in loving and giving towards everyone and everything.” When we appreciate this oneness, it becomes very clear that: to harm, exploit, or be prejudiced towards any group of people or beings, is to harm us all; to poison the land, water, or sky, is to harm us all. She continues:
All of us, all over the world, are cells in the body of humanity. You are not separate from your fellow humans, and you cannot find harmony for yourself alone. You can only find harmony when you realize the oneness of all life and work for the good of all.
When the cells of the body work cooperatively, all cells get their needs met, and there is health in the body. When we humans work cooperatively with each other, and all other life forms, everyone gets their needs met, and we create health, harmony, and peace in the world.
Recognize, appreciate, and see the value, worth, and interconnectedness of all people, all beings, and all life forms. This will naturally expand your kindness.
But What if They Are A Jerk?
“He’s a rude jerk,” says the ego. The ego in us defines others by their egoic unskillfulness. Enlightened people like Peace Pilgrim recognizes the ego in others as their false self, and relates only to their true self. As she says:
There is a spark of good in everybody, no matter how deeply it may be buried. It is the real you. When I say ‘you’ what am I really thinking of? Am I thinking about the clay garment, the body? No, that’s not the real you. Am I thinking of the self-centered nature [ego]? No, that’s not the real you. The real you is the divine spark.
When we see the essential goodness in others as their true self, and only relate to that true self, it helps the situation in two ways. First, seeing their goodness allows us to remain calm, peaceful, non-reactive, and skillful despite their egoic behavior. We actually will feel a sense of peace and ease even though their ego is insulting us, attacking us, breaking our stuff, or acting out in other ways. Secondly, seeing their goodness helps them come out of their egoic state and awakens the goodness in them.
A strong boy with a violent past, which included hospitalizing his mother, wanted to go for a hike, but everyone was too afraid to walk with him. Peace Pilgrim, having no fear, volunteered to take him. The hike went well until a thunderstorm started and frightened the boy, triggering an egoic reaction. As Peace Pilgrim recounts it:
Suddenly he went off the beam and came for me, hitting at me. I didn’t run away although I guess I could have – he had a heavy pack on his back. But even while he was hitting me I could only feel the deepest compassion toward him. How terrible to be so psychologically sick that you would be able to hit a defenseless old woman! I bathed his hatred with love even while he hit me. As a result the hitting stopped.
He said, “You didn’t hit back! Mother always hits back.”
Her seeing the good in him, kept her calm and unafraid during the attack, and inspired the good in him to arise. He experienced a deep remorse and regret for hitting her, and this transformed his egoic habit pattern of violence permanently. Peace Pilgrim concluded her story with these words:
What are a few bruises on my body in comparison with the transformation of a human life? To make a long story short he was never violent again. He is a useful person in this world again.
Follow her example, and see the good in everyone, every being, and every life form. This will grow your kindness, make you fearless, protect you, and allow you to help heal all who you meet.
See the Good in Everything
An enlightened person sees everything in the world through the Creator’s loving eyes and deems it all “very good.” The ego in us looks at the world and only sees problems: death, disease/sickness, injury, cruelty, violence, poverty, hunger, etc. To awaken, we need to see how all things serve our spiritual development; we need to see the good, the “silver lining,” in all things. Here is a crash course to get you started:
• See the good in death. Because we don’t know the time or place of our death, or the death of our loved ones, death inspires us to live our life fully and deeply in the here and now. Death motivates us to always show those we care about how much we love them, because we never know if we will have the chance to do so again. Death reminds us of how short, fleeting, and precious every moment we have is, and inspires us to make each moment count. In this way, death inspires us to live every moment with love, courage, and purpose.
• See the good in disease, injury, aging, problems, and limitations of all kinds. These problems are here to teach us spiritual qualities such as patience, persistence, peace, compassion, empathy, kindness, joy, wisdom, love, and so on. All limitations are here to help us grow our spiritual capacity and help us to awaken. See how these limitations are blessings that help move you forward on your spiritual path.
• See the good in cruelty, oppression, and unskillfulness of all kinds. Unskillfulness despite all of its violence and harm, is also one of our greatest teachers and motivators for us to awaken.
When we investigate the unskillfulness in ourselves, it teaches us many lessons such as to be humble, forgiving, and kind towards others. It teaches us that the root cause of all cruelty, violence, and ecological destruction in the world is delusion, not those of us who are enslaved by our delusion, and acting it out in unskillful ways. It teaches us that the delusion in our mind, and thus everyone else’s minds, exists due to causes and conditions that are beyond our control. This helps us see the falsehood in, and let go of. the delusions of judgment, blame, self-righteousness, hatred, and anger. Unskillfulness also teaches us that the friendly, gentle, allowing force of love is the way we heal and transform delusion. As Peace Pilgrim sums up, “It is not through judgment that the good can be reached, but through love and faith.”
As we observe the unskillfulness in the wider world, we learn us being enslaved to delusion has dire consequences: war, terrorism, mass shootings, prejudices of all kind, suicide, factory farming, climate change, and so on. Knowing that delusion is the root cause, and that truth and love are what heals it, we are motivated to practice and awaken for the benefit and welfare of all life.
These valuable lessons come from working with our teacher unksillfulness. In this way, even unskillfulness can be appreciated, valued, honored, and respected for the role it serves in our awakening.
Just to clarify, recognizing the value of unskillfulness does not mean we indulge in, or actively participate in, harmful actions. Rather, it means we are willing to be close and intimate with unskillfulness when it arises in ourselves (and others) that we may learn from it. To put it another way: We may take good from harm, but we must not commit harm that good may come.
Now that you have heard some examples of how to see the good in some of the things the ego typically judges as “bad,” let’s apply this to your life.
Everything We Experience Serves Our True Self
As you go about your day, before you judge a situation, ask, “How does this serve my highest good?” or “What’s the silver lining here?” or any question that reminds you to investigate every situation and see how it benefits you spiritually. In this investigation you might want to further ask: What is this situation here to teach me? What spiritual qualities is this situation helping me cultivate (Mindfulness, patience, persistence, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, courage, or other ones)? What view can I bring to this situation that helps me be calm, patient, and kind with this situation?
In the last talk, we asked you to see everything you do as an act of love for all life. With this slogan, we are asking you to see everything you experience as a gift of love from the universe to you. Throughout the universe, on an absolute level, all of life is engaged in a beautiful and continuous dance of giving and receiving love. Our conditioned delusions prevent us from seeing that. Being mindful, working with this slogan, and meditating, help us transform our delusional conditioning, and allows us to experience this glorious dance of love that we are already a part of.
Practice Kindness Through Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation is a formal way to practice connecting with and unleashing our inner kindness. Insight meditation too, is a way of practicing kindness for all aspects of ourselves. As Pema Chödrön summarizes, “Sitting meditation gives us a way to move closer to our thoughts and emotions and get in touch with our bodies. It is a method of cultivating unconditional friendliness toward ourselves and for parting the curtain of indifference that distances us from the suffering of others. It is our vehicle for learning to be a truly loving person.”
If you desire to be a loving person, do your best to have a regular meditation practice, even if you start by doing only five-minutes a day. It is such a small investment of time, and the beneficial returns on your investment over the months and years will happily surprise you. Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself. Commit to meditating daily for six months, and experience the benefits directly.
Kindness is the quality of gentleness and friendliness, just as a mother would have for her newborn baby. Kindness is supported by seeing the best in all people, all beings, all life forms, and all situations. Sometimes kindness is felt in the body as warmth, energy, spaciousness, clarity, vibrations, tiny bubbles, or other subtle, pleasant sensations.
The ego confuses greed with kindness. Greed is felt in the body as an unpleasant emotional and mental state that has an agitated, restless, and compulsive quality to it. When greed arises, peace – the ability to calmly allow the present moment to be as it is – is the antidote.
Kindness’ far enemies include hatred and fear. As with greed, fear and hatred also generate unpleasant mental and emotional states in the body. By mindfully keeping at least some of our awareness inside the body at all times, we can get a good sense of when egoic delusions have become active, so as to investigate them and grow our wisdom.
As we cultivate our kindness through meditation and mindfulness, we will naturally let go of hatred and fear as they transform into love and wisdom.
As Peace Pilgrim walked throughout the United States, some people would ask her what her message was for the world. I end this talk with her one sentence response, which beautifully summarizes our spiritual path: “This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”
If you enjoy the teachings of Peace Pilgrim, you may learn more about her teachings and order a free copy of her highly recommended book Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words at PeacePilgrim.org.