Kindly Caring (written 2006)
A peaceful place to stop reading in the Flower Ornament Sutra:
“Arouse your minds to seek enlightenment,
Kindly care for all living beings,
Abide by the great vows of universal goodness...”
This has the feeling of a prayer and I love the second line, to “kindly care”. This is what I strive to carry into my work and in my family. It is easiest with the dogs in the kennel. Mostly it is not difficult to see their needs. The frightened ones that need a kind voice and space to find their own way to me. This works in 99.9% of fearful cases, whether they're tremblers or growlers. I stay around them but not pushing them. And I talk to them. Sometimes my family laughs at the way I talk to the dogs. But for those “guests” who stay often and have become my friends, this has been the foundation for building real inter-species relationships.
There is a big newf who, I swear, understands my needs as I understand hers. It looks like she responds to my words but I know we reach each other through kindess and tone. When she's stubborn I take her face in my hands and rest my forehead on hers and talk to her. I tell her why I'm asking her to come in or out or whatever. And she responds. Kindness.
It's much harder with people, of course. People each have such personal-ego-agendas and such a sense of apartness. Me and the other. It's complicated. I'd like to approach the people in my life in the same way: Forehead to forehead whispering our needs, our reasons. But some would push away, some would be embarrassed and some would be confused. Strangers might think I was dangerous! Some people might hug me, humor me or soften their tone, but we'd go back to position of space between us. You. Me.
Still, this kindness is a good image. I'd like to keep this in my head. Foreheads touching, whispering. Caring for each other.
It's easiest to keep this as a priority when I am present, tuned into right now. What I need. What you need. Mindful awareness of the moment allows me to open not just to what I want, but to the entire context. What's going on in my mind that gives it urgency. Why I might be encountering resistance from others. What might be going on with them. So compassion, mindfulness, and caring form a tripod of stability from which to act. When I'm here, and you're here with me, we can move forward together, from a place of understanding and not confrontation.
Being present and working to “kindly care for all beings”, I do my part to make it possible for such understanding to unfold.