What we say makes a difference
“Your comfort is important to me.”
Did you ever have a stranger speak to you, say something unexpected, and you find yourself remembering it, even days later? That happened to me. Kindness appeared in the kind words of a gentle woman.
The words of a stranger. Kind words.
I discovered a great truth:
Kindness creates ripple effects.
Kindness can surprise us
A few weeks ago, in a compassionate and gentle way, a perfect stranger said to me:
“Your comfort is very important. I’m going to do my best to ensure it.”
What a nice thing to hear! Especially after your apartment is flooded and you have to move to a hotel for a while. This stranger was my insurance adjuster, and she had just proclaimed her intention to make my life comfortable.
You are not alone
Afterwards, after experiencing my personal gratitude and relief, I couldn’t help thinking about others who have experienced floods, or fires, wars, and the like. How many of them have heard such comforting words, assuring them that, “Help is on the way! You are not alone.”
Not so many, to be sure. Such is the way the world works. Ever since I was a child, this inequity has always bothered me. Some people have every sort of support and help, others so little. There seemed to be little I could do about it, though.
Being helped by a skillful insurance adjuster was the first of many supports I received. It’s remarkable how much other help was offered to me. The next-door neighbor is storing my couch, table, bookshelves, clothes, and books. Another neighbor has my piano. Still another neighbor is fostering my two cats, Patches and Pumpkin. In fact, she is doing this task so lovingly, I suspect she must have said to them, “Your comfort is very important. I’m going to do my best to ensure it.”
Moving to a comfortable place
The insurance adjuster facilitated my moving to a very comfortable hotel in downtown Manhattan. It even has a snug little kitchen with oven and fridge. I can choose to cook my own food, or not, if I want to visit any number of local restaurants. A very special feature of my room is its proximity to the World Trade Center.
A room with a view
Of all the hotels I might have relocated to, this one is unique.
I look outside my 10th floor window and see the calm surface of the south memorial pool. I see small groups of people walking around it. In a matter of minutes, I can be there among them. And when I am there, my preference is to keep silent, breathe slowly, and pray. This place has a lot to say, not all of it in words, such as the ones I am writing.
It speaks because of what happened here. When all you can hear is the sound of water cascading underground, it is the very silence of the place that would be heard. Attuning to the silence, I feel my mind and heart unite in prayer:
“Divine Mother, please grant a true peace to everyone who died here.
And may there be kindness in our world.”
A prayer for kindness
There is something comforting about going deep within myself, like the waters of the memorial pool swirling downward to its inner center. I wonder how deep the feelings in a human heart can go, and if they can rise, in offering, to the divine.
Meandering around the city blocks in the late afternoon one day, I saw a family walking towards me on the sidewalk. They didn’t seem unusual; nothing struck me as odd. The day was uncommonly cold and blustery for springtime. I was walking rather quickly, anticipating the warmth of my hotel room. As they got closer, I surmised there was a father, a mother, two young children, and a baby in a stroller.
I noticed then that the parents were wearing crocs without socks on this inhospitable day.
The man asked me for some money to buy baby formula. I gave him a ten, and he thanked me heartily. As the family walked away, I heard him telling his two older children that as soon as they got food for the baby, he would get them food too. After a few moments, I looked back at him, and noticed he was looking back at me.
Two ships that pass in the night
We were like two ships that pass in the night.
It’s as if we both noticed something about the other; and yet, we were like two ships that pass in the night, never to see one another again. I wish I could have said to this stranger, “Your comfort is very important to me. Let me do whatever I can to ensure that.”
Lacking the means to support this family, I do contribute regularly to several worthy groups doing great work in the world. Yet, for days after, I could still see this good man and his family again, but this time, inside my mind. I could not “unthink” them. I know that, in all likelihood, they are still walking the streets, still living on the fringe, still begging for a dollar here, and a dollar there. This recognition is deeply uncomfortable.
A little gesture of kindness. Where might the ripple effects lead?
Building bridges to kindness
For a long time, in my aloneness, I thought, “There must be a way to build bridges between human beings, and to bring people together. There must be a way of honoring the Earth, and not wreaking havoc based on greed and ignorance. There’s got to be a way free of dogmas and antiquated belief systems. I can’t be the only person who feels like this.” In all of these thoughts, I clearly knew what I didn’t want to be part of.
I sensed I wanted to be part of something off the beaten track, yet grounded, authentic, and effective. I wanted to find a path, along with a group of people, which was different. Hungry for a way of life based on freedom, I searched until I found it, exploring different religions and different spiritual paths. I read books on mysticism and spiritual philosophies, all the while hungry for connection and inner growth.
Do you believe in destiny?
Some people believe in destiny, and others don’t. After what happened to me one winter day, I am a firm believer. One weekend, I traveled into the city to see a special film about a variety of spiritual paths around the world.
The film was called “SUNSEED,” and offered at a museum. I had never gone to this particular museum before. When I arrived to the screening room, I was quite surprised to see someone I knew. Actually, it was the person who hired me for my job caring for children in need of specialized care. She too had made the trip into the city to view the same movie, coincidentally at the same time as I.
I didn’t really know her well at all. I really looked up to her. She was such a kind person, with deep empathy for the children and for the employees of the institution. We sat together and viewed the film. Afterwards, we walked to the train station, and shared our viewpoints on the film, and on life. By the end of our walk, she had told me about her path. She offered me the opportunity to enroll in a meditation workshop at a local university. When it concluded, I knew I had found my spiritual path. In this simple way, destiny found me. I began to take my first few steps on a path of spiritual unfolding.
Like an unfolding flower, we open to our possibilities
There is a beautiful way of describing the self-transformations we experience in our lives: the metaphor of “unfolding.” It is simple to visualize: a flower unfolds its petals; metaphorically, a human being unfolds their inner potential and higher possibilities by expanding their state of consciousness. Expanding consciousness could be called the fundamental work of the human being. I expand my consciousness in order to participate with other human beings, as well as to attune to the spiritual world. Thus, inner work always bears an exterior fruit. I unfold in order to love human beings, and to be an effective change agent in the world. You might say, and here I am stretching the truth a little, that we can all be like secret agents in the world, doing good deeds wherever we might be. Small acts of kindness. Just for the sake of being kind.
I strive to live according to a simple and balanced method of life. Each day, I spend time doing direct inner work, such as meditation, prayer, and spiritual reading.
Spending time working in a small group weekly meetings is also important to me. Each meeting begins with a group meditation, followed by teaching based upon spiritual precepts, and ending with a dialogue focused on sharing perspectives and experiences.
We learn kindness from each other
It is remarkable how much is learned when everyone is focused on integrating inner work (on their state of consciousness) and outer work (in the field of life). Personally speaking, I have learned to live more consciously in every area of my life: personal, professional, financial, familial. Each day is an opportunity to apply what I have learned in my meditations and in my experiences, and form myself into a more loving and conscious person.
First act of the day
As I deepened into a method of life for me, I discovered the moment of awakening as uniquely important among all the moments of the day. I learned to make my first act a fervent elevation of thought to the highest point I can imagine.
“I love you, Divine Mother; may I love in every moment.” These words, in seed-like form, encapsulate my intention to maintain a continuous connection to the higher realms of spirit throughout the day. With daily repetition, it feels as though I am building an inner bridge, a bridge of consciousness, from my small human life to the magnificent grandeur of the divine unknown.
A bridge goes two ways. Moreover, in the second, third, hundredth, even thousandth act of the day, the significance of that first act still resonates. When I have the words, “Divine Mother” operating in my head, my very life is lived as an offering to others. When I saw the man and his family, I knew that I had more than money to offer him. And he too gave me a gift: the gift of participation. We are all in this together. I think there really is no giver, no receiver.
I found strength in meditation
Soon after rising, I sit in front of a small table to begin the daily act of meditation. The table holds a few simple reminders: a candle, a picture, a beautiful card with some inspiring words. I light the candle, close my eyes, and begin my meditation. By taking a few moments to still myself, I make sure the words I am saying are not said mechanically. My hope is to imbue my spoken words with conscious intent.
Shake off sleepiness
I always have to shake off sleepiness and be attentive to distractions and other mental diversions. Over time, I have learned how important it is to simply do the exercise, to persevere through the fog of sleepiness and distractions.
When I meditate, I invoke the Divine Mother from the depths of my being. Even though I cannot see the Divine Mother, I can imagine a divine presence, a divine entity, as real and present in the moment as I am. I invoke the Divine Mother in my own words, in my own way.
Are my words resonating within me, or am I just saying them in a rote way? In addition, pacing is very important; I found that it’s important to speak slowly and deliberately. There’s no meditation train to catch! I’ve found that in slowly repeating and feeling the words in my invocation, I inevitably find myself in a different place within my being from where I first started. In a word, I have raised my consciousness, and this has made all the difference.
To love and to love and to love
As Gertrude Stein once observed, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” She was saying that there is more than one way of perceiving, or knowing. That is to say, a rose might be perceived as a commonplace flower in the garden, or as a symbol of love, or as a way of life. Who can make a rose? Gertrude Stein was saying that perception is layered, and that it can evolve and encompass several points of view.
With all my heart, I want every human being to be loved, and to be able to live a life full of meaning. Moreover, I want peace on Earth and in every human heart, mind, family, and life.
By taking every opportunity to evolve, I receive inspiration in the most unexpected of places: the subway, the museum, the sidewalk. Everything serves as a reminder, an inspiration, a remembrance of the human and the divine.
Kindness is key.
Everything I see and do, think and will, has ripple effects on the whole. I have this wish, this prayer for humanity: May we all be comforted, may we all be seen, may we all unfold our deepest possibilities. In the end, “A friend is someone who, when they think of you, sees and wills in you your highest possibilities.”
We are all friends.