WHEN THE STRESS IS
JUST TOO BIG – DAY 5
It may feel impossible to place a caring hand on our own pained heart. But there is another way that kindness can reach into the darkness of suffering, bringing a ray of hope.
Today’s invitation is to bring to mind someone who cares deeply about you (see Day 4 of this course), possibly starting with a childhood pet as you get the hang of this practice.
Take a moment to get a felt-sense of this animal/person, maybe in a location where you last met them, and the joy you felt at the time spent together. If you are someone who ‘sees’ images in your mind’s eye, you may want to conjure a picture of them. (If this is the first time you have tried this sort of practice, and you are using a person, it is advisable to use someone who is still alive).
As you hold this sense of your dear companion, let a smile begin to form at the corners of your lips. Nothing dramatic is needed, just the small, but real, physical upturn of your mouth. If the smile grows as you imagine greeting them, lovely, but there is no pressure – the smallest of smiles is welcome. Imagine waving a greeting, and shouting out a hello, maybe a yelp of delight. Imagine stroking their fur, or shaking their hand. Here they are with you (in your imagination), after a time apart. Fantastic. This being that you care about also cares about you. You are smiling. They are smiling (or wagging their tail) back at you. You are together.
And now greet them, in your heart saying, “I am so happy to have you in my life. I wish you good health, happiness and wellbeing.”
Isolation can, so often, be a key feature of difficult mind states. Humans, like all pack animals, need the security and safety of their clan. The ‘clan’ might be friends, family, a place in a work context, or even the gym. During the lockdown, much of the clan has only been available via a screen. The rational mind may understand this, but we may still feel bereft and alone.
When we are unable to offer kindness to ourselves, gentle mindful attention to the experience of caring for another may allow the embers of caring to be fanned into flames. Feeling the care towards another is felt within us.
Naomi Shihab Nye: Kindness
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
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