Kindness could be an easy inroad into the heart if we believed we deserved the label of kindness. As we become more self-aware, we often lead with our deficiencies by seeing where we are not living up to our spiritual ideals. Yes, we might say, we helped that person, but there are so many ways that we are still inconsiderate. We do untold damage to ourselves by casting us out of our own hearts. We can turn this around by noticing when we are kind. Make a point of warming your heart to yourself in that moment, and when you are not kind, become interested in what seemed to deflect kindness. You might have been in pain and unable to consider another. Resolve to understand what keeps you internally focused unable to connect with others. Patience is an attribute of kindness and allowing the necessary time to learn the path of kindness requires patience. We have to lead with kindness as patience from day one.
How can we discern the difference between authentic self-kindness and self-indulgence? Is it within the behavior or the motivation behind the behavior? Set the intention this week to be self-kind and see whether you cross the boundary of indulgence. Be disciplined in your willingness to give yourself completely to kindness but not indulgence. Secondly, incline your mind toward being kind to others in action, speech, and mind and notice the near enemy of being nice to others. How do the intentions differ? Niceness is a mental interpretation of kindness. Notice there is an egoic payoff in being nice and indulgent but not in kindness.
It is difficult to speak about the Intuitive Heart because it is an intrinsic part of ourselves that cannot be known prior to its arrival. In other words it is not conjured up by thought or derived from emotions, rather it is a knowing coming from the whole of the situation. To think about it is to distort it. In Buddhism we speak about Clear Comprehension which is this “whole knowing.” Usually we see only where our attention is directed, but when we are sufficiently quiet, there is a sensing that is more complete and full than the sensing of any particular sense organ. Often the intuitive is a sensing beyond the data, a kind of knowing whose origin will always be a mystery because it does not rest on mental processing. We can approximate its location by saying that this intuitive sensing lives within presence.
Go outdoors and open the senses to the sights, sounds, and smells of the environment. Watch how your personal narrative forms around this sense data (my flowers look so good this time of year, I wonder if this runny nose is the beginning of a cold or just allergies…). Work with the phrase, “Add nothing to this experience.” Do not add any thought or conditioned response, not even interpretation; just let each experience be exactly as it is. Relax with each presentation and feel the space that holds the senses and allow presence to arise. Notice that movement still happens but does not seem to come from thought. The intuitive lives within this presence.
How do we apply the heart to practice? There are two prerequisites for the balancing of Insight Meditation. The first is that we have to be able to observe and see so we can understand what the mind is doing. In the beginning the struggles of practice often have to do with steadying the attention sufficiently to be able to see without the interference of thoughts. This takes time and effort. But the second prerequisite is just as important but more easily overlooked, and that is that our attention has to contain a quality of heart within it. I call this combination of observation plus heart, caring attention. To know that all facts are friendly, which is one of the fruits of insight, is to not only focus upon the fact but to truly let it in and allow the fact to affect us. Our heart allows all facts to enter. We will then meet the fact at the sense door with relaxation and ease, and our judgmental opinions will stand aside, and we will let it pass, trusting in the inclusiveness of the heart.
Does your meditation practice need more caring and/or more focused attention? Caring without focused attention is idealism usually pushed by ones own neediness, and focused attention without caring is without humanity, humorless, and dry. Take action from this assessment and apply yourself so that the two come into balance. Be careful not to allow your spiritual journey to move without the caring heart and the focused seeing. Watch how the two feed each other. When you care about something, you become focused and concerned about it, and when you focus on something, it starts affecting you and begins to open your heart. Notice when you are present which one is more active and call the other forth.
Mentally we set boundaries because we are afraid, while the heart through nonresistance is attempting to dismantle those boundaries and show us life is safe. This creates an apparent conflict in spiritual practice between opening to reality as it is presented and feeling safe within that situation. When this contradiction arises be patient and ask what we are protecting ourselves from. If it is emotional or physical harm then leaving the situation is wise action, but does escaping mean that we create the boundary of separation in its wake? If so then whenever we decide to part ways, we will live within the turmoil of the division we just created. Can we take effective action without forcing a boundary upon a situation? It takes clear discernment, an attribute of awareness, to understand what we are doing and why, and discernment will move us to safety without forming tension filled boundaries.
We often miss the obvious ways our heart is birthed throughout the day. We may pass over these situations as unimportant when we succumb to the pressures upon us, but from a spiritual standpoint these moments are precious. These are the times in which our hearts are fully exposed and available, the moments when the mind is quieter and awareness is sensed, the times when the veil between the world and us is thinned considerably, and when life pours through uncensored. One such time is when we are quiet enough to appreciate the rich display of life before us moment after moment. Let us look for these opportunities throughout our day and not pass over them because we have more important things to do. Let us incline our mind toward appreciation as if it were the only experience that truly confirms why we live, and relish the adventure.