“If we share a slice of bread and margarine–that’s kindness. If we share a slice of bread and homemade jam–that’s loving kindness.” Great aunt Emma sometimes said this whenever she served snacks to children. Her little saying meant a lot because she always served those snacks with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. Emma was easily the most generous person in our family but she never boasted about it.
Spontaneous generosity is a sure sign that someone has an inner personality full of compassion and loving kindness. It was aunt Emma’s concern for children and wild animals that demonstrated her genuine practice of loving kindness. Everyone, young and old, who knew Emma had received her benevolence in one way or another. Her core attitude showed itself in her smile and countinance. She taught by example to show friendship in words and actions. She glowed with joy.
After spending some time with aunt Emma, one couldn’t help but wish to be more like her. Although she was conventionally religious, Emma never proselytized in favor of religious belief. She never saw the need to do so. She always had an eclectic sensibility regarding compassion and her natural loving nature that she seemed to take for granted. It was this unconscious flow that positively influenced people’s ways of thinking. Emma simply believed that parroting scripture was vain show and tell; reading holy books should be reserved for private time. Emma was not someone who prayed in public but did so only when she was alone in her garden.
If we take a few moments to contemplate the concept of loving kindness, we see that everything is fertilizer for the seeds of joy. When we ponder the Earth and the Universe out of curiosity and wonder, we see that the present and the future are like computer memory–into which we write from moment to moment. We choose to alter the operating system to create a computing environment of blame or one that increases system effectiveness by using loving kindness. Either way can be set as the default app.
Generally speaking, all of us are mental and emotional peers. Each of us has the potential for bad and good. We are vulnerable to disturbing events and emotions. In our core we harbor anger, fear, greed, hatred, resentment, and suspicion–normally, we struggle to keep them at bay. Meanwhile, the ancients taught that when we cultivate compassionate loving kindness towards ourselves and others then harmful, toxic thoughts will effortlessly be crowded out of our minds. They taught that it is vital that we practice loving kindness and not just philosophically ponder it as a concept.
“Sociopaths love power. They love winning. If you take loving kindness out of the human brain, there’s not much left except the will to win.”–author and psychologist, Martha Stout
We hear and read daily about people who have no human compassion nor connection to others. It is in this mental environment that understanding, empathy, and concern for others shrivels up. As they further isolate themselves, they may turn cruel and delusional. In the worst cases, they commit senseless acts of violence. However, one can choose to immerse oneself in the arts, literature, philosophy, and contemplation as antidotes to isolation. One can do this even when living and working alone. This is the difference between isolation and solitude. When practiced in a balanced manner, solitude provides an auspicious mindset.
Boiled down to essentials, loving kindness is the practice of friendship towards oneself and everyone else.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. “Doth perfect beauty stand in need of praise at all? Nay; no more than law, no more than truth, no more than loving kindness, nor than modesty.”