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Kindness and Generosity

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

“Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of reality.” Buddhist practices like meditation are a means of changing yourself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. Buddhism has been practiced for thousands for years and as a result has created an extensive body of work that has information and practices that can be used by any human being who is suffering even in  2015.  I remember in my early 20’s reading about Buddhism and thinking “this is so silly… who suffers… life is beautiful… we have so much in our country… I have no issues (this was before marriage, kids, work)….” And yet all these years later I find that life does give me challenging circumstances to navigate and at times I do feel like I am suffering.  And so I turn to a variety of resources for help and support. 

The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible. So Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, caste, sexuality, or gender. It teaches practical methods which enable people to realize and use its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives.

I am especially passionate about the ideas around the Buddhist ideas on developing kindness and generosity.  Lots of scientific research confirms what  anecdotal evidence has long maintained – kindness  reduces  pain and anger and boosts well being. I have 3 books to suggest if you are interested in this topic.  Sylvia Boorstein wrote “Happiness in an Inside Job”.  Sylvia is a meditation teacher, phsychotherapist and storyteller.  Her book is  great to read because she is  a gifted storyteller and uses that skill to make the information  easy to understand and put into practice.  She shares her own life stories and the reader feels like they are having a 1:1 conversation with her.  Sylvia has written 6 books.  Love Your Enemies by Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman draws on  ancient spiritual wisdom, modern psychology and the latest neuroscience to guide the reader  in how to deal with troublesome people or situations and overcome deep seated self centredness and self hatred. Sylvia is a meditation teacher and author. In 1976, she established, together with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, which now ranks as one of the most prominent and active meditation centers in the Western world.  Compassion – Bridging Practice and Science (which is a free e book) by Tania Singer and Mathias Bolts  looks at everything there is to know about compassion. It asks what is the difference between empathy and compassion? Is it possible to train compassion? Can it be measured? How useful is compassion training in schools, clinical settings, and end-of-life care? Can the brain be transformed through mental training?

These cold winter days are a wonderful invitation to curl up on the couch with a good book and contemplate these possibilities for our lives.  I think we can all agree that when we are each kind and generous, it is the basis for joy.  And living with joy in and around us feels good.

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