The Grace Of Kindness

Recently, I had a long moment of unexpected grace — a bestowed blessing. What makes this somewhat unique for me is that I was both reluctant to engage this opportunity and then completely baffled as to why I deserved it.

Here’s what happened:
My friend N– was in Minneapolis helping the Tibetan monks gyuto wheel of dharmafrom The Gyuto Wheel of Dharma with important business. She had the use of a vehicle for several days while completing the tasks. For the sake of comfort, she stayed with me in Wisconsin. All of her stuff was in my basement. With business complete, the vehicle vanished. Something was lost in translation , and I was now obligated to pick her up (and later to drive her to the train station).

I was reluctant because I was recovering from a severe case of bronchitis, and the long drive seemed ill-advised. But the cause was worthy, so I drove there with the notion that I would just pop-in and pop-out. I figured I’d be back home in about 2 1/2 hours.

As I was getting out of my car at the monastery I had the intuition to bring my back cushion (in order to reduce back pain while sitting in chairs). But I thought, “What’s the point, I won’t be here that long.” I poked my head into the monastery hall (it is so beautiful) and asked about the whereabouts of N–. I heard her voice from a nearby room. Then several monks, after affirming that I was there to pick up N–, began to escort me in the opposite direction. I was confused, but went with the flow. They took me to, what appeared to be, their living quarters. N– was to follow. Then they made strong suggestion that I sit in a particular chair. I would have much preferred to sit in a more comfortable chair, but their English wasn’t that good so I went along.

I found myself seated at a dinner table. It became clear to me that they were inviting me into a private area of their lives. (N– later confirmed that the monks kept their living quarters quite separate, and few outsiders were allowed entry.) Their kindness flowed like the tea they so hoped I would enjoy. Then they began to take their meal and invited me to participate. This was to be a ritual of sharing, but I knew intuitively I would need to abstain. From my knowledge of Tibetans, I knew that they used barley in just about everything. I was able to communicate that I was allergic to barley, and they understood. They seemed satisfied that I would enjoy a variety of fruits and several more cups of tea.

Tibetans, it seems to me, are happy and outgoing by nature. It also seemed to me that they were intentionally extending their warmth, and I felt the glow of an ongoing blessing. As we were preparing to leave, the oldest mark held my hand with great love. For a moment I thought he might adopt it, or rather me since my hand was but a conduit for his affection.

Afterwards N– admitted their behavior was concentrated even by monk’s standards and we both agreed that probably had something to do with my support of her. I can still feel that blessing as I write this. In my life I have sometimes wandered into unexpected kindness. My conclusion is that at some adjacent moment I must have been either kind or open-hearted, sometimes without necessarily being aware of kindness-effort – a wanderer’s link into a circle of grace. I doubt that the monks were wearing their kindness hats. They were just making effort to honor the moment — a moment they granted relevance. There’s magic in that.

The following poem expresses my mood for the occasion.

Zero Circle (by Rumi)

Be helpless, dumbfounded,                               Zero Circle
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.

We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.

So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.

I’ve been a shamanic practitioner for 28 years, and have studied Buddhism and meditation for about 40 years. It seems to me that love is the apex of all spiritual practices.


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3 Responses to The Grace Of Kindness

  1. Frank says:

    Jim, you say, “In my life I have sometimes wandered into unexpected kindness. My conclusion is that at some adjacent moment I must have been either kind or open-hearted, sometimes without necessarily being aware of kindness-effort – a wanderer’s link into a circle of grace.”

    Maybe we don’t earn kindness. Maybe we inspire it in others for reasons they don’t know, nor need to know, themselves. Maybe being aware of the kindness and the intention of kindness is full repayment, not that repayment is needed.

    You were blessed. Possibly you earned it! 🙂 Possibly you didn’t need to earn it. 🙂

    • Jim says:

      Hi Frank — good point. I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that I feel kindness is earned or that there is some sort of balance sheet involved. I do feel that grace can be a mystery, and that an open heart can draw a circle of our action (or non-action), even when our minds are too dull to recognize the beauty.

  2. san says:

    I agree with Frank.

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