Living kindness is not some hypothetical idea. It is the artful, daily expression of kindness, compassion and deep respect for all beings regardless of differences in faith, belief, culture, gender, social status and ethnicity. This is kindness with the power of mindful action behind it. Rather than being reduced to a "random acts of kindness" bumper sticker, this kindness is uniquely boundless, purposeful and empowering. It is also more open and forgiving than the self-sacrificing kindness that I learned about in Sunday school. Living kindness is a vehicle by which our love, equanimity and other vital values make contact with the real world. This is kindness where it counts.
To understand how love and equanimity work together, lets first look at each of these values more closely. Equanimity affirms the importance of all living beings, without discrimination. It expands your view of how all things are interconnected. When one strand in the worlds web is tugged, all the strands move. The world in this new millennium is unlike any other time in history. Whether you believe it or not, the actions you take can have long reaching effects that go beyond your neighborhood, your county, your state, and your country. When you understand this, you begin to make decisions based on equanimity; you begin to accept your role in the scenario, as well as to accept what you cannot control.
To experience equanimity is to set aside many of your long-conditioned attitudes. Equanimity means you can consciously decide how you want to react to the world around you rather than have a knee-jerk reaction. It helps you to temper your perceptions of the world with more tolerance, unselfishness and acceptance without having to try to mold everything to your old way of thinking. Practicing loving kindness develops love that strives to reach beyond family and friends. As it is mastered, loving-kindness is directed toward all beings even those who may be thought of as enemies. It cultivates caring, openness and empathy toward those you love. Experiencing this encompassing kind of goodwill can help you tap into the unlimited and creative energy of divine love that binds all beings together. It can help you forgive and let go of pain and suffering.
When you really think about it, the guiding principle of equanimity is very much linked to the quality of your love. Have you ever heard of the saying, "If you let a bird out of a cage and it does not come back to you, it was never really yours"? Consider, for a moment, the relationship between children and their parents. When children are small, their parents show great compassion for their hurts and sufferings as the children have difficulty communicating and fending for themselves.Later, as children grow up, they learn to walk, talk and gain many new abilities. During this period, parents show love, support, joy and enthusiasm for their childrens achievements. Once children become fully grown and are living on their own, however, parents have another choice to make: between interference, out of love, or letting go, out of equanimity, between possession (love) or freedom (equanimity).
As a non-interfering parent or lover, you let go of controlling your child or partners actions. This is a process of putting your own motives and perceptions aside. Practicing equanimity with love does not mean you no longer care about your loved ones. Rather, it means you love and empower them more fully, rather than imposing your own personal perceptions and expectations upon them.
Donald Altman is author of a new book: "Living Kindness: The Buddhas Ten Guiding Principles for a Blessed Life" (Inner Ocean Publishing, 2003, $15.00). A former Buddhist monk, he speaks and conducts workshops on Mindful Living. For more info please visit: www.amazon.com or bookstores. For workshop info: www.innermeal.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org