*Brian Wilcox 'Blue Columbine... Aquilegia Coerulea'
The word for "kind," used of being gracious toward others, means in its origins "being family-like, acting as kin." Hence, spiritually, kindness is grounded in seeing others, not as strangers, but as one's kin - for it is true, the other and you are of one family. We can be part of changing the world for the good, simply by being kind one person at a time, one creature at a time. We can act in this same goodwill to trees, plants, the oceans and rivers, the air, and other aspects of Nature. We can learn, also, how to be more kind to ourselves. Often, it seems, we do not express the same degree of kindness to ourselves that we do to others. We, as much as anyone, need the grace of kindness. We feel good when someone is kind to us, or we are kind to someone, for kindness is our basic nature. We are naturally kind. Kindness, then, does not require a lot of effort. With a heart attuned to the Light from which all good flows in and through us, kindness becomes effortless. So, we do not feel this as something we ought to do, kindness simply happens, spontaneously. The more attuned we are to the Spirit, the more receptive to being a means of natural kindness, for Spirit is Kindness.
* * *
The symptoms began in my office. At one point, I was bent over with massive pressure in my chest, fully ready to die. A friend called a doctor who had never met me. I was not his patient. I had no doctor. He told her to drive me to his office. He took tests. He said, showing me the results, "I don't know what happened, but something did, the tests show it."
Afterward, he sat with me for a long time, possibly up to an hour, and he never showed any impatience. He listened to my detailing health, physical and emotional, challenges I was going through - repeated heart episodes part of it all. When leaving, I felt more hopeful than in some time. I felt like I had received a kindness injection. I had never had a physician to be so generous with me.
I recall that doctor, whom I never met again, as a means of Grace, a radiance of the Light. He was a kind, graceful means of Love to me. He offered me much more than his expertise; he offered me Presence, patience, and kindness. What a gift! He valued me as more than a patient, and that is the way of Grace.
* * *
A follower said, "I really want to be of spiritual help to others. What do you suggest need be my first step in doing that?"
"Realize persons don't need your help."
"The help they need, no one, including you, can provide them."
"Then, what can I do?"
"Nothing, so something can be done."
Blessed are we, when someone claims we helped them, but we sense we did not help at all. We feel something important happened, and we were present as part of it, that our presence was necessary. Yet, we cannot seem to say, truthfully, "I did it." We did something, but whatever we did, it was not the it that so helped the other person. I often call this something else working unseen, quietly, but surely, by the word "Grace." In this sense, Grace refers both to the Giver, the unseen Presence, and the Gift, that given.
* * *
I was Chaplain for a dear woman - whom I will call "Jennifer" - to whom I could not give direct spiritual guidance. After several months, I almost gave up on meeting with her. I sensed a seeming contradiction: "I'm here to help this person spiritually, but I can't, so how can I justify being here and claiming I do."
Persons on the care team gave me varied suggestions. A person over me in administration advised discontinuing meeting with Jennifer, if she refused spiritual assistance. A fellow chaplain suggested I set goals for helping her spiritually. If she did not want these goals, I would best stop seeing her. I did not follow the advice of either of these team members. I changed my approach.
Jennifer continued to block all my trained means of getting through an opening, so to speak, to help her spiritually in any narrow sense of helping spiritually. Yet, I relaxed and gave up - that is right, I gave up. I recognized and accepted I was not with her to assist her spiritually in any way directly, unless and when she invited such.
So, weekly, I would go and sit with Jennifer for about an hour. I would allow her to set the agenda by what she chose to share. She was training me more in what I already knew: I did not have to do anything in particular.
* * *
Through Jennifer, I came to see more clearly some wisdom lessons I had learned in contemplative spirituality, but was, obviously, still learning to apply in daily life. I am still learning these lessons many years later.
1) Relaxed not-doing is often the wisest and kindest means of helping others. This alert passivity invites Love to love through us. We do not have to impose an agenda.
2) Love gives Itself, not something, first and in all It does. Jennifer did not need me to set goals to make her deserving of my being with her. Being present with her, apart from all else, meant allowing the space for Presence to offer Itself to Jennifer. Setting goals for her to meet would have been seen as a pragmatic, efficient use of time and resources. Spirit's pragmatism is subtle and silent. Grace works without fanfare. We cannot decide in advance how the Light ought to or will bless anyone. Often we are unaware Grace is acting.
3) Spiritual help does not always appear spiritual, not in a narrow sense of that word. Spiritual can include a wide array of ways of serving others. We decide what spiritual is, as the administrator did, but often that is too narrow. "Spiritual" is a word we define, even as "help" is. These words include too much for us to limit spiritually helping others due to our narrow vision. What could be, indeed, any more spiritual and helpful to Jennifer than my offering myself a means of Kindness to her? This even more so, seeing Jennifer was a woman deeply hurt from her past, a person who had lost faith in her worthiness of being loved and cared for. This, even more so, for Jennifer was slowly dying from a terminal lung condition, likely having only a few months to live.
4) What others most need is not you or me, but Presence. Jennifer, though I was a chaplain to her and she delighted in sharing with me, did not most need me. Jennifer needed most Presence ~ that Ineffable mystery alive within me ~ and, yes, as much in her. In spiritual service to another, you are the means for Grace to reach out and touch the other's heart. So, often, the less you do, the more Grace can act. Grace expands in your withdrawal; you are being a Sacrament of Light.
* * *
Spacious Mind [Heart] Buddha awakens
your essential goodness
offering a warm hand and heart
the most natural activity
Kindness the source of
the altruistic giving of yourself
responding to what is needed
to the requests and demands
of the present moment
When Mind [Heart] Buddha
awakens to inter-being
as your intimate totality
your heart softens in tender kindness
Life gives birth to you
and you give birth to life
The golden rule
is the Heart-Mind of the Buddha Way
do unto others as you would have
them do unto you for they are you
and you are an empty cup
overflowing with kindness
*Tai Sheridan. Living in Buddha's Three Bodies.
* * *
(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020