“We are all just walking each other home.” ~ Ram Dass
I recently started a new job as a printing technician.
Although the job has been described as “glorified button-pushing,” I still had a lot to learn in my first few weeks of shadowing the current employees.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information and knew that I would need a few supervised practice runs before feeling comfortable enough to begin my solo shifts.
Outside of work, I was learning about maitri, a Buddhist notion that teaches us to become friends with ourselves as we are. With my newfound self-acceptance, I rested upon a solid foundation, realizing that my existence was just as valuable as the next. From that comfort, I was able to start appreciating the value of each unique individual I encountered.
As I was shadowing two different people at my new job, I found one of them to be particularly moody, slightly condescending, and yet somehow, extremely professional. He was the kind of person who would try to subtly undermine your confidence by constantly re-asserting his own. He had high expectations and didn’t acknowledge that everyone starts out as a beginner. It was a challenge to be kind to someone who had such a lack of consideration for the subtle fragility of the human spirit.
Although this was a tough energy to be around, I kept in mind that he has to deal with his own negativity and high expectations on a daily basis—these are things he expects of others because he also expects them of himself.
How we treat others is a direct reflection of how we treat ourselves.
I’ve found that people can be mean in different ways. My definition of mean is to leave a person feeling like less than the truth of who he or she really is.
I know I’ve been mean, to myself and many others.
I wasn’t much of a people person until recently. I believed that respect had to be earned and trust had to be built, which meant I took a long time to cultivate any kind of relationship. I still consider respect and trust to be important concepts, but I no longer let them stop me from fully loving a person exactly as they are in the moment I meet them or interact with them.
I’m slowly learning to be stable within myself and to use that stability as a platform for allowing others to feel loved and free to express their authentic selves.
Each person provides a new way to be kind, a new perspective to consider. Some people need space, while other people need closeness. Some people need you to simply sit and listen to their experiences, while others are searching for advice and answers.
Maitri has been so helpful for me because it allows me to recognise my needs and balance them with the needs of others. This is why being an empath is both a challenge and a gift—while it helps me to be intuitive and sensitive to what others are feeling, it also allows for me to forget my own truth by losing myself in the truth of another’s experience.
Before learning maitri, I would be kind in a self-sacrificial manner. My kindness was a social shield, a way to gain acceptance without having to choose a side. It was something I would give conditionally—on the condition that you help me, love me, accept me, and witness me.
By being able to befriend myself, I have started to make peace with my past pains, resentments, and issues. I’m not perfect, but I can be at peace with that imperfection in a way that allows me to grow and learn from it.
The way that life is currently structured makes us think that other things, like busyness, efficiency, and productivity are more important than human interaction. We think that catching the bus is more important than taking the time to find out how the cashier’s day is really going, that doing our work is more important than acknowledging the people we are working with.
Being kind is a constant choice that we face. We can have a long history of kind moments and still forget to be kind to this new person in this new circumstance. There is no guidebook. Each person requires something different, and kindness resides in our ability to interpret what the other person needs, balance that with our own truth, and create a space where both or all parties feel comfortable and accepted in their authenticity and truth.
True kindness has no expectations. It is a simple seed planted in someone’s soul. Experience and honesty are the soil and water that allow the seed to grow, but that growth may happen long after the initial act of kindness. That is the beauty and despair of all human interaction—it has consequences long after its initial occurrence, consequences that colour and shape our future interactions.
So my advice is to tread lightly when dealing with another soul (human or otherwise). Find a way to make peace with yourself and use that peace to bring joy, enlightenment, and growth to others in the way that they require and in the moment that they require it.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~ Dalai Lama
Author: Katila Whiteman
Apprentice Editor: Gabrielle Bodzin; Editor: Nicole Cameron