A life that consistently refuses to succumb to the temptation of hatred has an enduring power of it’s own. – Karen Armstrong
The Meditation Mantra of the Month is AHIMSA; care, compassion, non-violence. This is not about being a generally nice person — although it seems like that should be true, regardless, right? Does that even need to be spelled out? Actually, let’s start there. Be Kind. Be Overtly Kind. We need no closeted, evasive, or lukewarm kind people. Fly the bright & gaudy flag of kindness.
When a stranger trips on the sidewalk and you stop to ask if they are okay and offer to help them if they are not, that is definitely caring & kind, but not necessarily what ahimsa means. As I understand it, it would be ahimsa if that stranger who tripped was who just cut you off in traffic and then cursed at you as if you did something wrong. You stopping to help is making a choice for kindness & compassion, and rejecting the temptation to hate by way of ignoring them or saying that they are getting what they “deserve”. Kindness & compassion in that context is AHIMSA.
Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. – Mahatma Gandhi
I am weary of the disgust, anger, and heartache I feel when I read about what the current president of the United States of America has done and said. I am disgusted, horrified, and bewildered by the crowds of people he animates with hate, violence, and vulgarity. I feel all of it in my body. I too become animated by my frustration and anger and have a real desire to throw chairs, kick things, and yell insulting words in response. What do we do in response to horrible behavior without becoming even more horrible?
My kids learn about bullying in school. There are posters all over about the steps to take and who to talk to. Grown adult bullies are harder to name and confront because we work with them, we go to church with them. We maybe have become the bully at work in response to a culture of treating each other like that and it has become the way to get things done. How do you relate to bullies in your family? How can we help our kids recognize in themselves behavior that is mean and hurtful? How do we get humble and honest enough with ourselves to recognize our own bullying behavior. Are you bullying someone? Who seems afraid or intimidated to talk with me or be around me? Are you willing to hear feedback about how you or your kids talk to people? How do we speak honestly, respectfully, and compassionately with people whose behavior is hurting us?
I don’t have any answers except to beg us all to keep trying. Have faith in kindness, generosity, mercy. Be open to the softening and changing of our hearts. We need each other. This is the work and spiritual practice of ahimsa that we have admired in people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and huge swaths of humanity who have been oppressed and humiliated over generations yet remain hopeful, kind, and loving. That is a miracle of epic proportions.
I found this prayer on the internet that I will be writing and posting on my refrigerator along with my kids treasured drawings. God, keep my anger from becoming meanness. Keep my sorrow from collapsing into self-pity. Keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking. Keep my anger turned toward justice, not cruelty. Remind me that all of this, every bit of this, is for love. Keep me fiercely kind. Amen
May it be so for all of us. It’s no small thing to practice ahimsa. Be kind, generous, and merciful to yourself too. How you treat yourself is essential to the practice. Be fiercely kind. Love you, no matter what.
Peace, peace, and more peace on your head,