A couple of things are up on my radar today. Yesterday an event of sheer delight came my way. I received a surprise package in the mail. It turned out to be the most lovely green merino wool cowl (is that some sort of farm animal making a bad noise, you ask?) knit for me by a good friend of my daughter. I had been mooning over a similar item on Etsy during the Christmas holidays and not only had Sarah remembered but she had put her nimble fingers to work and created this beautiful scarfy thing for me and mailed it out. I was truly touched and delighted and like a small child I immediately put it on and wore it for the rest of the evening! Kindness pure and simple such a wonderful human offering. The Dalai Lama often says, "my religion is kindness."
But how often do we take the time out of our busy day to actually go through all the steps to complete a simple act of kindness or generosity. Sometimes I think of something I might do, imagine it fondly and then get busy and forget. So I was reminded in a very first hand way what a wonderful aspect of human connection these little treats are, maybe it's just a long distance phone call to a friend, or a real card that goes in the mailbox, just a friendly word to a stranger that looks like they could use cheering up.... I was reminded to pass it on .... tag you're it.
When I called to tell Sarah how tickled I was, she commented on my blog and we got to talking about how we humans are so similar in many ways, how we all share many of the same issues and insecurities (check out Peter's Monkeymind post "trouble in paradise" to read a powerful piece on the inner critic we all share). Suffering is universal yet somehow we think we have some individual license on it. We wander around feeling isolated and thinking everyone else looks pretty great and has it all together .... except us. A teacher whose name I can't remember expressed it this way, "If you've seen one mango, you've seen them all." We're really just a bunch of pretty crazy mangoes dealing with the same little fruit flies.
Coffee today with a new Dharma friend ended with the same conclusion Sarah and I had come to, such an important tenet of Buddhist practice. We are all connected. It is so easy to forget and so helpful to remember. Because we often don't talk about the deeper issues of life with friends and family we don't know that inside we all are in the same boat together working with the same stuff, (in slightly different contexts sometimes).... but there it is once we're willing to be brave and share. It is such a joy and relief to share and connect.
How often do we really connect with other people? How often do we take the time and muster the courage? Are we willing to feel awkward and exposed? Or is it easier, safer, and more comfortable to stay in our crusty little shells? My new Dharma friend and I could talk about how we hardly know our mothers or other family members, that in our culture we have never really learned and practiced how to connect with people at a heart level. And so we feel lonely in a room full of relatives, and we feel lonely when we are by ourselves. We could remind each other that really there is nothing more important than that feeling of connection and community, something that can seem so absent in this modern world.
So that's what I've been thinking about today, kindness and connection, both of which I feel blessed to have been the recipient of.