I had such a wonderful time teaching from my new book The Wisdom of a Broken Heart this past week in D.C., N.Y., Toronto, and Montreal (where the book is called La Sagesse d'un Coeur Brisé which makes it sound so pretty). Over and over, I'm struck by the deep well of tenderness that resides in each of us and how a broken heart puts you squarely in touch with that tenderness, like it or not. I truly believe we are born to respect this tenderness; to be kind and expect kindness. Clearly, the world doesn't always encourage that, but the moment you extend kindness to another, their own kindness is called forth. Kindness can and will and does change the world.
As a Buddhist, I find the teachings on loving kindness and compassion to be deep, practical, and uncompromising--and have nothing whatsoever to do with being all nice and sweet. The Dalai Lama said, "my religion is kindness" and it's not because he's some kind of wimp. It's because he knows that this is how to bring peace to our war-torn, aggression-fueled world where people use fundamentalist scare tactics to incite us to be kind only to those who agree with us--and to consider the rest as barely human. This makes me cry pretty much every single, solitary day of my life. (Because, unlike His Holiness, I am a wimp.)
I just wish we could all be nice to each other is my constant refrain. But how? Especially when there are those who equate "nice" (or decent, kind, humane, tolerant... whatever word you prefer) with being a loser? Au contraire, my friends. Real niceness is so incredibly sharp because to offer it, you have to pay very close attention to who and what is around you, otherwise your niceness is according to code and not to whomever is standing in front of you. In fact, it is the farthest you can get from being a loser. To be nice is predicated on opening your heart and letting the world touch you, without agenda and without judgment--and then responding to humanity with humanity. This takes exceptional courage and intelligence. I mean, think about it.
How to begin? I suggest signing...
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The NICE Manifesto
I, ___________________, being of sound(ish) mind and body, do hereby commit to the path of NICE, fully recognizing that NICE could mean any number of things and is not merely (nor will it ever be limited to) exhibiting sweetness. In addition to sweet and depending on circumstance, NICE could require one to be tough, giving, angry, remote, strong, generous, and/or soft.
I know being NICE can change our world into a peaceful one. To demonstrate my commitment, I agree to the following:
1. I recognize that only by being aware in the present moment will I know which kind of NICE to be and so recognize that the path of awareness and the path of NICE are inseparable.
2. I will exhibit extreme good manners, even when no one is watching. Good manners include (but are not limited to) qualities such as friendliness, generosity, patience, discipline, respect, discernment, dressing appropriately, and always, always cleaning up after myself.
3. When encountering those who disagree with me I will continue to view and treat them as human, no matter how barbaric or threatening I find them to be. This means not wishing they were dead or thinking such things as: The world would be so awesome were it not for _______ (Sarah Palin, Michael Palin, Islamists, Feitishists, Night fears, Stephen Frears, Darwinians, North Carolinians, Psychiatrists, Physiatrists, Bad drivers, Noisy neighbors, Townies, Junkies, Flunkies, Spelunkers, Circus Buskers, People who like Justin Bieber, and so on).
4. I will practice speaking clearly, honestly, and skillfully, which also means knowing when to shut up. When others are speaking, I will not use that time to think of what I will say next, but will instead give myself over to listening completely, fully, and properly.
5. I acknowledge that love is the most important thing in life and vow to give my heart away at the least provocation.
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