Force of Kindness

Sharon Shalzberg


Awakin FeatureMany of us long for an underlying sense of meaning, something we can still believe in no matter what happens to us, a navigational force to pull all the disparate pieces of our lives together into some kind of whole. Perhaps we find ourselves feeling helpless when even a little too much of the unexpected occurs, defenseless when we find we don’t have control over a situation and can’t fathom what might happen next, unsure of where to turn when we aren’t having the positive effect we want with a troubled family member or a friend. In any of these circumstances, and in so many more, we shut down. Then we go through the motions of our day, day after day, without much dynamism or spirit.

Many of us experience ourselves as fragmented, perhaps as confident and expressive when we are with our families but a completely different person when we are at work, frequently hesitant and unsure. Perhaps we take risks when we are with others but are timid when alone, or are cozily comfortable when alone yet are painfully shy and withdrawn when with others. Or maybe we drift along with the tides of circumstance, going up and down, not knowing what we might really care about more than anything else, but thinking there must be something.

To explore kindness as that thread of meaning requires finding out if we can be strong and still be kind, be smart and still be kind, whether we can be profoundly kind to ourselves and at the same time strongly dedicated to kindness for those around us. We have to find the power in kindness, the confidence in kindness, the release in kindness; the type of kindness that transcends belief systems, allegiances, ideologies, cliques, and tribes. This is the trait that can transform our lives.

Kindness is the fuel that helps us truly “walk our talk” of love, a quality so easy to speak about or extol but often so hard to make real. It helps us to genuinely care for one another and for ourselves as well. Kindness is the foundation of unselfconscious generosity, natural inclusivity, and an unfeigned integrity. When we are devoted to the development of kindness, it becomes our ready response, so that reacting from compassion, from caring, is not a question of giving ourselves a lecture: “I don’t really feel like it, but I’d better be helpful, or what would people think.” When we are devoted to the development of kindness, we are no longer forcing ourselves into a mold we think we have to occupy; rather, it becomes a movement of the heart so deep and subtle that it is like a movement of the sea close to the ocean floor, all but hidden yet affecting absolutely everything that happens above. That’s the force of kindness.

Sharon Salzberg is a meditation teacher and author. She is the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, and has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The practices of mindfulness and lovingkindness are the foundations of her work.

Seed questions for reflection: What does kindness as a deep and subtle movement of the heart mean to you? Can you share a personal story of a time you felt this deep and subtle movement? What practice helps you develop kindness?

Add Your Reflection:

8 Previous Reflections:

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    On Apr 30, 2015 Sanjeev Verma wrote:

     Kindness is an abstraction of positive thoughts and ideas. When you think positive then positive energy is emitted through you at sub-atomic level--you become like an antenna sending positive vibrations all around your existence in this universe. You become kind to your own existence at physical, emotional, intellectual & spiritual levels. You then try to do kind things to everyone at all four dimensions of your existence. Let each of us become kind in all four dimensions and spread positivity around us through our strengths in four dimensions.

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    On Apr 30, 2015 bradley wrote:

     I'm imagining 3.5 billion beings doing a simultaneous act of kindness for the other 3.5 billion😍 What a beautiful view💜

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    On Apr 29, 2015 Patjos wrote:

     I love you all.

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    On Apr 28, 2015 Amy wrote:

     ...and God IS the "Force/Fuel" behind Kindness.  All my "good works" (fueled by any other means) are as "filthy rags" (not my words).
    Kindness through Him, with Him and In Him . . . . Is the genuine, no motive, no agenda kind of Kindness that grows Heaven's fruit.  Amen.

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    On Apr 28, 2015 Dianne wrote:

    kindness has become apart of me.It is how I treat every day I am out in public. I try to engage others in conversation or just with a smile. I believe God has helped me find a purpose. I get so much in return.

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    On Apr 28, 2015 Sunil wrote:

    Complete belief/conviction with constant awareness that love,compassion,friendship, forgiveness is the only way forward for a meaningful life is kindness at the deepest level of heart.All problems ,issues, happiness or sadness merge/dissolve automatically is my practical experience. This Meditation with closed eyes is common but with open eyes without supressing any thought,desire ,like or dislike is a wonderful practice for best results.

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    On Apr 25, 2015 david doane wrote:

    Kindness as a deep and subtle movement of the heart means to have a ground or floor of kindness that I abide in, am always aware of, and act from.  Like the author says, it is like the movement of the sea close to the ocean floor, still and peaceful while affecting all behavior at the surface.  I feel this deep and subtle movement during parts of every day, and lose contact with it too often such as during some busy or pressured or striving times.  The practice that helps me to develop kindness is to start each day with a reflection or meditation that all that is and everyone that is is one, and to go back to that awareness frequently during a day.  It's from that awareness that kindness toward self and others and the earth flows naturally.  When I hold that awareness I tend to be more kind.   

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    On Apr 24, 2015 Abhishek wrote:

    For the 'thread' of kindness to go through my various selves across situations isn't easy - I often grapple with it.

    Being kind comes easy in some circumstances (like @ Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad) or in certain states (of joy and gratitude). The thread is very clear then - it is indeed heart-in-motion....

    Yet the challenge is when I am living my day-to-day life.....kindness comes and goes.....and at times is replaced by a very strong sense of 'me', a deep focus on myself (can I pass it off as being kind to me?)

    Being mindful helps, engaging with our ecosystem surely helps, sending 'metta' helps.....but fundamentally, the thread that runs through my "disconnected" selves is more my being....kindness is not fully yet an integrated part of it...

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