Finding kindness…

In my earlier post ‘Remember to breathe… breathe to remember…’ I described counting the breath. This is a way I have learned to firmly take hold of my breathing and thereby my present awareness. I now would like to suggest a less linear and forced approach.

It helps to stay present by utilising our breathing in creative ways. The most basic way we can do this is simply on each in-breath silently saying, ‘In’ and on each out-breath, ‘Out.’ An affirming way is to breathe in, ‘Calm;’ and out, ‘Peace’ …or similar.

Please follow this link for some more on breathing from Thich Nhat Hanh Mindfulness of Breathing (posted by Steven Goodheart at Metta Refuge).

And some useful words from Elisha Goldstein:

breathing in …
I open up to what’s vulnerable

breathing out …
I let go of the need to be perfect.

I will take this opportunity to strongly affirm a core principle of mindfulness practice, that we are being attentive to whatever is happening. We are not trying to get rid of anything. If we breathe in ‘Love’ and breathe out ‘Fear,’ we need to continue to hold the space with rigorous kindness, for ourselves and others. In other words, we need to be attentive to our fear but we do not need to try to get rid of it.

Our beginning place in mindfulness practice is being present. This is the source of our healing and it needs to flow. And after all, if we breathe out our fear with the intention to be rid of it, we may not be aware of the effect this will have on those around us by our constrictive presence. Breath is a continuous cycle and our being is interconnected with our world.

I am becoming particularly mindful of my out breaths because I have begun to find there gentle openings of kindness. And kindness is a sustainable and joyful effort enabling both grounded being and true relationship.

This entry was posted by Simon Williams.

10 thoughts on “Finding kindness…

  1. I do several different mantras when doing the breathing…especially when my mind is running wild…counting is the best method then. I also use Thich Naht Hanh’s ‘breathing in’…’breathing out’ words. One of my favorite is breathing in ‘calm’; breathing out ‘peace’. Or ‘peace’ and ‘Joy.’ Or ‘peace’ and ‘happiness’. Or ‘love’ and ‘kindness’. Or any such combination.

    If I use the word fear, it creates fear for me so I don’t like to breathe out those words I consider ‘negative’…I don’t want to add them to the universe because to me breathing them out is trying to get rid of them. I need to let them be and not give them power. Observe & note but not get hooked. (or I try!)

    • Thank you for your reply Shelly. I would like to better understand where you are coming from. With all respect, Thich Nhat Hanh is no stranger to fear and he conveys clearly through his words and actions an alternative to our dichotomies of good and bad.

      Please Call Me By My True Names
      A poem by Thich Nhat Hanh

      Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow –
      even today I am still arriving.

      Look deeply: every second I am arriving
      to be a bud on a Spring branch,
      to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
      learning to sing in my new nest,
      to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
      to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

      I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
      to fear and to hope.
      The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
      of all that is alive.

      I am a mayfly metamorphosing
      on the surface of the river.
      And I am the bird
      that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

      I am a frog swimming happily
      in the clear water of a pond.
      And I am the grass-snake
      that silently feeds itself on the frog.

      I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
      my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
      And I am the arms merchant,
      selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

      I am the twelve-year-old girl,
      refugee on a small boat,
      who throws herself into the ocean
      after being raped by a sea pirate.
      And I am the pirate,
      my heart not yet capable
      of seeing and loving.

      I am a member of the politburo,
      with plenty of power in my hands.
      And I am the man who has to pay
      his “debt of blood” to my people
      dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

      My joy is like Spring, so warm
      it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
      My pain is like a river of tears,
      so vast it fills the four oceans.

      Please call me by my true names,
      so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
      so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

      Please call me by my true names,
      so I can wake up
      and the door of my heart
      could be left open,
      the door of compassion.

      from “Call Me By My True Names:The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh”, pub. by Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA 1993

      • Prelude to the poem: from: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

        In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.

        There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

        When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

        After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is “Please Call Me by My True Names,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

      • Thanks for sharing the poem. I’ve read many of his works; one of my favorite is Living Buddha, Living Christ.
        I’m trying to understand the dichotomy…learning little by little. My modus operandi has been to stuff or reject feelings and emotions. I am slowly adopting the both/and approach rather than either/or. I can intellectually ‘get it’ but have a more difficult time practicing being with each emotion whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Does that make sense?
        So in the meantime, I’ll use my counting breaths or mantras of peace and calm. It helps slow my whirling and chattering monkey brain down!

      • Thank you Shelly for your wonderful comments! I also find counting breaths particularly helpful and am certainly not leaving it behind!
        I had some strong learnings in expanding my moral sense through studying Ecofeminism, with writers and activists like Vandana Shiva and through doing Alternatives to Violence Training with the Quakers, which is all about interpersonal communication and self-respect

  2. Like Shelly, I tend to avoid using words that I have a negative image of, such as fear, as it is something I have difficulties accepting it as a part of me and my immediate reflex is still to reject it. I haven’t used counting for a while, as in the past I used to get frustrated about “losing it” when a thought would show up, but I can see today that it could be a good lesson about accepting that things are not “perfect” as it is too often my obsession…

    • Thank you for your comments. I want to clarify that I am not necessarily advocating using the word fear. I am suggesting that acknowledging and being willing to be with a fuller spectrum of our emotions and thoughts is crucial to mindfulness practice.
      I also affirm that I am approaching this mindfulness journey within the context of a well established therapeutic relationship with an experienced therapist and mindfulness teacher (of a similar background to Jon Kabat Zinn). I am wandering down tangential paths of my own like this blogging (and am finding wonderful community here!) and I still have a safe place to return which is the ongoing therapeutic relationship. I am not just diving madly into the fearful waves but am consciously, with guidance, ‘learning to surf.’
      I wish that everyone who experiences crippling fear can have this supportive and transformative experience some time in their lives.
      I would like to explore the fight or flight response, which I lock into very strongly sometimes, in a future post. Then we will begin to see my discomforts around fear!

    • Thank you colourtheday, I appreciate your consideration. I am not really interested in the award or random traffic but I hope you continue to find interest in my blog and I in yours.

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