“You’re the blessings
Every time I try to count,
You’re the lessons
That l learn
Every time I turn around,
You’re the water when I’m burned
Every time I think I’ve found
Everything I’m looking for,
You’re the sign sayin’
Stop to take a bow” ~ Empty Hands/Nimo
In Buddhist class last night, our teacher encouraged us to think about and meditate upon the kindness of others whether or not they intended to be kind.
Sometimes people do things unintentionally that are very convenient to us, even if they were not trying to be helpful. For example, if someone points out a flaw not trying to help but to hurt, we can still be helped by the criticism, changing the flaw if it really is one and would be good to change. For that, we can be thankful for our “enemy” for aiding in our positive change. Instead of focusing on the anger or pain of what that person tried to do, we can focus on the gratitude. We can consciously transform an unpleasant situation into a life lesson.
If someone is very negative and rude, that person isn’t trying to be kind but we can seize the situation as an opportunity to practice compassion and strengthen our virtue of patience.
Atisha, an ancient Buddhist master, had an assistant who frequently acted in a very vicious manner against Atisha. He slandered him to others and talked negatively about him in an unnecessary way right to his face. Atisha spoke of love and compassion in front of many people, giving public speeches to help make the world better. This assistant of his was verbally abusive to him in front of everyone. Most of the people back then loved Atisha. And they began asking Atisha why he doesn’t replace his abusive assistant with a new one. There would be so many people ready to assist Atisha in a very loving way. But Atisha refused the offer.
He called his assistant his best friend and explained how the man was helping him further develop and maintain his virtue of patience.
For this, Atisha was extremely thankful. He took this potentially infuriating situation and used it for good, to deepen his compassion and strengthen his patience.
Most of us probably have situations no matter how serious or very minor, that we can use to deepen and maintain our compassion and patience. Stuck in traffic, being cut off in traffic, people at work getting on our last nerve, friends or family testing our patience, experiencing an act of betrayal, being the target of slander, diagnosed with a serious physical illness, depression, anxiety, being gossiped about, receiving a rude comment online, being rejected, experiencing a painful breakup, “wasted” years in a terrible relationship – at least you have experience and know what you don’t ever want again! – ….Everything can be practice. Everything and everyone can be our teacher if we allow it.
Everyone else praised Atisha, lavished so much love onto him, he couldn’t really practice patience because it was never tested by them. This person who was difficult to deal with taught him so much love in a different way.
“How can I be patient if there’s no one to be patient with?”
Be thankful for those who push our buttons and test our patience.
“How can I give if there’s no one to give to?”
Be thankful for those who allow us to give and those experiences which provide opportunities for us to give. Give our stuff, our time, our energy, our love, our wisdom….
Our teacher talked with us about gratitude for the kindness of others and she gave an example of something as simple as a cup of coffee. How often do we think much about a cup of coffee we are drinking?
Many of us, probably most, take for granted all the steps and processes it takes to get that cup onto our table or into our hands. It did not just appear. The kindness of others all lead up to that one cup of coffee getting into our hands.
Someone had to gather the coffee beans, roast them, package it, put it on the shelves in the stores, create the packages to hold the coffee, someone had to make the cup, the table, someone is responsible for giving us life to have hands to hold, a throat with the ability to swallow, a stomach to digest, and who knows what other steps had to be taken, processes we don’t even know about, just to make it so we eventually get to drink the coffee. To us, it seems so simple to open up the package and make the coffee or walk to a store and buy a cup of it. But so many people and things came together to make that happen.
And that goes for everything in this life. Everything we have even if we worked hard for it, is only possible because of the kindness o f others. Maybe we work hard to get money to buy clothes we love and feel independent for working so hard to buy expensive clothing but someone had to make those clothes, businesses have to be possible to sell them, our boss gave us our job and if we are self employed, still, we did not get here literally alone. So many have helped along the way both intentionally and unintentionally.
We’re none of us completely independent or without something and someone to be grateful to.
Also, our biological mom brought us into the world and either took great care of us, at least enough to keep us alive, or entrusted someone else to do that for her, for us.
So we have our mom to be thankful for, both our biological mom and our adoptive mom if we have one. (and fathers too)
Also, we have doctors and nurses and others to thank for saving our lives if we were ever sick or seriously injured and needed medical attention. And the ones who helped us when our mom was pregnant and gave birth.
When I was 21 years old, I got very sick and needed emergency kidney surgery. My kidney was obstructed, enlarged, and almost ruptured(a kidney stone damaged it temporarily and blocked my whole system on the one side) . There was a small chance it was going to have to be removed but the doctors were almost sure they got to it soon enough(luckily they were correct!). I was in severe pain and my whole body felt sick. I knew something was very wrong and my family took me to an emergency room. I thought if whatever was wrong wasn’t going to kill me, that the physical pain would. Back then it was the worst physical pain I ever felt. I really believed I was dying, not just because of the pain but I knew something was wrong internally.
I had all kinds of things done to me in that hospital, Catscan, IV drips, blood drawn, surgery….
It took so much to diagnose my condition and fix it. The doctors and nurses and technicians and others all had to do so many things, clean instruments, scrub their hands, set up machines, communicate with each other, cancel scheduled surgeries to take me first since mine was an emergency (I heard the doctor on the phone canceling multiple vasectomy appointments just for me), put me under the anesthesia, so many, many other things to save my life….
It is their job but they chose those jobs because they want to help others. And of all the people I encountered those days, I did not encounter one rude person(many people cannot say the same when they have medical emergencies/situations), just one doctor who wasn’t the friendliest but he had to work long hours and encounter many patients acting in rude manners probably. It can’t always be easy being an emergency room doctor.
For once I wasn’t depressed and all the work they did for me was/is so life affirming. It felt as if my life is valuable, something. Something worth saving.
I still remember and cherish the kindness of all those who worked hard to save my kidney and me. The memories always warm me.
Also, I am thankful for the doctors, nurses, technicians who helped me during the hospitalizations for suicidal depression/psychosis when I was young. Some of them were very loving and some very cold and rude. But I’m forever grateful for the experiences and they all helped me in various ways. Even today during my lovingkindness practice, remembering the coldness of some of the people I encountered during my hospital stays, helps me practice and strengthen compassion & patience. Even old experiences can help us today.
Also construction workers who are often complained about blocking streets, using loud equipment…if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the roads paved like we do, things wouldn’t get built or fixed.
The next occasion we go to complain or see it as an inconvenience, let’s stop instead and give thanks. It may not be helping us directly or at all but they are making the world a better place as a whole.
It’s amazing to think this way. I have always been naturally very grateful even before I realized the concept of gratitude. Since I was a little girl I have always felt thankful for everything and very blessed. I remember frequently feeling that I had the best life.
But after consciously practicing appreciative living techniques and especially after I began taking Buddhist classes, I am even more frequently thankful and often in a deeper way.
Our recent class is a great reminder to contemplate all that others do for us whether or not they intend to be kind. Whether they are forced to do community service as a penalty for violating a law, actually meant to be vicious, accidentally do something great for us, or truly meant to be loving and kind, we can pay them gratitude even if just a feeling in our own heads. Our energy can have a ripple effect and can influence our actions and it’s just a great way to live, in gratitude for the kindness of others.
It’s fascinating to think of all the kindness that exists in one cup of coffee!
I encourage you the next moment you are drinking coffee or tea or whatever you drink, to think of all the ways in which others made this possible for you. We probably cannot think of literally every way! There’s so many! But we can think of some.
(not my photo)
Thank you to all the various kinds of doctors, nurses, technicians, police, construction workers, lawyers, janitors who clean buildings, store cashiers, restaurant workers, delivery people, secretaries, those who put out fires and save lives, mail workers, those who pick up trash and recycling, teachers, professors, veterinarians, volunteers, and all the others who make the world go round.
Let’s pay them back with a friendly smile, a thank you or thank you note, a helping hand whenever we can, any act of kindness, even just a feeling of gratitude or acknowledgment in our head. And let’s pay it forward putting as much of our own love as we can out into the world. ❤
Here is a beautiful love song to the whole world:
“So I lift up my hands now
And I open my heart
And my gratitude goes out
To everything near and far” ~ Nimo
Much love & light to you!