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A Picture Worth A Thousand Words

I thought that this was important enough to share. Sometimes a picture IS worth a thousand words. In this case, it speaks more loudly than words ever could. The article can be read at Post Internazionale.

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Kindness and Her Annoying Little Brother, Sarcasm

1 flowerWhen you find someone whose sarcasm is sharp and quick, likely two things are true about them; they’ve had to develop their sarcasm as a weapon against cruelty, and they have been shown very little kindness.

But that’s not your problem.  It’s enough of an effort to cultivate deep compassion within yourself. When you do that, it will eventually radiate outward and infect those around you.

Kindness is a rare and beautiful quality these days. I mean real kindness, the kind that just kinda hangs around with someone all day despite their being tired, stressed or lonely. It is not some magical quality. No, darlings. It needs to be cultivated like that six-pack of abs, or your ability to cook.

Now, given that my last post was titled, ‘I Took Etiquette Lessons – Asshole’, I openly admit, that my supply of kindness runs out rather abruptly when I’m encountered with someone who is plainly rude in order to make themselves feel superior to me, or anyone else.

This morning a social media pal posted something about someone  pointing out that he had gained weight. His quick retort was funny, but my pal, with what I can only imagine was a voice in his head wondering loudly, how the heck anyone thinks saying something like that is appropriate.

I on the other hand tend to land retorts deep and quick in the guts of my passive aggressive commentators. When  a colleague called me ‘pretty good looking for being so stout’, I smiled and replied coyly that he wasn’t so bad for a fat old man himself. I looked in his eyes and smiled for a one-two-three beat, and then turned my back and walked away.

I try to say something positive and kind every day when I enter my workplace, when I’m greeted, or before I tuck my kiddo into bed. That doesn’t mean that I passively accept rudeness, mean-spirited comments, or bow to sarcasm. I kindly return the bitterness to the sender on a lovely silver platter with a smile, as little sarcasm and as much honesty as I can muster.

Kindness is; telling someone you like a certain outfit, rather than telling them that something makes them look fat.

Kindness is; passing a breath mint instead of waving your hand in front of your nose and telling someone their breath stinks.

Kindness is; asking someone who’s put on a few pounds if they’d like to go for a walk instead of pointing out their weight gain.

Kindness is; seeing someone in distress socially, and buoying them up with your smile and gentle defense.

Kindness is; handing back mean words, rude observations and a bad attitude so that the person generating negativity has a chance to reconsider and come up with something more positive for themselves and those around them.

Sometimes, kindness is also just keeping your mouth shut, coming home, putting on your stretchy pants and having a nice, cold, white-wine spritzer while listening to Solomon Burke….well, for some of us anyway.

The Amazing C and I often used to say to one another when asked our opinion, ” Do you want me to be honest, or do you want me to be nice?”

Well, I’ve done a lot of living since those days, and I believe that you can be honest and nice all at once. So now, instead of honesty, I want honesty delivered in a kind way.

We’re all old enough to know when we’ve done something stupid or been duped. We know that we make mistakes when we’re vulnerable and in love.

At the beginning of my study of the dharma with monastics, my partner at the time laughed at me when I became emotional and said something about wanting to be a more kind and gentle person. Having been known as a strong, independent woman, it took courage to want to tear down some psychological barriers and it took courage to confide  in him.

His response was not gentle or kind, but sharp sarcasm…and that my darlings, was the beginning of the end.  In that moment, I knew he was not the one. I did not need sarcasm, discouragement, or belittling. I needed kindness.

This Sunday morning, I give you this recitation by George Saunders….

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The Lazy Buddhist

"You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." ~ Old Zen Saying~
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
~ Old Zen Saying~

I’m a lazy Buddhist.

Some days I’m more of a lazy Protestant, Hindu, Jew, Taoist, Muslim or Catholic. It just depends on how I’m feeling. I like to go with the spiritual flow, if you know what I mean.

How can I be all of those things? Well, it’s kinda like this;  I really struggle to wear the uniform of any single religion. I’m spiritual, and have found a home in my Buddhist practice. It  brought me to a much deeper understanding of my Protestant roots, and my academic study of religion.

But I’m lazy about it.

Today I put off a full day of meditation because I woke up with the same headache and sniffly nose that I went to bed with last night.

Mind you, I could have taken a seat in the meditation hall full of decongestants with a side of tissues, but it was so very much easier to stay in bed and cuddle with my 1500 count, aubergine-coloured sheets.

Granted the other folks attending today’s retreat are thankful that I didn’t come and clutter up their atmosphere with sniffles, bacteria, and a high level of shifting on my organic buckwheat hull-filled cushion, I could have gone.

Instead, I got up, had a glass of water and went back to bed, where, my body and mind rested for 5 more hours.

As usual, I made my way to my preferred coffee shop, sat back, and read the news. The piece that caught my ever-distracted eye was in the Focus section of the Globe and Mail. Crushed, by Erin Anderssen was a bell back to some thought about my own practice, and how, when I need it the most, I abandon it like a kitten distracted by an ant.

I have been worrying a lot lately. A lot. Worry is something that used to drive me toward my goals and accomplishments. Now it just drives me to bourbon, quick fixes and eventually, back to my breath.

Friendships wax and wane. Everyone has their own problems, and let’s face it, even though you may ask for someone to share their perspective, decisions have to be made with your very own unique concoction of rational thought and intuition. I tend to go heavy on the rational thought, and overboard on the intuition.

In the past, decisions that I’ve made from a place of fear or worry have been quick fixes that offered only temporary satisfaction.

For a week I’ve been stewing over something pretty hard. A simple ten minute session on my cushion mid-week, just before bedtime,  offered some release, and the most solid night of sleep I’ve had in months. I woke up with a new perspective.

So today I missed a great opportunity to share sacred, even holy, space with other people who know the power of practice within the safe space of a sangha. Instead, I chose to rest my own body and mind.

I felt guilty about not going, but then I decided to be at peace with peace. Both at letting myself get some solid rest, and for making a decision that wavered contrary to popular opinion. Just to be sure, I did some math, and realized that both my intuition and rational thought process were right on the money.

This week I had expressed my fears, hopes and thoughts to my friends, soliciting their perspectives and advice. They offered support  when I had come to a conclusion, and confided that with regard to this matter that was on my mind, I had made a poor decision before. I had to agree, and then, after calming my mind, I had to disagree.

This is life. Lived uniquely on our own, despite being surrounded by people; some caring, some sent teachers, and some we will never know.

Am I a lazy Buddhist, or am I just one who, working intensely with human loss each and every day, needed some space?

Breathing room and solitude are often mistaken for sloth. Don’t let anyone else’s ideas fool you.

When in doubt, hit the floor and give yourself ten for  zen. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.