Kindness as a Spiritual Practice

I am very sensitive these days to the way people speak to me. I sense kindness in mannerisms the phrasing of a condolence, tone of voice and especially in facial expressions. Recently widowed, I move in uncharted territory. In spite of studying the grieving process and accompanying clients in their grieving, I could not know while my husband was with me what my particular journey into mourning would be like. I did not try to anticipate. I tried to stay in the present. We watched the birds every morning coming to the feeder. My husband was on the lookout for cardinals and humming birds. He called me to e window

Mourning Doves

to watch them. Together we watched the morning doves come to the little dish I filled early in the morning.  I wondered how mourning doves got their name. They come to my bird cafeteria throughout the day but I watch them most during the early morning hours. Their cooing sound mournful, yet sweet and comforting. Cooing mourning doves

The Spiritual Practice of Kindness  encompasses a range of small acts and habits that we know as old-fashioned good manners — saying “please” and “thank you,” waiting your turn, lending a helping hand, or cheering someone up with a smile. It applies not just to your relationships with other people. Etiquette in the spiritual life extends to things, animals, plants, and the Earth. These days I am most sensitive to the sound of people’s voices. A colleague I called yesterday sounded like she answered the phone with a sweet smile. It felt like a gentle hug sending coming through the wires with her simple “Hello”.

In spite of the sorrow I often feel, I smile easily. On my daily walks, I encounter people walking their dogs. An exchange of smiles and simple “hello” renews my spirit. Some of the pooches see me coming and strain their leashes to come to me. Some owners know I love dogs and they gladly permit me to pet their dog. These sweet encounters delight me.  I walk on happy and content. Little acts of kindnesses nourish my aching heart.

The Dalai Lama known for endorsing “kindness” as the human way of being. has a smile that appears to be kindness itself.

 Dalai Lama

In the Bible surprisingly, “kindness” occurs only in few passages. The most poignant passage, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”  Ephesians 4:32 is among the few direct injunctions to be kind. Of course many passages infer acting kindly as the essence of holy living. The Psalmist often implores kindness form the Lord and names him the source of kindness.  “God is like a sun and shield; the Lord gives us kindness and honor. He does not hold back anything good from those whose lives are innocent.” Psalm 84:10-12 Jesus however, commands us to “Go and learn what this means: ‘I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.” Matthew 12:7 

We think of the Golden Rule as Christian, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” Matthew 7:12 but it is widely held  concept of “the ethic of reciprocity” 

The Golden Rule  in faith traditions

a standard for ethical and moral behavior appears in a wide range of world cultures. Still, they do not convey the intention of the human heart to be kind to another person without expecting reciprocity. Jesus frequently taught about loving kindness.  According to Swedenborg, this is charity and it is the distinguishing feature between the Old and New Testament. That good ought to be done, from the spirit of goodwill, to an adversary and an enemy. Jesus taught a radical kindness, to  love your neighbor and our enemies. Now that is a radical way of acting not exactly the way act on our own. 

I have experienced many acts of kindness lately. One friend offered to gift me with her service. Several dinners invitations from friends nourished my body and soul. Another friend, knowing I love Starbucks, gifted me with a Starbucks “treat” card. Others give me consul and direction when I am confused dealing with Social Security and other agencies. I am grateful for the ways family and friends have shown loving kindnesses, with words and deeds in the past few weeks. Looking and touching the beautiful thoughtful condolence cards, flowers that continue to bloom for me, Looking at them, I smile.  Such sweet kindnesses lift my heavy heart.  

sympathy cards and flowers


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