Of all the things in the world that we can think of, kindness is the one that cuts through all barriers. Since Barack Obama has been running for office, people of color have begun feeling good about themselves, and white people have begun feeling good about people of color. Maybe soon, people of color will begin feeling better about white people, but if that takes awhile, it's understandable.
Kindness means feeling close to another, and when we feel close to another, the separation that may have divided us in the past gives way to relaxation and ease. We can smile more often. Once we discover that no one is fundamentally different from anyone else, our hearts lose that rough edge that encapsulates us from the rest of humanity. And once our hearts become pliable and open, all of our stress magically goes bye-bye.
Oh how we fight the images in our minds. They are never real, but they become real because we don't understand images. Images are only imaginations of what is real, and when we live in images, we live in a fantasy world of uncertainty. Images are always false because our image of something is always based on a past that changes the moment it becomes the past. The present cannot create images; we can only do that with memory after the fact. The present creates only what is.
The problem is that our images become so strong at times that we cannot even see the present. All we see is an image of the present based on the past and not the facts of the present. We, in effect, live in images. And this is of course where prejudice and judgmentalism enter the picture. We judge people on what we have heard about them or know about them from the past, seldom on what they are now.
When we stop living in images, we are forced to live in the present. This is a challenge because if we can see beyond our images, the present doesn't fool us. The present reveals what is, but what is, is not always what we want it to be. We want our world not to change, and this applies to our past images and prejudices as well, and when the world does change, as it always seems to, sometimes we don't want to notice because the new world will take us out of our imaginary comfort zones, as wrongheaded as they might be.
To face the present moment and all that the present moment portends is a courageous thing to do. In this present moment, which will surely change in the future, a man is running for the office of president who understands, at a very basic level, the differences between reality and images. It is reality that we, as a people, are still divided over racial lines. This is so very disappointing, so indicative of the level of consciousness that we collectively must own up to in this country. We are basing what a man or woman is inside by the color of their skin. This is the reality, and this reality has nothing to do with kindness, a virtue that unfortunately is out of step with many Americans who have embraced fear, hatred and divisiveness over the last seven years in order to advance their careers and agendas.
Hatred doesn't pay in the end. Those who hate will be hated in return, while those who are kind will be afforded kindness. Kindness is not exciting, or splashy, or an attention getter. Kindness is more in the background, like a steady stable friend who is always there when you need them, and can always be relied upon. Hatred is the opposite; it will never be there for you. Hatred will only be a constant reminder of what you have personally become and hatred will stab you in the back when you least expect it.
It is so, so difficult to open our minds. We feel as if opening our minds is a surrender of some kind, where the other person wins, Nothing could be further from the truth, because if we go around with closed minds, the images that we are attempting to preserve will cause us uncountable stresses due to the fact that we cannot stop change from happening no matter how hard we try. We either go with the flow or fight upstream all of our lives, and fighting upstream is a stressful way to live. We can fight the current, or float downstream, our paddle at our feet.
It is only our images that don't change. The world itself is in a constant state of flux; and to be a part of that flux while being completely at ease with it is the secret to eliminating our stress. And we might as well be at ease with it, because we can never stop it.
And guess what; when we finally realize that we can never stop it, we can't help but become kinder.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com