Kindness does not stop with us; we can extend it outward
from ourselves, like the ripples on a pond, toward our
family, friends, and loved ones. This is relatively
natural and effortless. But for loving kindness to
be genuine, it cannot just end with the people we know and
like; it has to go further, toward those we do not know
and even do not like. This includes people we may be
having a hard time with, someone with whom communication
is difficult, where negative issues have arisen that are
pulling the relationship apart, where there is anger,
resentment, or dislike.
When we are affected by someone being hostile, dismissive,
critical, or hurtful, then it is often because there is a
hook in us for that negativity to grab hold of, a place
where it can land that triggers all our hidden feelings of
unworthiness, insecurity, doubt, even self-hate.
However, when we extend kindness toward such a person, as
we can in meditation, an extraordinary thing
happens: The landing place, or the hook within,
begins to dissolve. There is no place for the
negativity to take hold.
The negative reactions that arise within us during moments
of discord or disagreement cause continued suffering and
conflict. Extending kindness toward the adversary
is, therefore, really extending it toward ourselves, as it
releases the inner pain and puts us into a more balanced
Burmese teacher once told author Andrew Harvey, "Out
of compassion for myself, let me let go of all these
feelings of anger and resentment toward others."
As we focus on the adversary, all manner of divergent
feelings may arise about what happened, about who said
what to whom, and what someone did or did not do. To
get to loving kindness, we have to accept those feelings
while also letting go of the story, releasing the
details. Who did or who said what is not relevant;
what matters is the shared human experience. Hurt
and disagreement and anger arise when we forget our
essential unity and hang out in separate, isolated places,
while knocking heads with each other. By letting go
of the story, we are going beyond the ego's affront to the
We can extend kindness toward people who are upset, angry,
or irritable, whether their feelings have anything to do
with us or not. In this way, we can stop negativity
from affecting us. Whether it is our boss or a bus
driver or our partner or teenage children, wishing them
well helps us keep our cool.
From extending kindness toward an adversary, the natural
next step is to extend it toward all beings, whoever and
wherever they are. Theoretically, this sounds very
straightforward, but it can highlight hidden issues of
prejudice and resistance. Can we really extend
kindness toward terrorists, murderers, or dictators as
easily as we can toward caregivers, charity workers, or
our loved ones? Can we step beyond personality to
the essence of shared beingness? Can we find a place
where all beings are equal in our heart?
Prejudice can go very deep. It is only healed when
we end the war within and accept those parts of ourselves
we find so unacceptable. Then we will have the
courage to accept those who are different from us, who
have different beliefs, who are a different color, or who
live differently. When we can tolerate ourselves,
then we can be tolerable toward others and extend kindness
to all equally.
As Mohandas Gandhi said, "We must widen the circle of
our love until it embraces the whole village; the village,
in turn, must take into its fold the district, the
district the province, and so on, until the scope of our
love encompasses the whole world."
Ed and Deb Shapiro, and a
host of world-renowned luminaries,
on an enlightening spiritual journey.
Spiritual leaders from all
disciplines and walks of life
reveal how meditation has
changed their lives from
the inside out-motivating
readers to begin their own
practices and create the
foundation for a new, more
hopeful age in the wider world.